You know when you’ve been given great customer service in a shop, restaurant or hotel.

The sequence of events seems like it's been thought through and planned from start to finish.

You were greeted by a friendly person who took care of you, made sure you got what you wanted, and took responsibility for looking after you the whole time. They'd thought about the points at which you’d need to make decisions or need more support, and came armed with information to help you make your choice.

They also considered what might go wrong, and they took steps to keep you on track and mitigate the impact of any risks. We recognise this easily when it works well, and we can certainly remember times when we haven’t had such a great experience.

The internet and apps have long since became a way that we deliver services, not just advertise them. But when it comes to designing digital services, these considerations of what makes a great service are too often forgotten.

Designers sometimes focus on the design of individual pages as stand-alone artefacts that look visually beautiful, but don’t fit together into a seamless journey. Sometimes the infrastructure wasn’t thought through, so it struggles to cope with peaks in demand. And there are cases where people need more advice and support in order to use a service, but it’s not clear where they should turn.

If you’re in a competitive market, you’re not going to hear much from people who don’t like how you designed your online services - they will simply go elsewhere. And if you’re the only provider, for example for public services from central and local government, then you’re not just making people endure a bad experience, you also might have difficulty shifting people onto digital channels, and could have higher costs of providing support and guidance.

In both cases, you could be excluding a significant minority from using your online services, and that’s not great.

In the field of service design, we believe that the commercial sector, the charity and not-for-profit sectors and local government could learn a lot from central government. Back in 2012, the Government Digital Service intervened in this space, with its ground breaking Digital by Default Strategy and Digital Service Standard. Together, these provide a framework for designing and delivering great online services, and they have been mandated for all central government digital projects.

We’ve been working on GDS service design projects since day one. We’d like to share some of our experience with you, so you can apply some of this thinking to your own services. We think the methods and approaches can be beneficial for all sectors, including commercial organisations. 

Over the next three months we’ll be talking about service design through our blog. And we’ll be running an event early in 2019, more details of the event to follow soon.

In part two, we’ll cover the key differences between digital service design and website design. In later instalments we’ll cover user research, designing for resilience and use of service data to drive iterative improvement to your services.

Stay tuned for more…

To register your interest in our event – drop an email to [email protected] and we’ll be in touch with event details in due course.