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Hey <<First Name>>,

Before we get into demystifying service design terms, I’ll be honest with you - with all of the horrible violence and hate visible in the news it’s felt really tough to sit down and write this newsletter. There is so much misogyny, racism and in particular anti Asian hate in my news feeds at the moment, it’s hard not to despair. Here’s a couple of actions I’ve been taking that you can consider:

You might wonder what all of this has to do with service design - I firmly believe that being a (human centered) designer means being an engaged citizen and caring for people. We all have a part to play.

Q. What do all these service design terms mean? Help!

This edition’s question looks at all of the terms, jargon and funny words that service designers love to throw around. Much like any specialized discipline, service design uses lots of specific terms. You might feel like you are learning a whole new language at times!

There are a few things to note regarding service design terms:

  • Theatre metaphors and concepts are popular in service design. You will notice terms like ‘actors’ ‘front stage’ and ‘backstage’. Some academic theory frames service experiences through a theatrical lens and you will also see theatrical methods being used in service design practice.
  • Many terms refer to specific tools and methods, like ‘customer journey map’ or ‘service blueprint.’ Many tools and frameworks get adapted and hybridized so people may have slightly different interpretations of what exactly these tools look like in practice.
  • These terms are evolving and can mean different things to different people! On any project it can be helpful to level set with the team and stakeholders around words that may be new. Shared understanding is key to success.
Below you will find a detailed service design glossary with examples for every term. I'd love to hear from you if there are terms I have missed or ones you would add.

If you like, you can download this glossary as a PDF to keep handy!
Download PDF Glossary

Any person involved in the creation, delivery, support, or use of a service.
e.g. a call center agent, an end user, or a marketing designer

Physical service touchpoints.
e.g. the London Underground map

The parts of the service that are ‘behind the scenes’ that a customer does not see or experience.
e.g. the kitchen of a restaurant, the kitchen staff, the produce delivery

Business Model
The way an organization operationalizes and delivers value, including revenue streams or resource exchanges.
e.g. a restaurant deciding to grow to additional locations using a franchising model

A medium for communication or delivery. Most services use more than one channel, often described as being 'multi-channel'.
e.g. phone, email, direct mail, website, store

Contextual Research
Investigation that takes place in the real world environment of the subject being explored.
e.g. interviewing and observing a cashier while on the job in a store

Entry Points
Instances of access to a service, where actors are able to join the service as customers, providers, or stakeholders.
e.g. a sign-up form on a website

Exit Points
Instances where actors leave the service as customers, providers, or stakeholders.
e.g. an unsubscribe link in an email newsletter ;)

Front Stage
The parts of the service that a customer sees and experiences.
e.g. the teller’s counter is a front stage part of a service where customers interact

Best practices, principles, or rules of thumb.
e.g. “Be easy to find,” is principle one of Lou Downe's 15 Principles for Good Services

Journey Map
A visual representation (sometimes including photographs, quotes, and commentary) of a particular actor’s experience with a service. Often time-based showing multiple channels.
e.g. document providing a narrative overview of an actor’s steps and experience of getting a driver’s license

A necessary and/or desired function or condition. Needs range from high-level to granular and from tactical to emotional.
e.g. requirement to be certified as legally allowed to drive, to be able to get from A to B

Other businesses or entities that help to produce or enhance the service or to deliver the service outcome.
e.g. a pop star might partner with ticketmaster to sell tickets to their show

A representation of a user group with shared needs and characteristics. Personas are the distillation of primary research with people.
e.g. "PR Manager Pandora" might be one of an email marketing company’s personas

The physical spaces or virtual environments through which a service is delivered.
e.g. the retail shop where products are sold

Workflows, procedures, rituals performed by the customer or employees throughout a service
e.g. the ordering process at a restaurant

Props (see also artefact)
Physical or digital artifacts (including products) that are needed to perform the service successfully
e.g. a hairdresser’s scissors

Assets of many types including physical, knowledge, technological, monetary, and material, which are used to deliver a service.
e.g. seed funding for a new venture

A level or size of something in relationship to something else. Service design considers micro and macro scales, zooming in on particular touchpoints or interactions, and zooming out to holistic overviews of an experience.
e.g. a multinational brand provides service at a global scale

An exchange of value, tangible and intangible. Services are often things that people use but do not own.
e.g. a system that facilitates car sharing

Service Cycle
The process by which actors engage with a service. A service cycle visualization considers all the phases in which an actor becomes engaged with a service. A service cycle differs from a journey map in that it takes the perspective of the entire system rather than that of a particular actor.
e.g. diagram showing the cycle of learning about a service, entering it, using it, and exiting or staying engaged

Service Delivery
The provision of a service.
e.g. the operations that position a car rental company to provide the service of car hire

Service Offering
The value that a service provides, or the need it serves
e.g. bike sharing offers the service of access to bikes without owning one

Service Safari
A research approach to experiencing a service by going to experience it first hand, taking an observational research mindset.
e.g. on a project about taking public transit, the team goes out to experience the transport options first hand by taking the bus or subway and gathering photos, notes, and observations throughout

Service System
The broader ecology of relationships, interactions, and contexts of a service. e.g. all of the components, channels, resources, and touchpoints, internal and external, that facilitate the delivering of mail

A person, group, or organization directly or indirectly involved or affected by a service.
e.g. the CEO of a company or a customer service representative in a call center

Stakeholder Map
A visual or physical representation of the stakeholders in a service and the relationships between them.
e.g. a diagram showing the various people, groups, and organizations directly and indirectly involved in a service, representing relationships between them

A point of contact between an actor and a service. Touchpoints may or may not be physical artefacts, and can include interactions, environments, and objects. They are the medium through which value exchanges happen.
e.g. a customer interaction with a call center staff person

Value Proposition
The promise of a benefit, feature or innovation that a service offers which is at the core of 'why' people engage or buy.
e.g. Wikipedia provides all of the world's information available on demand

Methods for understanding and navigating within a service system or environment. Wayfinding artefacts within a service can be physical, informational, or environmental.
e.g. store signage that indicates what is found in each aisle

Download PDF Glossary

Exciting news...

Until next time,
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