What is Service Design and Why is it Important for Tourism?


Service design creates experiences.

Experiences are the foundation of tourism.

A simplified explanation, but a good place to start.

What is Service Design?

Service design is an evolving way of thinking which makes the experiences your organization delivers useful, usable, efficient, effective and desirable.

Product designers create things (iPhones, shoes, etc.), while service designers understand how a series of interactions make up an experience.

Experiences like paying a bill online or finding your luggage at the airport.

While the definition of service design varies due to the relative youth of the discipline, it is likely that you are already familiar with (or have used) the principles.

The highly regarded book This is Service Design Thinking helps establish 5 principles for service design (and a solid foundation for an explanation).

Service design is:

User-centered
Services should be experienced through the customer’s eyes.

Co-creative
All stakeholders should be included in the service design process.

Sequencing
The service should be visualized as a sequence of interrelated actions.

Evidencing
Intangible services should be visualized in terms of physical artifacts.

Holistic
The entire environment of a service should be considered.

A service design project is a strategic project which utilizes design techniques to simplify complex problems.

Why is it Important for Tourism?

For tourism destinations, service design is a framework to achieve an empathic understanding of the tourist experience.

The better your organization understands the overall service experience, the better you can make the experience.

What is Service Design and Why is it Important for Tourism?

For example, the lovely work (above) completed by Engine to help enhance the pre- and post-flight experience at Virgin’s London Heathrow Terminal 3.

While the scope of the experience will vary depending on your organization’s role (attraction, hotel or airline), it is at the destination level where service design becomes potentially innovative for the industry.

The methods are the same, but the scale is much larger.

As tourism destinations worldwide adapt to new roles within the travel planning cycle, clear and profound knowledge spanning the entire tourism experience will gain greater value than traditional roles in distribution and promotion.

Knowledge creates expertise.

Expertise builds relevancy.

Relevancy delivers value.

If your organization and staff are the experts on your destination’s tourism ecosystem, then you are valuable to the people and businesses within the ecosystem.

We believe service design methodologies provide the structure that will help shape the role and relevancy of the future DMO.

Designing the Future

Service design is an ever-expanding topic, just as tourism promotion is changing at a rapid pace.

A successful collaboration of the two disciplines will require additional thinking (with some great thoughts already from William Bakker, Marc Stickdorn and DMAI), experimentation and co-creation (see the Service Design + Tourism Conference).

And although the approach appears to be new, as we implement service design projects with our tourism consulting clients, a key moment of clarity regularly occurs.

The terms seem strange at first, but the techniques feel familiar.

And inevitably someone wonders aloud:

Why have we not done this before?

Why indeed.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.