Service Experience vs. Service Design: How the Former Can Fast Track Your Operations

What if I told you that the same skills you use to improve experiences for users can be applied to mature your organization and its operations? It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

I’ve been a user experience (UX) and research professional for the better part of my career, but over the years I’ve found myself working less with pixels and screens in favor of collaborating with people to define—or redefine—processes. My job title has evolved along with me—from UX designer to program manager of service experience—but my passion to make people’s lives easier by fixings things that are broken remains the same. I just accomplish this through the lens of service experience now.

What is Service Experience?

You’re probably wondering: What is service experience? That question is best answered by highlighting the ways it’s different from and similar to its closest design discipline relative, service design. Spoiler alert: the difference lies in the focus. Service experience takes the strong points and benefits of service design and applies them to teams and organizations rather than products.  

Whereas service design places emphasis on how products, technology, and services can enhance and delight the people interacting with them, service experience shines a light directly on how people and teams interact with each other. It’s a discipline that is focused on improving the way people work with others—and in turn improving the way organizations operate and interact with their customers.

5 Service Experience Tools That Benefit Organizations

By focusing on better understanding the ways your organization and teams function, service experience practitioners offer up a big picture view of their strengths and weaknesses. This ability to collect data on a grand scale offers unique insights into nearly every corner of operations. Armed with these insights, there are several tangible results service experience practitioners can provide to teams and organizations of all sizes and maturity levels. While not exhaustive by any means, there are five main service experience tools you can implement to add value to your operations:  

 Process improvement 

This is an area that has the most overlap with other design disciplines, as all good design starts with understanding and improving the process around a task or goal. In this case however, service experience targets ways to improve how a team performs a task or service for either themselves or a broader organization.  

For example, last summer U.Group set out to improve our business development methods and processes. As part of our desire to continuously improve the way U.Group does business, the Service Experience team worked with our Business Development and Capture Management team to identify aspects of our process that needed to be redefined given the types of work U.Group was pursuing and winning.  

This included sitting down with the team and going over tools, documents, and methods the teams had been using. Together, we highlighted areas that were causing issues and identified gaps where nothing yet existed to support the team. This resulted in a revised playbook and new templates and tools for the team to use—which facilitated better team-wide collaboration and communication.  

Maturity models 

Growing a team or organization is like raising children—they go through various phases as they mature, and each phase has its own challenges and growing pains. Mapping out a team or organization’s maturity model can help you define their current state and allows you to set sights on a desired level of maturity. From there, you and the team can craft a strategy defining the steps needed to get from where you are to where you want to be. The key to success in a maturity model is to define qualitative and quantitative metrics for each stage of the process so teams can effectively measure success as time progresses.  

Sample maturity model. Source: Credera

Delivery models 

Every team has a product or service they deliver to someone, be it internal or external customers. The methods your team uses to create and deliver that product is ultimately defined by its delivery model. This overall strategy is oftentimes thrown together quickly or defined over time as a team gets its bearings. Taking the time to strategize delivery models based on constraints and customer needs will help you shape team expectations ahead of time and will level up your team’s overall service capabilities.  


Consistency is one of the major factors that separates successful and unsuccessful businesses. If your customers can’t rely on you to deliver consistent services, they’re unlikely to sign up for repeat engagements. Playbooks set standard guidelines so that processes become replicable across different projects and programs.  

They are especially important for processes that touch several aspects of an organization and involve collaboration across teams—they keep everyone on the same page. For example, program management is large in scope and involves wide cross-team collaboration to properly set up, operate, and eventually sunset. A playbook would streamline the whole process and set consistent organization-wide standards.  

Change management 

Change is inevitable—and when it happens, it can disrupt your team’s day-to-day operations. Navigating change takes patience and purpose as the trigger that caused the changes ripple across your team’s operating process and methods. Service experience practitioners view change as an opportunity, however. At its core, service experience centers on moments of change or around the need to grow and mature.  

While service experience may use similar methods and tools as other design disciplines, the similarities stop there. Service experience charts its own path as a practice solely focused on helping teams and organizations create consistent, efficient, and scalable processes. By embracing its principles, you’ll help your team or organization streamline its evolution, while accounting for the impact these changes will have on the team, the organization, and users.  

Want more service experience content? We hit on topics related to UX, service experience, digital transformation, and more in our monthly newsletter. Register now.

Get alerted to new job postings, events, and insights by registering for our monthly newsletter.