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The 5 principles of service design thinking

Colleagues in an office talking

ITIL® 4 Drive Stakeholder Value provides guidance on establishing, maintaining, and developing effective service relationships at appropriate levels. For organizations in the service industry, service design thinking can be the difference between success and failure. A properly designed service puts the consumer at the centre of the design process; service design thinking means organizing resources and planning business activities with the aim of improving the experiences of consumers, as well as employees.

Developing an effective service design can be challenging, but these five core principles, coined by Marc Stickdorn, can help.


Design your services around your consumers’ needs. You need to know how consumers experience the service. Ask them questions, like how they feel about using the service and what their expectations are. What could you be doing better? What do your users want you to change?

The answers will tell you where you can improve, so pay attention. It’s all about what the consumers want.


All stakeholders should be involved in the service design process. You can’t co-create value without involving users at every step of the process, including the design, production, and development steps.

When organizations collaborate with stakeholders everyone has the opportunity to share their experiences and perspectives on a particular service. For example, if a restaurant is developing a new app for customers, they should involve the development team, the social team and customer representatives in order to know what the customers usually ask for. This means all stakeholders will feel valued and it will essentially create a better service for the organization.

Sequencing (iterative process)

Sequencing helps determine the timeline of a project. Service design thinking deconstructs customer journeys into single touchpoints and service interactions. When these are combined it creates service moments.  Every customer journey follows a three-step transition of pre-service period (getting in touch with a service), the actual service period (when the service consumers experience a service), and the post-service period. The customer service journey  should be visualized as a sequence of interrelated actions.

Evidencing (Visual communication)

It can be hard to focus in on the details of a large, complicated project. Visual aids can help.

Prompt your team to use pictures, graphs, and images wherever they can. Visual tools like these are less complicated and easier to digest; they allow the team to remember important points, and they help bring ideas to life.

Visualizing the service in this way during development helps the team to improve the design and ensures that customers will be satisfied at the end of the process.


As a service designer, it is important to think about each aspect of the service and every perspective in which it exists.

Holistic services consider the whole user journey and each consumer touchpoint. A holistic approach can be achieved by using personas to highlight different user experiences and journeys, such as The ITIL Story in ITIL® Foundation: ITIL 4 Edition.

Service design thinking is an effective way of tackling problem solving. It encourages users to define value and is a method that continuously gathers feedback on what is and isn’t working. The ultimate objective of the service design thinking process is to identify solutions on to the original challenge that are desirable, feasible, and viable. These five principles will help you to design effective services, which will in turn help to create a strong reputation for your organization and more value for users and customers.

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19 Jun 2021 Birute Ruksenaite
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Design thinking is really a great approach and it put customer in a center.
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