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Home > Design & Innovation > Service Design vs. Product Design – 5 Key Differences

Service Design vs. Product Design – 5 Key Differences

December 19th, 2011

Designing a product and designing services have many similarities but also key differences.  Both need clean VOC, clear definition of CTQs, stakeholder input and intelligent tollgates.  But the differences in the design process for the two are far greater.  And those differences are defined by the nature of products versus the nature of services.  So here are the top ten differences in their nature.

Service Design vs. Product Design - DifferencesHow do these attributes change the design process?  Well imagine how difficult it is to know if you have the right design if you can’t easily measure different attempts since repeatability and storability are issues.  And you really aren’t sure what you can measure since quality is defined by the customer’s experience of an outcome more than measuring the attributes of output.  And imagine what happens to multi-generational planning when you have to factor in how difficult it is to maintain your moat of defensibility for a new service without the right of a patent. Time and again basic elements of a design process are scraped or reinvented in an attempt to build a proxy for what is normally taught and practiced as good design principles.

In the end, you essentially have to nearly start over n building your design process for a service.  Basics are retained but new elements must be introduced or emphasized.  In a recent blog post, I point out how the basic principle of tollgates must be retained but mapping becomes the foundation to test, validate and repeat due to the absence of data.

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At Qualtec, we’ve built a new design process or roadmap and established a set of tools to support each step of the way.  We will continue to write about this subject as we find there is a real dearth of information available.  But we also welcome your input and so if you’d like to discuss the differences and how to adapt to them, we invite you to contact us.

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  1. December 19th, 2011 at 07:06 | #1

    John,

    I like this topic. As you point out, there certainly is a gap in the understanding and use of the correct design process for services. I believe it mostly comes down to your first comparison – tangible vs. intangible. Good Six Sigma practitioners usually welcome the tangible (easily measurable) projects but shy away from the abstract.

    –Mike

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