Service Design principles – in practice

Service Design principles – in practice

Service principles are the distillation and the carrier of our most important findings about a given project’s customer/user needs and other business priorities. Over the years at Livework, we’ve found that, clearly laid out and explained, such principles can play vital roles both long and short-term.

How laying down clear guidelines drives service success

During a project, disseminated throughout the relevant organisation, principles can guide and organise service development and help to unite often disparate personnel and departments around the identified priorities.

Longer-term, they can become embedded in the organisation and ensure that great service design flourishes long after we have left the building. Additionally, in some cases, they can be made public to communicate an organisation’s values direct to customers/users, further maintaining the organisation’s focus on and adherence to these values.

The following Livework case studies should give a clearer sense of how principles have worked for us in practice.

Channel 4

UK TV broadcaster, Channel 4, were looking to lay out a new “Audience, Technologies and Insight” strategy and were keen, as a publicly-owned but commercially funded organisation, to benefit both viewers and advertisers.

Working with viewers of all sorts – from teenagers expecting everything to be easy to families baffled by how Google miraculously knew their holiday plans – we helped the channel understand a changing digital world and how their viewers live in it.

Given the high-profile risks associated with personal data online, it was clear a reassuring policy for viewers needed to be devised. But the internet is also full of examples of personal data being used to provide previously unimaginable levels of customer service. We showed these to viewers to see if they would willingly share data with advertisers in order to receive such services. Working with the channel’s team, we further explored how they might use viewer data to improve their services.

The work culminated in three overriding principles, defining how the channel would “do data differently”:

1) When we ask for data it’s to give something back
2) We are clear on what data we hold and what we do with it
3) You control the data we hold on you

We then created service concepts exploring the possible results of the policy. Exciting staff about what they could do was as important as validating this with viewers.

These principles are seen by Channel 4 as something that can guide decisions for many years to come, reminding staff to ensure the viewer is always at the heart of decisions involving use of their data. Given their importance to the bond between viewer and broadcaster, Channel 4 also made the principles public in the form of a “Viewer Promise” – an interesting example of service principles becoming key to an organisation’s public profile. The promise was even presented on TV to viewers in a humorous video presented by comic, Alan Carr.

You can view the promise at
And watch the video here:


In 2011, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), as part of a general restructure, decided to look at the needs of its users: new immigrants.

Asked to define best-practice interactions between these users and the service, we used data and quantitative analysis to find commonalities across factors such as nationality and age. In particular, we looked at years of user studies and worked on-site to see what frustrated people.

As well as identifying and addressing the immigrants’ problems – findings, sadly, beyond the scope of this short piece – we faced an overarching organisational problem: ensuring that the whole of the large and complex UDI be aware of and able to act on our findings. We therefore consolidated the common themes into ten principles, clearly defining what should be the most important considerations when developing and delivering UDI services to users.

There was a further problem: these principles should not be a matter for the UDI alone, since immigrants would have to deal with agencies such as embassies and the police as well. Uniting such a complex organisational infrastructure around one set of principles is a very tough challenge.

Fortunately, the principles were wholeheartedly embraced by management, with the communication department and service coordinators promoting them. The principles became part of every tender that UDI put out, making it obligatory for all vendors to follow and support them. UDI began spreading the principles through eLearning courses for all employees, also available to all embassies, which are most often the very first touchpoint for many new Norwegian citizens. In the years following, the principles were transferred to The Ministry of Justice and Public Security, The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, keeping the same goals in mind for a larger part of the service ecology.

You can read about this project in more detail at

Thai High-speed Train Service

Before they had even put the tracks on the ground, the Thai Ministry of Transport asked Livework to develop a vision for the high-speed train service that would guide architects, engineers and policy-makers in developing a customer-centered transport system. This was to precede all other development: building stations, procuring trains and employing the operating companies.

Working with the Thailand Design Centre (TCDC), we created a clear foundation for the future service system: ten service principles focused on customer experience, encapsulating a holistic vision for the future service. Covering passenger experiences before, during and after using the train, the principles included ideas such as, “Provide a safe journey”, “Always connect to the final destination” and “Use the local culture as part of the service.” The needs associated with each principle were visualised through detailed scenarios involving different types of traveler. The principles were written into policy by the Thai Ministry of Transport.

Having a set of principles for considering passenger needs at such an early stage helped the Thai government become more customer-aware and see the potential in developing a train service that caters to different passenger typologies. More generally, the project has shown senior Thai government officials the power of applying service design early to major public works: by letting the service principles guide development rather than be shoehorned in ex post facto, you properly integrate service and infrastructure, with likely cost savings and minimisation of delays and PR disasters. More to the point, you deliver a much better customer experience, hugely increasing the project’s chance of success.

You can read about this project in more detail at

JP Morgan

Whenever a trade is processed, a myriad of things can (and believe us, usually will) go wrong. With thousands of applications processing and monitoring financial activities, it is critical to the successful operations at JP Morgan to balance technology, business requirements and customer needs.

Internal IT services are essential to business, but when hard to use will cause significant detrimental business impact. Together with JPMorgan’s Incident Management team, we designed an approach that would enable the company to consistently develop these services, based on customer needs and business priorities.

A focus on technology often prevents business from listening to users and ensuring their needs are met. Here, users has to be taken to mean not just customers, but those within the organisation using the IT services. The needs and pains of these internal users had to be well understood and disseminated across the business. Furthermore, in a technological and organisational landscape as complex as this, an approach that was fast and responsive to organisational needs was imperative. For this to be possible, service improvements needed to be a shared goal across different teams.

Department and service principles were therefore a powerful tool. They helped align and engage multiple organisational levels around a shared ethos, creating a better understanding across silos of the different roles and the different customers within the organisation: their needs and aspirations and they obstacles they face. This became the starting point for thoughtful and consistent service development. JP Morgan as a whole was able to connect its strategic goals with these user needs, developing an approach that was centred on the end-to-end experience and interactions of different actors during the incident journey. Our service principles provided the missing rigour and structure that guided good decision-making and are thus improving the incident management services at the core of JP Morgan.

Five principles of service principles

To sum up and leave you with something for your own toolbox, here are five principles for creating great service principles:

  1. Base them in user insight
  2. Ensure that they are practical: do they guide good decision-making?
  3. Work with communications professionals to spread the word
  4. Get senior sponsorship: make it policy
  5. Put them into process, e.g. the UDI procurement

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Anne van Lieren Blogger
Lead Service Designer

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