“The thing about service design is that when it is done well, you don’t even know it happened,” says Pamela Spokes

Uratarina, Uutiset

15 elokuun, 2023

We asked how, when, and where Pamela Spokes got interested in the realm of service design and what are some common misconceptions when explaining those methods to others.

“The thing about service design is that when it is done well, you don’t even know it happened,” says Pamela Spokes, Service Designer from Metropolia UAS.

What initially drew you to the field of service design? Was there a specific moment or realisation that sparked your interest? 

I discovered service design during an interaction with a professor at the university I was working at. When we were talking about the work, I did in international student recruitment and development. I explained that part of my job was to develop processes and services to ease their pathway to become engaged and valued university community members. This meant from admissions through to graduation. He mentioned that what I was doing was “experience design”.

”When I got home, I started googling that as I had never heard about it.”

From there it took me to service design and by the end of the week, I had signed up for the entrance exam for the next intake of students to the MBA in Service Innovation & Design at Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

I did this because what I read about service design, provided a defined process for how I was instinctually doing my work. But I was having a really hard time explaining WHY I was doing it that way. So, this made it hard to communicate the process and have them come along with me. Service design provided me with a vocabulary and solid process that I could much more easily communicate. This helped with getting buy-in and collaboration going.

What are some of the common misconceptions or challenges you face when explaining service design to others? 

The most common misconception that people have about service design is that it is about organizing customer service provision in a company.

The part of the company that deals with complaints and help services. And it might be so that I would help with that part of the company but not in the way that people think. If service design [the designing of the services that the company offers] has been done correctly, there should be fewer calls or contacts with the customer service department. But many things in an organization are considered designable services. Even things between colleagues. HR provides a lot of different services to their colleagues (never to customers). These are designable. Services are also processes. A good example is how you need to record your hours. Or designing the information that should be in an invoice that you send to someone.

A service is anything that “helps someone do something” (Lou Downe, Good Services). Whether that is to record your hours, pay your electric bill, fix a problem, register a birth, get married, register for graduation, buy a coffee, order food delivery, ask for tenders, find the right bus to take, etc.

These are all services that need to be designed. To overcome this misconception that it is all about customer service, I give them the examples above. I ask them to tell me about a service experience that they recently had that left them frustrated or angry or that even surprised them. This helps to get people thinking in a different way about what services are and where they experience them. Talking about bad service experiences is really a game changer for people because they understand the value of how, if you designed them with the customers involved, the organization would be able to improve it.

 What excites you the most about the future of service design?

The future of service design is very exciting because, in Finland, it is finally starting to be understood at an organizational level. This means that more organizations are willing to invest in it and begin to improve using a methodical, understandable, and predictable process. It is also interesting for me to see how it is developing in my home country, Canada. I really feel that my experience here in Finland, because of how much further along it is, will help me to secure work in Canada in the coming years. Something that I have wanted to do for a long time.

The third thing that is interesting to me is to see how we can develop service design to design for behavioral change. In many areas it is going to be necessary, for sustainability and other reasons, to create and promote new behaviors. One of the bigger questions right now is how service designers can design for desired outcomes?

How can we design services so that consumers and users make the best choices possible for the planet, for our society, and for ourselves? Lots of scope for work there.


Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about service design. The free online course, Service Design Sprint Course, brought to you by Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, is open now. Sign up and start learning at www.servicedesignsprint.fi



Pamela Spokes works as a Service Designer in Metropolia’s RDI team. Originally from Canada, Pamela has years of experience in university admin focusing on international recruitment, marketing, and the international student/staff experience. Don’t be surprised if she knocks on your door to talk about learning co-creation methods through intensive learning experiences.