Service Design Heuristics: Part 2 of 3

Last week we took our first deep dive into 3 of our Service Design Heuristics.

Did you miss the introduction to our Service Design Heuristics?

This week we’re taking our next deep dive, looking at 4 more of our heuristics, providing illustrative examples and analysis.

Leverage existing resources

Consider the whole system and what existing parts could be used to better deliver the service. Find opportunities to augment, repurpose, or redeploy resources.

Good service design finds ways to build on existing systems and assets.

Things to consider:

  • Are there ways to piggyback on what currently exists?
  • Can the service be more efficiently deployed or create additional value with existing resources?


Service example: ColaLife

This service piggybacks aid delivery on Coca Cola’s global distribution network. Simon Berry’s ColaLife charity saw an opportunity to transport life-saving oral rehydration solution (ORS) to remote areas of places like Zambia – where diarrhea was the second-biggest cause of easily preventable death amongst children.


Anti-Diarrheal Kit in AidPod Mark VIIColaLife’s Anti-Diarrheal Kit in AidPod Mark VII
Image Credit: ADK in AidPod Mark VII courtesy of Simon Berry, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

ColaLife developed a wedge-shaped container (AidPod) that fits between the necks of bottles in a Coca Cola crate to make use of the space that would otherwise be wasted. The package also acts as a measuring cup and storage container. This type of multi-use touchpoint exemplifies leveraging existing resources.

Distributors and wholesalers inspect different crates and bottlesDistributors and wholesalers inspect different crates and bottles
Image Credit: Different crates and bottles courtesy of Simon Berry, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Interestingly, many of the current anti-diarrhea kit retailers have not made use of the Coca-Cola crate compatibility. However, by gaining access to Coke’s wholesalers, ColaLife is also leveraging the principles that allow Coke to be so successful at distributing its product.

What makes this a successful service design is that by taking advantage of Coca Cola’s existing distribution network ColaLife has been able to make their kits affordable enough so that all service partners (wholesalers, distributors, retailers and, of course, customers) benefit.

Building on what already exists, and making sure that each touchpoint creates value by being multipurpose creates a strong service proposition.


Consistency across channels and at all scales

Continuity of brand, experience and information should exist around the entire service system. Actors should be able to seamlessly move across channels.

This heuristic helps determine if a continuous service experience exists as actors move between the different channels through which a service is delivered and at all scales of the service, from micro-interactions through to the overall service relationship.

Things to consider:

  • Is information provided to the system in one channel available and consistent in others?
  • Do all touchpoints feel like they belong to the same brand and experience?


Service example: Starbucks

The Starbucks rewards program gives customers the option to top up their Starbucks card balance on their phone with a mobile app, online with the Starbucks website, or in store with the help of a barista.

Any card balance or profile changes are reflected in real-time across all channels. This means that regardless of the touchpoint a customer uses, the information will be up-to-date. In tandem with this, the experience and brand feels consistent in terms of visual design and tone of interaction.

This holistic multichannel experience also extends to payment and earning rewards. Paying for a cup of coffee can be done with a physical rewards card or using the Starbucks mobile app. Reward points are also updated in real-time on the customer’s account without any action required on the customer’s part.

Screen-capture of Starbucks app

Starbucks’ multichannel experience allows for smooth channel switching as well as providing a consistent brand manifestation across the board – exemplifying this heuristic.

starbucks mobile appScreen-capture of Starbucks app

Starbucks’ multichannel experience allows for smooth channel switching as well as providing a consistent brand manifestation across the board – exemplifying this heuristic.


Graceful entry and exits

Provide flexible, natural entry and exit points to and from the service. Consider when it is appropriate for actors to jump in, or to achieve closure.

This heuristic asks if the service can begin and end at natural, appropriate moments for all actors.

Things to consider:

  • Can a customer start interacting with the service when they want?
  • Can the customers stop interacting with the service on their own terms?
  • Is it easy to pick up and put down a service interaction?
  • Can the service provider still complete the transactions they need to maintain the service while allowing customers to come and go as they please?


Service example: Public Transit Passes in Toronto, Canada and London, England

Getting around quickly is an essential part of city life. The experience of gaining and maintaining access to public transit runs the gamut between archaic and clunky to smooth and modern from one city to another.

In Toronto, Canada, weekly and monthly Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) passes are available, but they are only activated on the first day of the week or month respectively, regardless of the day on which they are purchased. Passes can also only be purchased at select stations between certain hours and only certain payment methods are accepted.

These rigid entry and exit points to the service mean the actual value of the passes decline continually as the week or month continues while the cost remains the same.

TTC MetropassTTC Metropasses provide rigid entry and exit to the system, decreasing in value as the week or month continues, while the cost remains the same.

The Oyster program in London, UK, on the other hand, allows customers to access the transit system through a cashless, pay-per-use model.

A customer can obtain and activate an Oyster card whenever they choose, either online or at ticket booths around the city, allowing for smooth entry to the service. The cards also allow precise, distance-based fares since customers scan in and out of the transit network.

Oyster cards don’t have a fixed expiry date, as customers can continuously top up their cards, either automatically or manually online or at a kiosk. This means that customers can choose to exit the service on their terms once they have used up their credit.

These graceful entry and exit points help provide a better overall service experience in London than the rigid options for accessing transit service in Toronto.

London's Oyster CardOyster cards allow for flexible entries and exits to and from the public transit service in London, UK
Image Credit: via Compfight cc


Set expectations

Let actors know succinctly what to expect. Assist understanding of where they are in the system through the design of environments and information.

Nobody enjoys feeling adrift in a process or environment they don’t understand. This heuristic asks if people can orient themselves in a service experience, through such factors as the design of specific touchpoints themselves, or the design of supports, for example maps, supplementary information or assistive interventions.

Things to consider:

  • Do actors know what will happen next?
  • Is it easy to locate themselves physically within a bricks and mortar touchpoint, (like a store), or conceptually within a process, (like a billing cycle)?
  • Is it easy to way-find within the service?


Service example: Zipcar

Zipcar does a great job of setting expectations across multiple aspects of the service. Since it relies on a self-service business model, it is critical for Zipcar to embrace this heuristic.

Setting expectations is done well through the design of physical onboarding materials. When a new member joins Zipcar, along with their “Zipcard” (membership card and access key) they receive a simple welcome kit in the mail. Along with the basic steps for first-time use, customers are also presented with the “6 simple rules” of using a Zipcar. Covering these at one of the first major touchpoints takes care of most of the common questions a new customer might have and sets behavioural expectations. It also helps the customer orient themselves in the process of using and returning a Zipcar.

Zipcar Welcome KitZipcar pays attention to setting expectations

Another example of good expectation setting is the “Where I live” information that is included with a Zipcar reservation confirmation email. This granular, detailed information assists people in locating their vehicle, a crucial touchpoint and service interaction.

Zipcar "Where I live" informationThe “Where I Live” information in a Zipcar reservation confirmation email guides drivers to their car step-by-step.]

By paying attention to expectation setting, Zipcar maximizes the opportunity for successful service experience.


We hope we’ve provided you with a deeper understanding of these 4 Service Design Heuristics.

Stay tuned for next week’s post where we’ll explore our 3 remaining Service Design Heuristics:

  • The right information at the right time
  • Actor autonomy and freedom
  • Appropriate pace and rhythm of delivery


Until next time!

Download the Service Design Heuristics Guide