• Talise Tsai
  • Published: 28 April 2022


Think of big financial service organizations, insurance providers, and governments like icebergs. They deal with a variety of customers, legacy infrastructure that limits scale and nimbleness, siloed departments, stakeholders, outsourced capabilities, complex regulations, and archaic processes that make it incredibly difficult to deliver great service.

But customers only see what’s at the tip of the iceberg. They press a button or make a phone call and expect to have their needs addressed–like magic.

Customer expectations are changing with the rise of technology solutions that address every whim and need with the tap of a phone. They no longer compare banks with only other banks. They’ve got plenty of examples of what a “best-in-class” verification process, payment solution, or analytics software is. They’re sick of complicated terms and business jargon. They want simple, transparent processes and expect products and services to add value to their lives. 

So, what’s the bottom line? Organizations need to evolve to meet these needs or lose customers to organizations that do, but how can they get there?


How Service Design Breaks Down the Iceberg

Enter service design. Service design is all about understanding and mapping complex backend systems to create holistic, cohesive customer experiences. It brings all the benefits of design, including an empathy-first user-centric mindset, bottom-up research, and agile methodology. In addition, it visualizes the iceberg – the unseen employees, processes, technologies, culture, environments that create the customer journey – commonly through a service blueprint.



The service blueprint challenges teams to:

Map customer journeys and the iceberg beneath them 

Being able to see what a customer experiences and the resources it requires will help find low-hanging fruit steps that are easy to execute and mean a lot to the customer. It can also identify steps that take up project resources but aren’t that meaningful to the customer. This enables organizations to identify strengths that can become competitive advantages and cut costs in areas that aren’t worth it.

Break down silos to delight the end user

Success requires maintaining ongoing relationships with customers, so the backend needs to be organized to support the customer seamlessly as they move through channels and services. The creation of service blueprints requires collaboration between traditionally siloed teams to identify how information flows and how to get to the picture-perfect end state. This involves observing written versus executed processes, digital or physical tools used, working environments, outputs produced and, above all, asking ‘Why?’ Creating service blueprints helps stakeholders understand and align on which teams to involve, legacy systems to upgrade, and data to share to deliver magical services. Beyond customer benefits, breaking down silos can result in operational efficiencies, futureproofed infrastructure, data management strategies, unified operational groups, organizational change, systems integration, better risk management, and more.

Understand employees

Employees deliver part of the magic, so understanding how they feel, what they do, and why is essential to improving services. Service blueprints require organizations to consider employee experiences, which are often overlooked. It challenges teams to consult employees, understand incentives, and find change champions who will help rally and convince others. It also involves looking at the intangible exchanges of value, information, or even emotions that may influence a customer’s experience. This could lead to a redesigned work culture and improved employee support tools. On top of workplace benefits like talent retention and engagement, focusing on employees can help organizations identify customer-employee interactions that can turn a poor or mediocre service to a stellar one.

Test & iterate

As much one can see and map out an iceberg, it is still an iceberg, and change is going to take time. By adopting a test-and-learn mentality, service design encourages teams to maximize innovation value while minimizing risk, so resources aren’t thrown into the delivery of one ‘perfect’ initiative that fails after years of work. By collaborating with internal stakeholders and testing new ideas with employees and customers, service design helps iceberg organizations get feedback on whether the innovation is valuable and should continue getting developed, or a waste of time, so it can improve their return on investment.

To make magic happen, organizations must tackle the iceberg. A great user experience on a front-facing product that doesn’t address the systems it runs on is a band-aid solution that doesn’t deliver service value for the user. Organizations need to design what is invisible to customers with the same rigor that they design what is visible.

Service design consultants can help make sure the end-to-end customer experience is linked to the backend, creating real magic and improving sales, cross-sell opportunities, and customer loyalty on the way. Reach out to learn more and uncover your organization’s iceberg.