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Exploring Sacred Service Design

This study focuses on the development of new service design approaches for the design of experience-centric services through the integration and utilization of concepts and practices relating to the study of the sacred. During service design’s rapid expansion and acceptance as an established approach to service development, much attention of late has been given to the discipline’s role as an agent for the improvement of public sector services through user-centered innovation. However, less attention has been given to ways in which service design might contribute to the design of experience-centric services. Experience-centric services refer to services that lift the experiential with a designed intentionality as a crafted, differentiating element of the service offering (Zomerdijk & Voss, 2010). At the same time, it has been shown that consumers are sharing extraordinary experiences through a form of sacralization of products and services (Belk, Wallendorf & Sherry. Jr, 1989). Such a phenomena would seem to offer potential for new forms of experience-centric services. This PhD therefore has honed in on the study of the sacred as a possible area to glean fruitful practices and concepts for the development of new approaches for the design of experience-centric services. In doing so it has drawn from approaches, concepts and practice from socio-cultural domains to weave this together with service design practice to develop a new service design approach. The PhD takes research through design (RtD) as its main methodological approach supported by practice based design and research methods located within qualitative inquiry. This was undertaken through a series of design cycles in collaboration with four, large Norwegian service providers within real life cases, running for periods of six weeks to eight-month durations. The main contribution of the research can be found in the resulting Sacred Services Approach which is the main finding of the research. This is supported through the descriptions of the process and outcomes of the real-life case studies. Further reflection and implications are offered as part of the conclusion of the work. Through the development of the Sacred Services Approach the thesis contributes in three main ways: Analytically, it identifies and develops interdisciplinary themes and perspectives between socio-cultural domains and service design. In regards to service design research, it develops an approach that enables a discussion and exemplification of how service design can integrate approaches, concepts and practice from socio-cultural domains into the discourse on service design as a broadening of its current framing. For service design practice it develops an approach that is a useful and useable blueprint for the design of experience-centric services, specifically towards what I refer to as ‘sacred customer experiences.’

Matthews, T.(2021). Exploring Sacred Service Design. AHO Available: https://aho.brage.unit.no/aho-xmlui/handle/11250/2758408