Seeing intangible value in Service Design

Summary: Seeing intangible value in Service Design starts by understanding intangibles’ supporting role in the service experience. It can not only be of value to customers but also can provide hidden ROI opportunities, often difficult to measure.

Services, by their very nature, often possess intangible qualities. While tangible solutions may be specified in User Experience (UX) projects, Service Design projects adopt a systems-level approach encompassing various channels, customer experiences, employee interactions, and backstage ecosystems. In this blog post, we will explore the crucial role of intangible value in Service Design, its impact on ROI, and methods for defining, representing, measuring, and justifying its importance to both the business and the customer.

Understanding intangible value also requires embracing a holistic view of the customer journey. By mapping touchpoints and identifying areas where intangibles play a pivotal role, businesses can fine-tune their service design strategy to create seamless and emotionally resonant experiences.

Defining intangible value: Examples

Intangible value in Service Design is exemplified through outcomes that extend beyond tangible deliverables. These elusive elements could include transforming business rules, enhancing employee behaviors, or evoking emotional value. Intangibles can significantly influence the overall service or product experience. It’s nuanced so most people miss it.

In this Home Depot example, the home repairs store offers free Saturday workshops on various topics.

Home Depot customer workshop demo of intangible value

In another example from Umpqua Bank, the bank offers free coffee, gift wrapping, and more elements of intangible emotional value.

Umpqua bank free coffee shows intangible value

Hidden ROI-Generators: Unveiling the Power of Intangibles

While intangibles may be invisible, their potential to generate return on investment (ROI) should not be underestimated. Oftentimes, these aspects are challenging to anticipate and even trickier to measure, but they offer potent downstream effects to businesses. They can emerge as the crux of a successful service or product experience, fostering emotional connections, building greater equity, and enhancing decision-making within product-service delivery teams.

Representing Intangible Value to the Business and the Customer

Effectively representing intangible value requires a nuanced approach.  First, present the value of intangibles to the business highlighting their potential impact on customer satisfaction, loyalty, and long-term growth. Emphasizing the importance of employee behaviors and touchpoint-level improvements can demonstrate the relevance of intangibles in achieving organizational objectives. For example, an unscale boutique UK hotel placed cards in key areas of the room with signs in a beautiful wedding-style font that said:

  • “Careful this bath water is hot!” (bath)
  • “Need a toothbrush or razor? Just ask” (sink)
  • “Chocolate?, Sweet dreams”; (pillow)…”Tomorrow’s Weather”with chocolate example shown below.

chocolates on a hotel bed displays intangible value

The brand communicated, instructed, and comforted guests by creating these artifacts or physical evidence. Such intangibles added a branded feel to the guest experience, emphasizing “we’ve thought of every touchpoint in every moment of the space, from bath to bed.” At the same time, they indicate playfulness and helpfulness.

Measuring and Justifying Intangibles

Although measuring intangible value poses a challenge, it is not insurmountable. By using qualitative metrics, businesses can gain insights into the impact of intangible elements on customer experiences and brand loyalty. Customer feedback, surveys, and sentiment analysis can help gauge emotional value, while employee productivity and engagement metrics (eg employee NPS) can illuminate the significance of intangibles in the backstage ecosystem.


The significance of intangible value in Service Design should be paid closer attention. Intangibles can shape exceptional customer experiences, drive loyalty, and elevate a design ROI. Despite their elusive nature, businesses can define, represent, measure, and justify intangibles through a data-driven approach.

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