DOCTOR — Service Design. TOOL — Empathy. SPACE — Design Thinking

Using non-violent communication as a tool to achieve successful results when using Design Thinking techniques. 

You may ask what kind of doctor we are referring to when talking about Service Design. However, there is a good answer to such a question: 

Service Design acts like a doctor for businesses, it is capable of resuscitating even the most hopeless of cases,

– 4Service Group Development Director Alina Andreeva.

Design Thinking examines customer thoughts, the values and needs behind what they say and do and any barriers that might be blocking their interaction with the company. For example, customers may express a certain opinion in focus groups but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they actually believe what they say in these situations. 


Empathy is the main tool behind design thinking. It is multi-level process that allows researchers to examine the situation, the customer service and the product through the eyes of the customer. The use of this method helps business see and understand the real problem as well as the needs of the customer behind the call.

In practice, it seems very casual. The wish to empathize with the customer includes a virtual role reversal. It is necessary to take the customer’s place, gain insight into their life, environment and find answers to the following questions: 

  • What drives this person and what is behind the model of their behavioral responses?
  • How does this person get in touch with the company, at what stage do they have questions or feel uncomfortable?
  • What feelings, emotions, needs or barriers arise during the interaction with the company?
  • What are the needs of both company and customer for a successful interaction?

True need

The customer may not have any wish or need to use a particular product or service at all. In the process of applying Service Design at the empathy stage, methods of non-violent communication technology are also used.

There are certain exercises in the Service Design development methodology that can be applied throughout the process of improving a product, goods or services. They can be practised as warm-ups before certain stages, as rules of communication.

The exercises can be applied universally and conditioned by the rules of internal attitudes and awareness and help not only in Service Design. They effectively improve communication in work groups, families as well as in informal settings and are aimed at developing empathy and the understanding of the other person.

Emotion VS Expert assessment

As a rule, anyone that describes a certain situation, has influenced it by adding some of their own views and/or past experiences. It is sometimes very difficult to understand how to distinguish your own emotions from an expert assessment.

There are several stages to this:

The first stage of non-violent communication is to separate facts from emotions. This means excluding the presence of any value judgments or beliefs.  Having learned to identify facts while ignoring emotions and without judging a person, it is possible to change a customer’s view significantly.

Acquiring the skill not to judge or criticize a person’s personality or behavior makes it possible to get an objective assessment of what is actually happening. 

The second stage is gaining awareness of the other person’s feelings and needs. Why does a person behave in such a way?  In Service Design trainings, participants study the situation and learn to assume what the other person is feeling at a particular moment. From the list of feelings given, you should select those that explain the behavior or need behind those feelings. For example, why someone was dissatisfied, what did they really want?

It is surprising that the list of feelings does not include the usual examples of anger, rage, aggression or irritation. In the method of non-violent communication, there is a premise that behind any act of aggression is pain, sadness or some other kind of depressed state. Behavior is a manifestation of what is happening to someone on the inside.

Sometimes the analysis of a situation can show that a customer’s needs and/or feelings are not entirely related to the company providing the product or service. The emotional state of a person is down to a number of personal circumstances and can be radically different to the atmosphere in a certain location, the proposed range and/or the service staff.

A simple example of this is when older people complain or make comments to outsiders, without wanting to benefit from it personally. This behavior may be explained by a need for communication, for care, an outlet for their loneliness and/or a subconscious desire to attract attention.

The theory of non-violent communication confirms the fact that people perform their actions sincerely, with good intentions.

The consumer, the buyer, the client, the patient and the passenger will always explain their actions by protecting their rights and fighting for justice but through a desire to harm the company.

Non-violent communication is also a direct communication technology about how to build communication and dialogue in a way that is always constructive.

People always think that they are acting with good intentions. You can change the degree of communication by finding the ability to change an internal mood, trying to understand people, even hypothetically, putting yourself in their shoes.

You can achieve positive results and solve problems simply by empathizing with another person. After all, good and evil do not exist in its purest form, there is always an individual approach attitude to a problem.

Self-esteem and its role

During the second stage, we learn to understand the needs, views and opinions of the other person and evaluate our own role in a conflict situation. In the context of unsatisfied customers, there are always two sides. What can I say yes to and what exactly should I say no to?

Non-violent communication is made up of internal attitudes and beliefs. When analyzing a situation, both parties make compromises to better reach an agreement. When analyzing certain conflict situations, a third stage is added: expression of criticism.


At the third stage, all elements of criticism must be detailed. For example, what you criticize the customer for and what you criticize yourself for in a certain situation. Studying examples of specific scenarios allows you to reduce the fierceness of your criticism in the first round and avoid negative energy influencing your communication.

Non-violent communication technologies are designed to neutralize conflicts and block external noise, prejudice and subjective assessments as well as clear thoughts and space for maximum understanding of a person. Of course, if a client is not valuable to a company, then you can close the door saying “Goodbye, we do not wish to work for you!” However, in these instances, it is worth remembering that each of these clients is often backed by Facebook and has a lot of followers which may make the situation somewhat unpredictable. 

The art of turning a negative customer into a promoter

Design Thinking technologies teach the ability to listen to and understand what a person really wants while they are complaining and sometimes even shouting. Non-violent communication tools allow employees to not get emotionally involved when customers are becoming hysterical in front of them or even at them. These technologies also allow any conflict to be resolved ten times sooner as employees have honed the skills required to diffuse the situation.

In the context of a simple interpretation, it is important not to react reflectively, try to run away, protect yourself, ignore them or leave the scene when a customer is shouting at the service staff, as these behaviors are destructive.

It is important to reach a consensus and take on the role of listener and hear the need or wish behind the cry for help. A trained specialist can turn a critical customer into a promoter. 

Combining Design Thinking and business thinking with an empathic behavioural model is a unique recipe for success. Empathy helps you find optimum solutions to perform tasks in unison with a constantly changing environment.

Service Design Ambassador 4Service Group practices universal Design Thinking technologies at all levels of internal business processes.
Our Service Designers are ready to apply their knowledge to transform your business


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