Services are what many businesses do, but sometimes organisations lose contact with what is really happening. Perhaps focusing on certain products and forgetting the call centre, website or even other services are a very real part of their user journey.
How everything connects up from a users point of view is just as important as the products themselves, and if it goes wrong it can stop a journey in its tracks.
Being user centred can help organisations trying to better serve their existing user and well as those trying to uncover new opportunities. To understand what is really going on you need to to see the service from the point of view of all of those using it. These I call User Centred Service Journeys (UC Service Journeys).
The journey begins from the user's goal, say ‘I want to go on holiday' until they achieve their objective; ‘That was great! I'm glad to be back at home’. Often it can have post journey events, like ‘Let me show you my pictures’ or ‘Let me recommend some places.’ This means that the service journey might not be owned by one service provider, and it might also have lots of stages and players.
Many organisations stop considering their users outside their service, but to make things better you need need to understand the context and the user objectives around what you do.
What is a User Centred Service Journey?
It maps at a high level the service journey from the point of view of user objective. From the actions needed to achieve it, to the way they are delivered. It includes all possible routes of service including, failure loops.
How is this different to a service blueprint?
Generally it is way more zoomed out, so the scale of the journey is not appropriate for the channel mapping approach used in a service blueprints. The journey is connected in a flow of known eventualities. For example process loops from the point of view of user experience, or actions that make them happen.
A User Centred Service Journey kind of looks like a user journey on steroids; it covers many or all paths in one map broken down into a system.
So if its not a a service blueprint what is it?
What IS a User Centred Service Journey?
- It begins with a user goal and ends when it is achieved. It can also show what happens afterwards; sometimes this can be really important to the experience. It follows a timeline that connects the whole journey based on user needs as they progress.
- It shows possible 'service' outcomes, not a single journey. Sometimes it might contain other service journeys.
- It breaks user journeys down into a system of parts. Some of these are user need, actions, delivery method, triggers, time, outcomes, process, decision moments, possible failures, pain points and success moments.
- Its focus is on objectives rather than process and delivery. Throughout the journey the aim is to map user intention rather than how it is delivered.
- It is broken into larger objective based stages. These are like epics where the user needs aim to achieve the same high level objective. The user moves on when this objective is achieved.
- It places existing services and procedure in the user journey. Putting it in the journey can show how and why people actually use them. Qualifying these steps by what they do rather than what a procedure is called.
- It can show the many players in a journey. These might be other users, 3rd parties or other businesses that play a role. For example in 'I want to buy a flat' the seller, estate agent, mortgage provider and many others will be a part of the journey.
- It can vary in scale depending on what is relevant. Some journeys might be shorter or more narrow which allows more detail, and others bigger with a more systematic view of things.
- It should show any existing validation and insight in the context journey. This can include things like detail around a process, existing questions, cost/profit, volume of use, market size and quality of experience like pain points or success moments.
What is NOT a User Centred Service Journey?
- It is NOT an internal process map. Although you can start adding internal processes, systems and interactions, it shouldn’t be at the detriment of the user centred part! The focus here is to understand the possible user journeys not internal business processes or systems. Anything you add should not detract from the focus.
- It is NOT a single user journey. The User Centred Service Journey, shows everything together. It is not zoomed in on one path, but is a journey decision tree that shows all outcomes.
- It is NOT just about customer interactions. It is more zoomed out than this. Think of it more as users objectives, actions, triggers and outcomes. You can show how users interact, but the focus here is on why they are doing it. For example if the need is 'I want confirmation of my booking' it can be delivered many ways by email, text, website link... the important thing is they need 'confirmation'.
- Life events are NOT services, they are the context around them and can be mapped where relevant. Often they can be triggers or key influencers in the journey. For example a 'new baby' might make you want to look to find a new home, but the UC service journey is still 'I want to buy/rent a flat'
A User Centred Service Journey can be mapped for different needs. So depending on what you're doing will depend on the scale you choose, and what detail you show.
Why do you use it?
Making change to existing services
When working with existing services User Centred Service Journeys can be used to understand what is happening before you begin making change. Often the existing view of the service will be from a business perspective, incomplete or disconnected. For example journeys can be broken up by structure. Silos within an organisation can create ownership division and sometimes KPIs can distort the understanding of performance.
By mapping the existing service from a User Centred Service Journey perspective, you can bring all of the whole offer together in one view. By showing the journey through a user lense you can reconnect with the user’s objectives and better evaluate if the current service meets needs or not.
You can also look at cost and profit from a journey perspective. For example savings in terms of journey progress where you might provide better guidance to reduce the numbers of service dropouts. This can often be very different to previous views of the organisation and it can bring up unexpected surprise outcomes.
The User Centred Service Journey is a great way to demonstrate what is going on now, and help change internal thinking of how/why things are done to be focused on users. It is also a useful tool to explain scale and scope. In the past I have used it to help senior stakeholders understand the enormity what they are asking for!
When you have used it to uncover what's going on you can then use it as a tool draw on your proposition and demonstrate how it changes things.
Making a new proposition
When you make a new service idea you can use User Centred Service Journeys to map out what your offer will be and how it will deliver. It’s sort of the opposite process to an existing service. In the existing service you are an archaeologist researching existing processes and trying to understand the objectives behind ‘why’ things are done. A propositional journey is crafted from the ‘why’ of the user objectives and is trying to fill in the process to deliver it.
The propositional User Centred Service Journey is a great way to look at the entirety of your offer to see your hypothesis in its entirety. It’s a tool to understand what needs to be validated, help grasp complexity and failure paths early on.
Giving you a view of your service by objective helps you consider how you might deliver these as your offer matures, without losing sight of the real user need. And once again it’s a great tool for sharing with possible partners, to help other people understand what your service does and why.
When do you use it?
It is a great tool to kick off discovery or define phases. It is something that will continually change and live as a process tool to get you to your final proposition. I personally think it’s a requirement for any good research or kick off phase. Service change and service design can not be done effectively without it.
When the User Centred Service Journey is mapped, remember it is a moment in time. Think of it as an artefact, something that can be drawn on, covered in post-its and added to as you validate and learn more.
It can be used as a process tool until you need to update properly. For example at when the process to change kicks off again, otherwise the constant upkeep might become a full time job every time something small changes!
How do you make it?
How good your User Centred Service Journey map is depends on the quality of the investment you put in. It needs a clearly defined design system, the right experts involved and honesty about what is not known. It will likely need rounds of workshops to refine it, but doesn’t have to be perfect. So long as you keep adding as you learn. Start with something and keep adding to it. Having a printed copy can be a good working tool, and something you see everyday and change daily as you learn.
User Centred Service Journeys in action
Recently I have used User Centred Service Journey in a kick off session with Emily Webber looking to connect up existing services with the Land Registry Digital team. The map can be used as a tool to workshop ideation, new opportunities, pain points, unknowns and prioritisation. It is a great tool to get team discussion and engagement around a service area.
Also it’s a fun process that gets to results fast and allows teams to get immersed quickly! Building up the teams domain expertise over a week of intensive workshopping. It helped the team understand complex business process in context of the users need over a complecated and lengthy journey. Finishing up with a set of prioritised opportunities ready for discovery kick off.
The map was essential to doing this and to be honest I actually can’t imagine this process working without it!