Using service design models

… the 31Volts way.

The other day we had a great talk with a new prospect on customer journeys. The one question that took me by surprise was: “What model do you use to create customer journeys?” Huh? A model is a visualisation of something else. In this case of a journey customers go through. The customer journey map IS the model.

The question however, related to the way we get to this model. In other words; “How do you (as a company) create these customer journey maps?” I realized that this question is not very applicable to us and that we would probably never be able to answer that question with a plain and single answer. A very good thing if you’d ask me. The point of the matter is. We almost never repeat ourselves when it comes to the use of a specific method. Sure, we do a lot of customer journey mapping work. And sure the result is always a map, any shape or form.

Musem Journeys

The debate that took place in my head was about the need to either (one) use a fixed way of working to be able to be predictable on the outcome or (two) being as flexible and adaptive as possible and being absolutely sure to successfully end up with a valuable outcome.

If I project this internal debate on the Innovation Funnel by Roger Martin, the designers way of working does make a lot of sens. In this very simple schematic, one can plot activities within a company, or even in projects, on a certain level. On the top level, there are the mysteries. This is where one finds the new. Opportunities for new value. Once you find something that is worthwhile pursuing, one makes the leap into the heuristics level. Here is where experiences in the field one works in helps one to make decisions. Patterns emerge and knowledge from the past comes in to mature the idea. The third and last step is to mold the developed idea into some kind of algorithm. This stage is where ‘the money is made’, where one puts a system into place that needs to be managed well.

So, coming back to our ‘model of creating customer journey’s’, I think we [designers] often move in the field where mystery meets heuristics. Sure we can, do and will repeat ourselves. We use all our experience and knowledge to improve our ways. But boy, do we [designers] love to run around in mystery land. Not because this is a free floating space of inspiration and discovery, but because we know FOR SURE that it is here that the real insights are found and new value is created. And that after all is the bottom line. Not only do we [designers] promise and provide the best results for our clients, we also promise to search for the best approach, tool and method available to us (or design new ones, if necessary). Now and in the future. For present clients and the ones to be.

In other words, the quality of (service-) design is not to be found in the repetition but in dexterity and adaptability.

One example to illustrate my point. I’m very curious what you think.

Utrechtse Musea
For a group of Utrecht museums we conducted a study to come up with new strategies for growth. In the early stages of this project we found out that it was very (very!) hard for the directors and marketing people working at these museums to think further than outside their front door. Quite a shock. A beautiful exhibition with new and surprising work, the right information, a good shop and cafe. That is their scope. The entrance the horizon.

A customer journey map -for them- would start and finish at the front door. However, we found out that most people visiting a Utrecht museum have far more on their agenda than just visiting an exhibition. They often plan to visit the city and make the museum part of their plans.

museum journey map

With that knowledge we had to rethink our approach. For about three months we went on a daily basis into town with a camera to look for tourists, visitors of the city. We secretly followed a lot of people around in order to get better understanding of their actions and the role the museums could play in the lives of these people. After a while a few patterns emerged. For example, it turns out that there are three spots in town from where our famous Dom Tower gets photographed. Three spots where a lot of potential museum ‘clients’ can be found. Spots where non of the museums have any presence to get in contact with them at all and being of value to their potential ‘clients’.

The customer journey maps that were made visualized very clearly the potential of value creation for the museum visitor outside the museum. An outcome that would never have been possible if ones sticks to the method as ‘described in the books’.

Marc once introduced the term ‘off-stage’. Services have a front stage, a back stage as described in the books. This project proved that there is much value to be created off-stage.



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  • Comment by Joanne Mendel

    Very nice case study example and an important point that you make here about where you chose to look in your customer research. While understanding the context in which activities occur is part of understanding what works and what doesn’t, broadening that contextual frame beyond the museum in this case was key to solving for the objectives.

31Volts [Service Design]