Service Design Award 2022 Winner Project - Best Commercial Project
Braver Training Grounds: Customer Experience Design & Social Housing Organizations - by J5 Design
Category: Professional Commerical
Client: Red Deer Housing Authority, Franklin Kutuadu (CAO)
Project Team: Kristofer Kelly-Frere, John Vardalos, Kevin Drinkwater, and Cindy Lam
The client is a small organization that supports affordable housing options in a small municipality. In 2021 they commissioned a human-centered design consultancy (consultant) to conduct an independent assessment of their current state customer experience and to offer recommendations about how to improve it. They came to the consultant with a desire to become more customer-driven, and to make meaningful connections between the diverse community of people they exist to serve.
The clinet, like so many similar organizations, had struggled to adapt and innovate in response to the housing crisis. They are limited by a strict regulatory structure, legacy and aging infrastructure, and a complex mandate with limited funding. At the same time, the client has a passionate and talented team of frontline staff who care about creating positive impacts, and a board and leadership team committed to empowering them.
We saw a double opportunity in their challenge 1) First to use Service Design approaches to make meaningful changes to their customer experiences. 2) Second to empower their team with creative skillsets, toolsets and mindsets so that they could keep going once we were gone. The result was a hybrid Training/Doing model that leveraged job training grant funding, involved frontline staff in design research, synthesis, and to set a new strategic north star for the organization.
The best people to understand and evolve their service were the client’s staff themselves. The initial service needed was to rapidly build and customize a service design training program for the client team. From there the consultant team worked side by side with the client staff to collect data, run interviews, haul propane campfires from building to building and document the conversations that ensued. It was an energizing and transformative experience. It reinforced the importance of “leveling the playing field” between designer and client – and creating the conditions for everyone to contribute.
This part of the world is a patchwork of affordable housing providers, with 400 organizations challenged to serve the half-million people locally who can’t afford their current housing. The client is small but wants to grow. They currently assist 2,000 individual citizens through the Housing Programs offered. We co-designed a roadmap for improving their customer experiences in the short term, and to transform into the next generation landlord of last resort: one that keeps empathy centered as they deliver services to people in need.
Designers love to talk about what they are learning. But how often to our clients and partners get to experience those same applied learning opportunities? Why does training come out of one budget and consulting another? Is it necessary to keep strategy and customer experience separate? This project was about cracking open the studio and turning it into a training ground... together.
The whole project is available in the case studies seciton.