Service Design Network
Author - Service Design Network

We're a global small business, accounting and bookkeeping software-as-a-service company with 3,000+ employees committed to building beautiful experiences for our 2 .38 million subscribers, located across 20 offices in eight countries.

Service Design Award 2020 Finalist Project

Future of facilitation: digital blueprinting on a global scale - by Xero

Category: Professional Commercial

Client: Inhouse Project

Location: Australia

Introduction

We established our service design team in May 2019. Our initial goal was to ensure our people, processes and technologies were aligned behind the scenes and we were continuing to deliver a beautiful experience ‘on stage’ for our 2.38 million subscribers around the world.

The challenge we faced in this project was two-fold:

  1. To understand (in 17 weeks) how the entire customer experience is delivered across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom using service blueprinting as the method. This included mapping the staff and technology that enable this delivery.
  2. To achieve this while working 100% remotely across three time zones, and collaborating with 140+
    staff.

As a software company delivering experiences across multiple cultures, and very different audiences, documenting and exploring all journeys can be complex. Complexity is twofold - internally to collaborate remotely with hundreds of staff, and externally to understand and capture all the nuances that makes those audiences unique.

Our project goals were to:

  1. Create living documentation of our current state, to better support the organisation by delivering regular updates to our customer and staff journeys.
  2. Design a way for hundreds of staff to visualise and understand t he complete service together, across time zones and in a remote environment.

The challenge had many dimensions. The service design team was newly-formed (with four contractors and only one permanent team member!), we had not mapped the experience in our 14 year history, and many staff had not experienced or heard of service blueprinting as a method.

Process

Our ambition was to develop living blueprints that the business could use ongoing. Mapping the current state of two complex services in 17 weeks means you have to move fast. Our process encompassed six steps:

  1. Identify our teams

    We identified 140+ staff members from 36 internal departments that we needed to help map the experience. Staff represented four major groups based on their expertise: education, customer facing, marketing and digital and product and billing.

  2. Set up effective tools

    We developed a ‘follow the sun’ model and worked 24/7. As our Australia and New Zealand service designers completed their work each day, they handed over to the UK team to continue the work. Using Miro and Google Meet as our key workshop tools, our service designers set up each digital room like we would a physical workshopping room with walls of content. They gave tours of the virtual room, and thought about how they would move workshop participants from one spot to another, telling the story of the information that had already been collected.

  3. Establish our blueprinting principles

    We designed seven service blueprinting principles to ensure our deliverables were meeting business needs:
    - Co-owned
    - Centralised
    - Customer-centric
    - Shared language
    - Bite-sized to scale
    - Repeatable
    - Working alone, together

  4. Work through problem statements and prioritisation

    Our next challenge was to understand how to best map all key journeys. We created twelve problem statements and developed a weighting system and effort score to help identify and prioritise the audience groups and key experiences we needed to capture. We tackled the most complex journey first to remove risk of not completing the project on time. Our agile team facilitator developed a bespoke sprint model for us so we could effectively plan 56 workshops in advance, spread over three-weekly sprint cycles. To do this, we storymapped our approach in Miro, then exported our storymaps into Trello, where we managed our tasks.

  5. Synthesise to prepare for working sessions

    We consolidated what we knew about our current customers into empathy maps (as our vast amount of research wasn't in a consumable format) and brought these into the workshops, where participants reviewed and added any missing information.

    We knew that working remotely with 140+ subject matter experts who had limited exposure to service blueprinting methods would be challenging. In preparation we created blueprinting training -what it is, its benefits and ensured that we created a first cut of the blueprint from the synthesised information we had already been provided. We called this Iteration 00. We built digital warm-up exercises for workshops that served two purposes: to help everyone get to know each other, and to get people comfortable with using Miro.

  6. Running the digital workshop

    Each workshop ran for 90 minutes and started in the southern hemisphere with 6-8 subject matter experts and 1-2 service designers. Participants built upon Blueprint Iteration 00 using digital post-its and stickers, providing us with current state blueprints v01. After each session, the service designers clean up the workshop output removing duplicates, irrelevant elements, consolidating where possible and documenting in further depth where required. This artefact was time stamped and along with a recorded daily Google Meet video diary addressing what had been achieved that day, and what needed to be achieved in the next timezone, it was then handed over to the service design team in the UK.

    We then created service action plans for any recommended improvements. We repeated this process for all twelve problem statements, which meant we would cover all key audiences and journeys.

Outputs

This project was successfully completed, producing two living service blueprints allowing us to better understand the end-to-end customer experience.

Our blueprints mapped 35 channels and functions, broke the experience into 17 episodes, documenting more than 65 core customer actions across two key audiences. We captured every opportunity we identified in a log, and provided an identification number so that it could be traced back to the single touchpoint in the blueprint.

These maps show how our people and processes are connected, and how that relates to the experience our customers have with us. What’s really powerful is that everything - right down to a single arrow, post-it or comment - is searchable and linkable. No more dog-eared posters collecting dust in drawers or desperately scrolling through pixelated photos of post-its for that killer quote. It’s all there in one digital place.

The maps are kept up-to-date, so our staff can use them to understand the current state of the experience their area delivers and identify any immediate opportunities. Blueprinting has enabled us to create a shared understanding of the services we deliver, create visibility and help disconnected teams work together in more focussed and deliberate ways. Aligning staff around the customer episodes has become the best way to break down internal departmental silos and focusing on delivering experiences directly for our customers. We have aligned sales motions, marketing metrics and projects to the episodes within the service blueprint, and have started to build an entire experience framework around them.

In wrapping up the project, we identified two unplanned yet very valuable outputs:

 

  1. We created new ways of working accessible to all staff working remotely and building co-working remote spaces to thrive in

    While it wasn’t originally a goal, we’ve developed a repeatable process that’s resulted in human centred design thinking becoming embedded within the organisation as a common way of working, helping employees make sense of complex journeys quickly and visually.

    Additionally, teams have begun to think more about the experiences they are creating. The process created human conversations and relationships across areas of the business that had never talked before. The workshops were a place to start those conversations, the blueprints are a trigger for those conversations forever more. W e’ve published our workshop and service blueprint templates to our employees.

    Through this project, we’ve fine tuned our default remote ways of working. It enabled us to work effectively across many regions at once in a cohesive manner allowing for the loudest and quietest voices in the room to have equal impact. Critically, the process of service blueprinting opened hundreds of staff eyes to how they must and can work on a single service together. The process pulled together hundreds of subject matter experts, removing barriers to collaboration by providing:
    - a common language when talking about customer journeys,
    - a meaningful way to visualise and understand an end-to-end customer experience,
    - remote workshopping techniques that allowed for equal input.

  2. We developed a sustainable experience framework from the modular episode model we built the blueprints around - to help our staff better understand the experiences we deliver and how their work impacts these

    We’ve been using the current state blueprints as the basis for ALL seven subsequent projects we’ve completed. We’ve used the episode anatomy built from blueprinting as a core way to describe journeys for these projects and we’re now building a living customer experience framework for staff.

    The framework illustrates how the end-to-end experience comes together, providing guidance and alignment on: the language of experience, defining and prioritising focus areas, understanding the bigger picture and how each team brings this experience to life.

Impact

We’ve anchored staff around the saying “you don’t know what to keep or improve on, until you know what you are currently delivering”. This project highlighted the importance of understanding the complete picture of how our service is delivered to customers currently, and is being written into our global customer program framework as a critical project milestone to complete before teams start designing new
experiences.

The role of design in transformation is being realised

The key performance indicators for our service design team is to influence three key areas. This project influenced all three:

  1. Alignment: w orking together on a singular service experience: useful, connected and beautiful. This project allowed 140 employees to work remotely together on understanding a single service.
  2. Mindsets: creating visibility of the bigger picture, helping drive a culture of shared responsibility as we scale. For the first time, we had teams looking at experiences from macro and micro levels. Imparting high level service design principles to staff, they could see the push and pull effect of change, the ripple it might cause to the customer experience.
  3. Ways of working: creating efficiencies by helping disconnected teams work together in focussed and deliberate ways. We’ve produced templates and design kits for staff to use to continue to use the skills they learnt while working with us.

Service design is about more than a team—it’s about the whole organisation looking at the complete service. Without a way to visualise experiences, or a way of working that encourages cross-department co-creation, this cannot be achieved. This piece of work proved the need to solidify the Service Design team as a key discipline and the need to grow service design methods to all facets of the company.

Wider service design community impact

The blueprint template we created was so well loved that Miro asked us to be one of the first companies to publish templates to Miroverse. In its first few weeks of being published we had over 400 unique users!

We’ve also published our experiences on Medium to help other service designers who are having to work remote and received 4,000+ views. Teams have reached out from Ireland, Sweden, USA, Australia and NZ wanting to leverage our approach in their organisations - a real win for the global service design community.

On-going impact - a new culture

Originally we set out with two goals: to map the entire customer and staff experience, and determine how to work as a service design team 100% remote. What we ultimately achieved was well beyond that. We started from a groundswell of shifting mindset where teams were focused on project delivery, and moved to an experience-led delivery where staff are thinking about the experiences they create. We have piqued the interest of 140+ staff in understanding the value of having a holistic and tangible way to understand and communicate our customer's current experience.

Staff appetite to ‘lean in’ to service design methods has grown significantly

We’ve since started an ‘open hours consulting’ function where staff book appointments with the service design team to get help as they apply mapping and remote methods to their work. We are now exploring more wide-reaching learning initiatives that can scale for staff to gain an understanding of core competencies in human centred design methods, regardless of their role within the organisation.

Conclusion

On reflection, it may seem crazy to build your in-house service design team at the same time as mapping all your current state experiences. But we did it, and we’ve learned a lot along the way:

  • spending time designing how you will engage with others is key in remote environments
  • being able to work alone, together- it’s incredibly important to give participants time and space to work through activities and feel comfortable working in a digital environment
  • it is possible to work together globally across many regions on a single service - the approaches and design tools developed for this project proved this
  • building reusable tools is the best way to gain traction of service design methods in a large global distributed company
  • the output of a blueprinting process can create a bigger reusable customer experience framework
  • blueprinting helps staff see themselves as creators of the customer journey, ultimately they need to see themselves as artists weaving a tapestry with their colleagues. If the threads are not joined up thoughtfully, holes will appear
  • service design can shift mindsets through the act of working together. If you create the right conditions, you can start a far greater, wide-reaching movement within the organisation

When Covid-19 took hold of the world, we saw how the ways of working, templates and tools we had set up in this project meant the service design practice was equipped for the disruption that working from home threw at us. While nothing can replace physical working spaces and relationships, we’ve been able to replicate most things.

We are extremely proud our work far exceeded our original remit and has reinvigorated the desire for teams to work together and understand each other’s worlds. Blueprinting may be one tool in a service designer’s toolkit but it’s an extremely powerful one if it can be adopted by hundreds of staff in a global company.

Project Team:

Courtney Martyn - Head of Service Design 
Charlotte Willcocks - Service Designer 
Heather Madden - Service Designer 
Georgia Allen - Campaign Manager 
 
Thanks to Today for their support on this project. 

Related Community Knowledge

Service Design Award Design in a Crisis: Rescuing the Pay Experience for Federal Government Employees

Design in a Crisis: Rescuing the Pay Experience for Federal Government Employees

In 2016 the Canadian federal government introduced a new pay system, called Phoenix. The system was meant to be automated and cost-effective, saving the government millions of dollars a year. Instead, what transpired is described as the most serious pay debacle in Canadian history and an “incomprehensible failure” by the Canadian auditor general. While the federal government exists in its current state of transition – waiting for a new system and unable to go back to the old one – individual departments throughout the federal government are designing their own band-aid solutions to support employees.

Continue reading
Service Design Award Alleviating stress and frustration during medicine switches

Alleviating stress and frustration during medicine switches

During the spring of 2019 Dutch newspapers were filled with articles about stress in pharmacies, due to regular medicine switches for patients. These switches are caused by material and medicine shortages, poor deliverability, a change in preferential medicine of various health insurers or pharmacists, or medicine being taken off the market.

Continue reading
Service Design Award Transforming workers' compensation service experiences: moving from fax to future proofed services

Transforming workers' compensation service experiences: moving from fax to future proofed services

Our organization, governed by legislation and policy, is one of the largest insurance organizations in North America. We cover five million people in over 300,000 workplaces across our province. Coverage with our organization is mandatory for many businesses in our province, who may not be aware of the necessity or plethora of services we provide. Past efforts to improve our financial position, while necessary, came at the expense of good customer service. Over the years, there began to be a problematic decline in customer satisfaction.

Continue reading
Service Design Award Inclusive Digital Services for the Municipality

Inclusive Digital Services for the Municipality

Little over 850.000 citizens live in this diverse, beautiful city. From Marc to Mohammed. From baby to granny. From garbage collector to PhD student. Every citizen has their context, needs, wishes and challenges. How to design online services that can be used by everyone?

Continue reading