Service Design Network
Author - Service Design Network

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.

Service Design Award 2020/21
Non-profit/Public Sector Winner: Organisational Impact in the Public Sector

Transforming workers' compensation service experiences: moving from fax to future proofed services - by Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

Category: Professional Non-profit / Public sector

Client: Inhouse Project

Location: Canada


A major service transformation program was launched with three objectives:

  1. Produce more efficient and effective operational processes;
  2. Reduce risk on the organization’s technical footprint;
  3. Deliver better customer service and reduce burden for our customers.

The Service Design Team was put at the forefront of the transformation, tasked with developing a vision for the future service experience.


Design Research

Since 2016, Design Researchers within the Service Design Team have conducted 20 research studies and concept tests involving more than 450 customers, directly interviewing them or observing their interactions for approximately 1-3 hours. Participants included individuals who have suffered an injury or illness at work, employers who pay premiums, healthcare providers, and internal employees. Also included were deep dives into more vulnerable populations, including linguistic minorities, individuals who have experienced catastrophic injuries, and individuals who require additional support to travel.

The research methods included customer diaries, contextual interviews, shadowing, and walk-a-mile immersion, among others. The outputs included personas, customer journeys, experience board games, co-creation workshops, future trend explorations, and a prioritization framework.

Service Design Workshops

The Service Design Team delivered a series of service design workshops with participants from across the organization over 16 months, enabling deep dives into specific customer pain points within the context of a larger end-to-end experience. To bring clarity to our service transformation efforts, a systematic approach to redesigning different “legs” of the customer experience was undertaken. The four legs represent the core phases in the life of a claim, beginning with the simplest journey and progressing to the most complicated, based on our operating model and insights from our customer research. Put together, they generated the following overarching design challenges:

  1. How might we communicate a claims decision and reimburse health care within 24 hours of injury?
  2. How might we ensure no one loses a cycle of pay due to a workplace illness or injury?
  3. How might we create a seamless experience for our customers during their time of need that supports recovery and return to work, while ensuring financial stability?
  4. How might we engage the workplace parties and make the dispute resolution process clear, supportive, timely, and equitable, such that the injured person and the employer can navigate the process as an individual?

Each leg of the service experience includes interactions between our organization, the injured person, the employer, and the healthcare practitioner. Further exploration was done through sub-journeys, which represent variations on the core experience based on specific scenarios, including the experience for linguistic minorities.

Full day workshops were divided into two parts to make space for comprehensive concept testing. A core journey required approximately three weeks of workshops in total, and six weeks of concept testing with 15-25 customers and employees in the middle. Workshop participants included 10-20 members of key areas both upstream and downstream of the relevant operational areas. They also included key supporting functions such as Communications, Legal, Policy, Compliance and IT, who would be directly involved in developing, delivering, and monitoring the new service.

The workshops guided participants through the full design process, including defining the problem statement, generating new product and service ideas, concept testing, and iterating based on the results of testing. Participants generated hundreds of ideas when asked to think of a ‘new and more improved’ service. These ideas were assessed from the perspective of customer desirability, implementation feasibility, and business viability, before moving into testing.

Selecting Workshop Participants

It was crucial that the participants felt empowered to generate a new vision for our organization. Significant effort was made to build a safe space away from the rules and hierarchy prevalent in the organization. Some of the tactics included:

  1. Handpicking participants with both a deep knowledge of the organization and an eagerness to think beyond its current state.
  2. Asking participants to bring their expertise but leave any hierarchy behind.
  3. Encouraging participants to dress casually, in stark contrast to the usual business dress code.
  4. Requesting that managers find temporary coverage for participants, and asking participants to set ‘out of office’ notifications.
  5. Arranging C-Suite visits to encourage and empower participants. Executives expressed full faith in the participants’ expertise, and emphasized that they should make decisions that will best serve customers and staff. This alleviated any pressure participants felt to implement agendas of their direct managers.
  6. Specific exercises were created throughout the workshops to reframe and challenge participants’ thinking.

Testing Prototypes with Customers

The most promising ideas moved forward into prototyping. Participants created physical, digital, and service prototypes at varying levels of fidelity using different materials and modalities to demonstrate the proposed customer experience. These prototypes, including end-to-end storyboards of the future experience, were tested with internal staff and external customers. The feedback gathered from testing informed iterations on the future journey, and enabled workshop participants to build associated service blueprints.

Business Case

Following the workshops, the Service Design Team developed a business case for the future state journey. Data analytics were used to communicate the business value of the future state by mapping key performance indicators to the opportunities articulated in the future service design.

Assessments on the future service design were completed by the Legal, Policy, Compliance, IT, Change Management, Data, and Finance teams, most of whom had been workshop participants. This ensured that the proposed journeys met all legislative requirements, and enabled those areas to bring forth any concerns. The assessments also eliminated organizational silos, increased transparency and buy-in, and extended co-creation opportunities to more “rules” centric teams. The future service experience, along with the assessments, was then presented to C-Suite executives for approval.

Following the conclusion of the service design work, a consolidated end-to-end journey map was created that merged steps from each phase (“leg”) of the service experience to display the future service design from the beginning to end of a claim. This map is now used as a North Star for the organization, and acts as a single source of truth. It continues to drive a shared understanding of the vision for the future.

Simulating the Service Experience

A Model Office was also set up as a working prototype of the future service experience. Model Office integrates the people, process and technology elements across frontstage and backstage touchpoints, iteratively testing them against real research-based scenarios within a simulated work environment.

Services are simulated at increasing levels of fidelity throughout the design, development, and delivery lifecycle, ensuring that we ultimately deliver a positive and cohesive customer experience. The simulations allow us to test assumptions baked into our future service designs, close design gaps, and inform change management and training strategies for both our staff and customers. In doing so, it helps the entire transformation program mitigate risks associated with benefits realization and change, and optimizes the end-to-end customer and employee experiences.

Customers, front line employees, and managers participate in these simulations, while cross-disciplinary project team members observe in real-time from a remote location. The feedback gathered through the simulations ensure that critical improvements are made to services well before launch.

"I learned how innovative we can really be because I think this is amazing, that you are taking perspectives from all different levels of a claim and trying to understand how we can make this work for everyone. I really learned it takes a lot of collaboration." —Customer Service Representative, Model Office Participant

Driving Service Changes

Product and service changes are now derived directly from the future service designs, and the Digital Team uses them as the foundation of their product roadmaps. In fact, the service designs are so respected that when a business area wants to make a decision that is out-of-step with a design, they must bring their case to a Solution Control Board. Their proposal is then assessed against the value and benefits that the future service experience is expected to deliver.


The outputs from this work are vast and diverse. They include 12 core personas across three customer groups, as well as 21 additional personas representing customers with differentiated, increased, or context specific needs. Three employee personas were also generated from an internal ethnography. All personas have an associated journey, and those journeys have been articulated in a variety of ways including through traditional journey maps, a playable board game, and an interactive online story. From this research, 12 service designs were co-created, laddering up to one cohesive end-to-end future service experience. Also delivered were 19 future service blueprints, 23 prototypes, 23 assessments, four business cases, and three simulation reports capturing findings and recommendations.

The future service designs also identified projects and products required to improve the internal and external service experience. A prioritization framework was developed to identify the solutions that would deliver the most impact. To date, seven digital products have been delivered, with three more expected by January 2021.


Some of the products that have already been delivered in support of the future state service design are:

  • Online Services for Persons with Claims – This newly released product is the most transformational digital solution ever delivered by our organization. It enables customers to view, for the first time ever, all their claim information online. It also enables individuals to upload documents and communicate through secure messaging. Over 8500 people are now accessing their claim details through this product, with a satisfaction score of 80%.
  • Document Upload – This feature enables documents to be on file within minutes, rather than days, and has already decreased our environmental footprint by approximately 2.5 million sheets of paper. Over 835,000 documents have been uploaded through this tool.
  • Return-to-Work Email – Customer research continuously illuminated a need for quicker, more convenient communication. To address the service inadequacies, email was introduced. To date, over 45,000 emails have been sent, ensuring that our customers get the information they need in seconds instead of waiting up to 10 anxiety-ridden days to receive a letter.
  • Online Address Change for Business – Customer research discovered that the small task of changing a business address had driven 10,000 calls to our call center each year. It also discovered that delays in processing address changes inadvertently resulted in businesses being unfairly fined for late payments after mail went to the wrong location. Since the launch of this product, 10,000 addresses have been changed using the online tool.
  • Online Reconciliation – This online tool helps employers verify the accuracy of the earnings used to calculate their premiums. The built-in logic and automation reduced the error rate typically experienced with the paper submissions from 12% to 1%. Since its launch, over 38,000 reconciliations have been processed online, representing 65% of all submissions in 2020.
  • Online Clearance – A clearance is proof that a business has coverage and their account is up to date. Prior to the launch of the new solution, contractors would generate 33 clearances per year on average, and now only need a maximum of four. Since the launch of this product, call volumes have dropped 65% and customer satisfaction has increased from 27% to 78%.

Other projects are in the pipeline and will be delivered in phases by 2024.

“You say online but I felt the human connection with online. Every person I emailed, got right back to me, really helping me, making me feel cared about, not just a claim number. I am grateful beyond words to you. Thank you for making a scary and difficult situation not so, for standing by me and supporting me. Thank you for all your support.” —Person with an injury, 2020

Service Design as Table Stakes

The impact of this work has extended well beyond the current transformation project. Recognizing its value, the C-Suite has mandated that all customer facing products and services must run through the Service Design Team and customer testing before approval. This mandate ensures that all products and services align to the future service design, fit the needs of the customer, and have higher success once released.


COVID-19 expedited our need to transition to digital solutions, as the organization could no longer accept fax or mail. Groundwork done through ethnographic research and service design played a crucial role in identifying and accelerating the digital services that would alleviate the most significant challenges faced by our customers. Model Office played a critical role in simulating these services to reduce the risks associated with the accelerated delivery. Collectively, this work has fast-tracked the release of several digital products including Online Exposure Reporting and Direct Deposit.


“It’s a no brainer.” —President after seeing the future service design, 2019

The Service Design Team has demonstrated the value ethnographic research, design strategy, and service design, and has become ‘the voice of the customer’ for the organization.

Perhaps most significantly, this work has triggered a cultural shift in the organization. Without any prompting, executives and employees across the organization are increasingly invoking our customer personas by name in a genuine desire to keep them at the forefront of all decisions. The Service Design Team has proven its value and we are now looked to as strategic advisors on everything that affects our customers. If anyone in the organization wants to release new products or services, they must first come through our team. We weigh in on prioritizing business decisions from a customer perspective and are asked to speak at leadership strategy sessions. The most common question the organization now asks is “what does the customer think?” and it is the Service Design Team that provides the answer.

“Wow, and seriously much better! You guys rock.” —Person with an injury, 2019

Project Team:

Bryanne Gilkinson; Kyle Collins; Aditi Bidkar; Shivika Sood; Joslyn Hill; Deanna Mancini; Alyshah Dhanji; Bhreigh Gillis; George Shewchuk; Kenneth Baughan; Annette Tsaparis; Bilan Hashi

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