CON+ Optimizing pet adoption service in the shelter

CON+ is an innovative service design that aims to improve the process of stray animal adoption in animal shelters with both online and offline channels. It covers different parts from pre-adoption data collection to post-adoption problem-solving. With the new adoption service, we lighten the workload of staff of the shelter, increase effective adoption rate, and align resources from volunteers, the shelter, and other organizations. Hundreds of thousands of stray dogs yearly are to find a home.

The Service Design Award is currently open for submission again. Submit your project for a chance to win and present at the Service Design Global Conference in Toronto this year.

In 2015, Taiwan became one of the only two Asian countries to pass the Zero Euthanasia Policy. Hundreds of thousands of stray animals are now saved from the fate of euthanasia. Yet this does not come without a cost. Take Taipei City as an example. The maximum amount of stray animals that public shelters are able to take care of is around 2,200. But the current number of stray animals is reaching 9,000. On the one hand, shelters become highly overcrowded and under-resourced, meaning animals are more prone to dying from natural causes. On the other, it puts great pressure on staff who have already been overloaded. Consider, for example, the shelter we had the pleasure to work with on this project. With an average of 20 dogs per staff and more adoption-related administration work on their shoulders, it’s highly unlikely that anyone can put enough effort into stray animal education with pet owners, even with help from some volunteers. The result: not only the adoption rate does not pick up, but that 47% of the owners return their adopted pets. Staff begins to feel powerless and hopeless about any change of the situation.

But it’s far from the time to give up. With this work, we would like to propose a way to increase effective adoption rate through an optimization of the adoption service. We believe this change of service design can provide adopters with proper assistance, at the same time lighten the burden of staff and make better use of the kindness of volunteers. Most importantly, stray animals who were once abandoned can finally live under a roof where they call home.

The process

The overall structure is based upon the Double Diamond approach developed by the British Design Council. Already at the very beginning, we noticed that among all interested parties, three of them were of the most importance: adopters, staff, and volunteers. We then applied the Double Diamond approach to each party individually.

We first understood the needs and problems of each party through observation and interviews. Then, using WAAD (Work Activity Affinity Diagram), we analyzed the problem faced in the current service process and defined the service goals of the three parties. After that, a series of workshops were organized so that different parties can brainstorm solutions. A sense of involvement and approval is thus created.

At this stage, we also agreed on the key visual that represents animal shelters together with staff. This was meant to strengthen the idea of community. Finally, we proposed a new version of service design that is iterative and builds upon the original adoption process. The responsibilities and goals of the three parties are now integrated to make a more powerful and beneficial result.

Insights and Goals

Insights from volunteers

Volunteers are passionate and active. Their main tasks include walking, showering, and familiarizing dogs on interacting with humans. They build weekly online appearances with these stories on the Facebook fan page, which has around 25,000 likes. It’s a good way to spread the word, but this can be very time and resource consuming as they are often done without advanced digital management tools. It’s also not that easy for adopters-to-be who just came back from the shelter to track a specific dog on the fan page. The gap between online and offline presence diminishes the value of the effort put in social media. 

Insights from Adopters

First-time adopters are easily confused when they enter shelters, as shelters are usually open spaces without clear instruction and enough staff. Most adopters lack enough understanding about stray animals, so are very likely to choose the wrong type of dogs suitable for their
situation. Finally, adopters don’t really get enough help during the adjusting period, which is the first few months of adoption. They can
therefore quickly give up. That’s why we believe a better life education and post-adoption assistance is highly required.

Insights from Staff

Mental and physical exhaustion come from a variety of different aspects. In addition to taking care of the dogs, the staff is oftentimes encountered with frustrating and sometimes annoying questions from pet searchers like whether they can adopt purebred dogs, while most of the stray dogs are mongrels. Not to mention the countless absurd reasons, couple breakups, for example, to return the adopted dogs. These lead to loss of energy and faith of staff in proper stray animal education. Service quality drops at the same time.

These insights unfold the crucial problem that there is currently a lack of adoption service that integrates resources spread around the ecosystem. We thus propose the new adoption process with service design at the core: CON+. The ultimate goal is to have a long-running system under low cost, easy maintenance, and little change of hardware. We are eager to connect the effort between shelters and volunteers. Connect the adopters with suitable dogs. Connect those unconnected.

Goal for the volunteers

  • Systematically organize the database and increase its efficacy.

Goal for the Adopters

  • Enhance the tour experiences and stray animal education in shelters. Help with problems arising during the adjusting period.

Goal for the staff

  • Tackle with repetitive work. Reinspire passion.


CON+ is a clear and thorough adoption service that works through three different channels:

  1. Branding
    The new logo born within our workshop represents a sense of community, whether to staff, volunteers, or adopters and tells the dynamic story behind the shelter. It is such a powerful symbol that even the few staff who originally show little interest in participation was eager to contribute to the idea. As it will be included seamlessly in the two other channels, we take it as a pervasive channel.
  2. Chatbot
    We decided to build a Facebook chatbot as our main channel of online communication, considering we’ve already had ample stories and photos posted on the 25,000 follower fan page. Leveraging the combination of posted resources and chatbot, our Facebook fan page aims to become the one-stop online channel that covers touchpoints before and after adoption.

  3. Printed Material
    Printed material, including information boards, dog self-introduction cards, and certificates, are our major offline communication channels. They not only gather shelter tour information, animal knowledge, and norms of the shelter but integrate with our chatbot to provide better touring experiences and help taking care of repetitive questions for busy staff. 

These channels are integrated into 7 MOT (Moments of truth), forming a complete adoption service that covers different parts from before to after the adoption.

Benefit and Impact

CON+ combines offline activities, information board, and chatbot to grant a one-stop adoption experience with a higher effective adoption rate. Adopters can have a deeper understanding of their responsibilities, while dogs can be matched with the right family. Moreover, this co-created service design re-inspires passion of the staff and involves volunteers and stray animal organizations to bring lots of resources into a connected net.

To tackle the issue of stray dogs more effectively, CON+ is highly active in design implementation, which comes with 3 phases. The first phase took place in 2017 when the adoption process for animal shelter was improved to raise the effective adoption rate. This year, we are going through the second phase in which volunteers and other organizations are introduced to utilize different channels of online resources to enlarge the impact of each other. The final phase, scheduled to be rolled out in 2019, involves establishing a report network for stray animals together with government agencies. Through the network, the public will be able to address stray animal-related problems encountered on the street so that anyone can easily do their best to improve the stray dogs issue in Taiwan.

Benefit and Impact:

For adopters:

  • Increase effective adoption rate.
  • Help with the adjusting period.
  • Satisfaction rate 93%.
  • Enhance adopters’ sense of empathy through the commitment ceremony.

For volunteers:

  • Save 90% of the time for manual operations including volunteer sign-ups, stray dog data collection, volunteer orientation, etc.
  • Broaden volunteer impact. Raise willingness to volunteer. The return rate of volunteering goes up to 33%
  • Chatbot provides updates about the dogs having their new life. Satisfaction rate 89%.

For shelters:

  • Increase efficiency at work. Eliminate the number of repetitive questions and questions asked after adoption.
  • Regenerate value of work and raise willingness to work for the staff.
  • System maintenance can be easily continued.

For other organizations:

  • Integrate stray animal resources from different levels using chatbot.
  • Increase the efficiency and efficacy of the staff who will then be more willing to devote time and effort to stray animals.


Related Headlines

SDN Chapters Service Design Global Conference 2024 - Register for the event

Service Design Global Conference 2024 - Register for the event

Registration for the Service Design Global Conference (SDGC24) is open. You can register on the conference website for both in-person and virtual attendance. See you in October in Helsinki and online!

Continue reading
SDN Chapters TP 15-1 Service Design at the Dawn of AI | Roundtable

TP 15-1 Service Design at the Dawn of AI | Roundtable

On June 26th 2024, we are holding a special event connected to the publication of the most recent issue of Touchpoint, the journal of service design. The issue explores the latest thinking — and hands-on application — around service design and AI.

Continue reading
SDN Global News Touchpoint Vol. 15 No. 1 | Service Design at the Dawn of AI is out!

Touchpoint Vol. 15 No. 1 | Service Design at the Dawn of AI is out!

What you are about to read is the latest thinking — and hands-on application — around service design and AI.

Continue reading
SDN Chapters Call for papers extended deadline | Submit your abstract until May 5th

Call for papers extended deadline | Submit your abstract until May 5th

Service designers work within a unique context. Because our work influences service innovation, improvement and delivery across lengthy and often complex customer lifecycles, we must work closely with stakeholders from across our organisations, and even beyond. While we aim for deep expertise in our own practice, we must also familiarise ourselves with the ways many others work

Continue reading