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Deconstructing Stakeholder Maps

What is a stakeholder map?

Stakeholder maps are an empathetic tool that enables Service Designers to gain valuable insights into how a customer feels throughout an entire service experience. As a ‘record of events’, stakeholder maps capture the interactions a customer has at different touchpoints of a service and will help break down the complexity of everyday interactions.

Stakeholder maps also draw attention to the quality of a service (QOS), which is powerful for a business’ analysis of their competitiveness against other brands or alternative services within a market. For example, within the education system, a parent’s interaction with teachers or the school principal forms part of the overall experience and a stakeholder map can assist the school identify how to improve the interaction.

The value of a stakeholder map for any organisation includes:

  • Providing a holistic view of key stakeholders and customer relationships
  • Highlighting communication and contact between the design of a service and its stakeholders
  • Identifying gaps in knowledge and resistance within the service experience
  • Creating opportunities to work with key people in the business to improve the overall service
  • Assisting the creation of comprehensive solutions by involving stakeholders into the service solution

What does a stakeholder map look like?

Stakeholder maps can contain anywhere between one to four layers, with each layer denoting a different level of influence over a service experience (known as the ‘circle of influence’):

Stakeholders in the outer layers of a stakeholder map hold less power and influence and are generally the interested parties. In the middle layers of a stakeholder map, the represented stakeholders hold moderate power and are generally influenced by the service outcome. These people can include the end users.

Stakeholders in the third or closest layer are sponsors, executives, or subject matter experts (SMEs) who interact closely with a product or service and can directly affect its outcome.

How to create a stakeholder map

Define

In the initial stage of stakeholder mapping, begin by identifying anyone who could affect, influence, or be interested in the outcome of service. Common examples of stakeholders include employees, managers, contractors, partners, suppliers, and vendors. Key considerations for the ‘definition’ stage of a stakeholder map are:

  • Identify key knowledge gaps in a service, and what needs to be uncovered
  • Create a stockist of key resources both internally and externally
  • Seek clients or customers to answer questions that are unknown
  • Map out who is currently involved in a service and start to connect the relationship between different players
  • Craft an organisational chart that visualises and conceptualises a client or customer’s stakeholders
  • Highlight past projects that may relate to the outcome of this project if this client is a repeat customer

Analyse

The saying that “not all stakeholders are created the same” rings true in the second phase of creating a stakeholder map. This step is concerned with determining the influence and power of each stakeholder.

The influence of a stakeholder can be categorised as:

  • A decision-maker
  • Visible
  • Behind the scenes (behind the line of visibility)
  • An interested party

Another question Service Designers should ask through this phase is, “What and who do these stakeholders directly influence?”

Continuing the example of a school, a key decision maker may include the Student Council that is actively engaged in the school’s ecosystem. The Student Council body has power and influence over some decisions; but an interested party may be the local council or community who keep the school’s activities on their radar but are not directly affected by any of its decisions.

Plan

Planning a stakeholder map is often the longest but most important step. In this phase, your role is to determine what needs to be discovered about the key stakeholders and players of a service.

Dependent on the information available about a service experience and how different stakeholders interact, the amount of time spent conducting research on stakeholders will come in the form of:

  • One-on-one interviews
  • Contextual inquiries
  • Research design kits
  • Service safaris

Engage

After defining, analysing, and planning how each stakeholder interacts and fits into a service, the final step of creating a stakeholder map involves physically engaging with stakeholders. This step is aimed at uncovering gaps in a service and addressing any critical problems that exist within that service.

Some things to keep in mind include:

  • What are the objectives or drivers of different stakeholders in a service?
  • Who has power and high invested interest in the direct outcome of a service experience?
  • Are there any ‘silent players’ who don’t necessarily have a presence but could strongly affect a service?
  • What are the communication styles and mediums that these stakeholders like being contacted in?
  • How do you frame your messaging to these stakeholders to ensure successful collaboration but to also solve a problem for customers?

The best method to conduct a stakeholder map is through collaboration. While working with a team, you can conduct a workshop to construct a stakeholder map. In this session, it’s vital to have a lead to navigate and direct the group in a way that enables the most efficient and effective capture of information.

Identify a list of items that need to be re-addressed at a later stage, and collect information in clusters. This stakeholder workshop should involve plenty of post-its and participants should be encouraged to draw lines of connections, highlight pain points, and actively voice different challenges throughout the process.

Learn how you can utilise stakeholder maps as a vital tool to create customised, user-centric service experiences through our Service Design courses.

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5 Advantages of Service Design

Service Design is inherently human-centred. Today, the human experience is a major determinant of a brand’s survival and ability to stand out from the competition. As users increasingly expect more personalised experiences, brands are now relying on Service Design to create innovative and relevant experiences for its people, partners, products, and processes.

According to Matt Kurowski, Service Designer and Co-Founder of Think5678, Service Design is the “intentional creation of valuable and impactful human experiences that create some kind of business or social value.”

Take advantage of the benefits of Service Design to stand out from the crowd. Here’s how Service Design can help your business or brand:

1. Design ideal human interactions

Utilising tools such as empathy maps and service blueprints, Service Designers are able to capture the entire end-to-end customer journey. By examining both an end user’s current experience and expectations, Service Designers are able to determine various pain points and moments of delight within a service.

There are five layers to designing for human interactions within Service Design:

  • A shift from product to service: Service Design requires a strategic shift of thinking from discrete, tangible products to a holistic and connected experience that caters to the customer.
  • Examining a product from back-end to front-end: This layer focuses on moving away from simply the end user or customer towards considering all stakeholders interested in, invested in, or influenced by a service.
  • Transitioning from consumption of a product to relationships: As the saying goes, people don’t buy a product but buy a better version of themselves. This mindset within Service Design focuses on building and nurturing sustainable and mutually beneficial relationships with customers.
  • Evolving from service to business design: From the holistic lens of a business, Service Design plays an important role in encouraging different levels of innovation within a company — whether it be incremental, adjacent, or disruptive.
  • Moving from relationships to ecologies: The Service Design ecosystem focuses on every individual or aspect involved and just as ecology is the link between an environment and its organisms, the value exchange in a service benefits everyone.

2. Consider everyone involved

Service Designers understand that delivering a great service is not only dependent on the service itself, but on the experience of people delivering that service. In this way, Service Designers aim to improve and innovate services that affect both customers and organisations.

Service Design enables companies to deliver experiences that create value for customers and allow for meaningful connections between the customer and the company. By reviewing all touchpoints and interactions that lie beneath a customer’s line of visibility, Service Design becomes the catalyst for innovation and future growth opportunities. By exploring the parts that make up an experience, businesses are able to identify opportunities for innovation from the inside, out.

Tools for understanding the different parties involved in a service include:

  • Research interviews: Talking to stakeholders to clarify the problem and define successful outcomes.
  • Stakeholder maps: A record of events’ that capture the interactions a customer has at different touchpoints of a service and helps break down the complexity of everyday interactions. Read more about Stakeholder Maps
  • User personas: An archetype or visual representation of a user trend that depicts customer behaviour and patterns. Download your free user persona template here.

3. Create consistency with Service Design

The benefit of Service Design lies in its holistic process that aims to design a seamless and effortless solution for customers. Service Design ensures that the overall experience is consistent and easily understandable, with little to no friction for the customer between touchpoints.

As a core pillar of design, creating consistency in a service is about making it intuitive. By examining all the areas of a service, Service Designers aim to increase the usability and learnability of the different aspects that service.

The main benefits of improving the consistency of a service include:

  • Eliminating confusion: The more intuitive something is, the more user-friendly it is – effectively reducing error and eliminating user frustrations and pain points.
  • Improving wastage: A consistent service is built on predefined components which facilitates efficient decision making, reduces costs and time; rather than attempting to address changes for many variations, inconsistencies, and processes.
  • Encouraging continuous learning: By means of comparison, improved consistency forges a benchmark for businesses to learn and iterate. It is much easier to compare “apples to apples” within a service than making improvements across many moving parts.

4. Service Design embraces change

One of the major reasons that 90% of startups fail is creating a product that no one wants, also known as the inability to find product-market fit. Service Design improves companies’ chances of success by keeping them agile towards the constantly evolving needs of customers and changes in technology.

A Service Design led approach can help yield higher adoption and retention rates, as well as increase customer satisfaction. This drives increased revenue and market share in a highly competitive global market.

Through activities such as research, affinity mapping, and constructing a service blueprint, Service Designers are able to build and ideate a solution that is not only fit-for-purpose but also addresses the end user’s core job to be done.

5. Foster creativity and collaboration

By “stepping outside of the building” and going directly to end users, Service Design brings together all players in a service, thus drastically improving the collaboration and creativity of an end solution.

By removing stakeholders’ blinkers, Service Design injects a fresh perspective, incorporating various angles into a solution that include the client, customer, stakeholders and even external factors such as the environment.

Service Design considers how technology and products intersect and consider their relationship on a larger scale, providing an overarching view that would not be possible by simply looking at the immediate problem ahead.

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Learn how you can reap the benefits of Service Design in your business or brand with our Guide to Service Design.

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What is Service Design?

Human-Centred Design continues to revolutionise the way services and products are designed and delivered. Businesses are expected to provide relevant and seamless experiences, a one-way monologue with the customer no longer resonates. Instead, businesses are encouraged to engage in conversation with their consumers to understand their needs and desires. This shift in user-centred thinking empowers businesses to deliver thoughtful, relevant, and useful experiences resulting in the growing demand for Service Designers.

What is Service Design?

Service Design was first introduced at the Köln International School of Design in 1991 as a process to help create and improve the delivery and the experience of a service.

The aim of Service Design is to consider the holistic experience of a user and ensure the experience is useful, usable, and desirable for customers as well as effective and profitable for organisations.

When we talk about Service Design, it’s hard to look past Apple — many of us can still recall Steve Jobs unveiling the first iPhone in 2007. But, besides revolutionising the mobile phone industry, the introduction of iTunes disrupted our everyday interactions, providing users with a seamless way to download and listen to new music. 

The service ecosystem

A service ecosystem maps the people, touchpoints, and connections with a focus on visualising the relationships and contexts of the broader service system. It is a method for identifying, understanding, and describing how key areas of the service, the 5Ps (people, product, place, process, and performance) interconnect.

To understand the end-to-end service ecosystem, some key considerations include:

  • What are all the touchpoints that players in the Service Experience see or use? This is also known as what is seen above the ‘Line of Visibility’.
  • How do customer tasks link to each touchpoint?
  • What influences a customer or end user’s actions?

The benefits of Service Design

The advantage of Service Design lies in its holistic process, that aims to design a seamless and effortless solution for customers. Service Designers understand that delivering a great service is not only dependent on the service itself, but on the experience of the people delivering that service. In this way, Service Designers ensure that the overall experience is consistent and easily understandable, with little to no friction for the customer between touchpoints.

The 5 Ps of Service Design

The discipline of Service Design considers the expectations and needs of its people, processes, places, products, and performances, to deliver exceptional services.

  • People: Service Design considers everyone’s experience including employees, customers, and partners.
  • Processes: The systems, policies, workflows, and operations within a service ecosystem affect parts of the user experience.  
  • Places: Service Designers consider physical and digital touchpoints and environments that can deliver an experience of a service.
  • Products: The tangible objects and collateral used to inform or deliver a service, such as signs and brochures can also affect a user’s experience.
  • Performance: Service Design is also considerate of intangible metrics that contribute to the quality of a service.

Service Design is a new and integrative field that creates fresh possibilities for businesses to reach their customers. Here are some examples of the brands that are leading the way in Service Design:

Examples of exceptional Service Design:

Airbnb: Before Airbnb, accommodation choices were limited. Airbnb was initially created for business travellers, but the platform was extended to travellers across 190 countries. Today, Airbnb specialises in providing personalised recommendations and experiences that match the customer’s desires and emotions.

Through a process of storyboarding the customer’s emotional moments, Airbnb began to understand the pain points of a traveller’s journey and made it a priority to create an experience that matches the customer’s desire. If you’ve booked accommodation through Airbnb, you’ll notice how seamless the interaction is from search listing, to messaging your host, through to landing at the airport and finding your accommodation, to returning home and leaving a review. Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, Chip Conley, says that the experience of staying in an Airbnb is at the core of the company’s customer strategy. But with options to browse a variety of art, food and nature-based activities, Airbnb also weaves its platform into a traveller’s itinerary and experience.

IKEA: Beyond providing simplistic, stylish, and affordable furniture, global Swedish furniture company IKEA is also known for their exceptional Service Design. From the layout to the store, to linking their website directly to the specific aisle and item number, consumers are able to promptly and easily identify items that they’re looking to purchase. 

In-store maps make it easy to identify exactly where you are, and large store bags assist consumers with purchases. More than buying a new table or bed frame, a person’s IKEA experience can’t look past the cafeteria, where shoppers are able to eat inexpensive meals and take a break from their shopping endeavours. From the first touchpoint, until someone leaves their store or gets an item delivered, IKEA has worked to co-design their customer experience to consider all of their users’ needs.

Starbucks: During the Global Financial Crisis, Starbucks saw a close of over 70% of its Australian stores. But Starbucks began resurfacing its physical footprint across the CBD and department stores in Australia – the land of many self-proclaimed coffee snobs. So what is it about Starbucks that had people coming back?

Some key design considerations that have kept customers coming back and established Starbucks as an international coffee hub include:

  • Friendly staff that cheer up customers making it less about purchasing a coffee, but spending time in a comfortable environment
  • Offering free wifi making it a prime location to work, have meetings, or connect with others
  • Informative and decorated menu boards that fit the entire concept of delivering unique coffee

How you can design an exceptional service experience?

Crafting exceptional service experiences isn’t just reserved for large companies such as the Airbnbs or Starbucks of the world.

Whether you’re working within a large organisation, small agency, or working on your own project, you can employ different tools to foster two-way communication and get to the heart of what your customers want.  

Find out how you can harness the Service Design power to deliver delightful, exceptional experiences through our range of courses here.

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