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Academy Xi Blog

What is a Stakeholder Map?

By Academy Xi

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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.

Academy Xi Blog

5 Advantages of Service Design

By Academy Xi

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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 range of Service Design courses.