Marc Stickdorn and Nicole Broeckling smiling into the camera

Ask Marc – about insights from the Service Design Global Conference 2019

November 7, 2019

This episode is about the Service Design Global Conference 2019, news from the service design field and learnings and insights from recent developments.

This series was initiated as a place for you to learn more about service design and journey mapping software. Our co-founder Marc Stickdorn and the Smaply team share their experience on how to embed and scale service design in organizations. The sessions usually kick off with a short introduction to the focus topic to bring everybody to the same page, followed by your questions and deep discussions of best practice examples.

On this page you find the recording as well as the transcript. Additionally, the session is available on Spotify, iTunes and Google Podcasts.


How was your experience at the SDGC19 in Canada and what was your Canadian perspective there?

Nicole: It was awesome and I was really excited. It’s only three years ago years ago that the Canadian chapter of the service design network started doing a conference. That first year was a one-day little conference. It was small, it was great. And the second year was two days and it was even better, we saw the maturity grow significantly. And then so to hear that we were going to be hosting in Canada for this year was just really exciting, it felt like growing up fast and then it was just really great to be there and to see all of my Canadian service design friends, and see what everyone’s been doing and how they’ve been learning and growing over the years. All of this combined with the maturity that comes from Europe and some other countries which tend to be a little further ahead than us here so it was a really beautiful mix.

Marc: I would challenge that other countries are ahead of you. I think we saw some great examples that this is actually not true and and for the very first time at a service design conference I saw that the whole audience gave standing ovations to a speaker, and she was Canadian. I think that was a very emotional moment, I really liked that.

Nicole: That was a highlight talk, so for anybody who wasn’t there, there was a woman named Zita Cobb who is from Fogo Island, Newfoundland and they built a beautiful hotel there. She did a talk about design in service of place. Very close to my heart because I’m from Newfoundland. She talked a lot about the history of the people there. I shed tears quite a few times, but found out after that many people did. We’re actually having a little viewing party of that talk here in Vancouver at the end of November. So that people who missed it can can see it because it was… something else, wasn’t it.

Marc: Yes and I think one thing came clear there: it doesn’t matter how you call what we’re doing.

She never called it service design, but she did it.

I think that’s something we see in many organizations. People don’t call it service design but they do it and once they find out that this term – service design – exists, and there’s a whole community around it and a whole body of knowledge around exists, it’s like like opening the door to a family, into a community. And for me, the Service Design Global Conference actually really is like a family gathering every year. That’s really the nice thing, we meet the community there. There was a very first SDGC taking place in Amsterdam in 2008 and since then every year it has been the same.

What was your workshop on journey map operations about?

Marc: This is a system framework that helps organizations to manage multiple agile projects. Managing an agile organization actually is a different dimension to journey maps.

I thought we start today with a five minute intro of that topic as a teaser. We will dedicate a whole webinar to this topic, because we  got a lot of requests from folks to talk more about that, a webinar on journey map operations.

For now I just want to share a few of these slides. This is actually my keynote presentation that I used during the workshop and I just highlighted a few things which I think are quite interesting to look at. When you start embedding service design, at some point people will talk about journey maps, but won't mean the same thing.

One reason for that is that there are different use cases of journey maps.

First you have the workshop maps. Workshop maps are used within workshops, so these are co-created tools that you use for example as research method where you invite real customers, real users, real frontline staff; and you co-create a map together. It’s very often the case that you just take a photo of the map or you take down like the the key insights of it but you don’t actually progress these maps any further and you don’t use them outside of a workshop; you only take some insights out of it.

The second use case are project maps, so these are journey maps that are used within the project. They actually serve as a boundary object connecting different disciplines, different teams, different parts of the organizations, different silos if you’d like to say. But they are only used within a certain project and hardly used after that. So, maybe an in-house team does it or an external agency. Often you have these maps in many different formats, some use Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint or they create beautiful ones with InDesign or something like that. You keep it as a PDF, but they are hard to use after a project.

The third kind of maps is rather what we focused on in this workshop, which is using journey maps as a management tool. These are maps that live on beyond single projects, which actually helps you to connect different projects and to really understand them. A lot of conflicts in organization and misunderstandings happen from the fact that some people talk about journey maps as workshop map while others talk about it as project map and others actually refer to it as management maps. So clarify what you are talking about when you talk about journey maps in organizations.

So one thing to consider when you do your journey maps is: what kind of information do you show?

Is it a product centered map or is it an experience centered map? I’d like to share one example for that. If you think of an airport experience you can think of the entire airport experience from “How do you find the airport, How do you get there, How’s the check-in, How’s navigation at the airport, How is going through security check” and so on.

If you only focus on your touchpoints, you only see parts of the journey, because you only look at the paths that you are in control of. But if you compare those two you actually see that if you look at the whole experience you get a feeling for the entire experience. You can slip into shoes of customers. You might not have control over for example security check, but just being aware of that there is a security check means that you can prepare towards that. You can prepare maybe your customers for that, you can point towards the security check which has the least waiting time, you can manage expectations, help your customers to navigate easier. But this only works if you are aware of that.

Whatever data you put on a journey map, your organization will become aware of. If you leave it out they’re not aware of it and probably you won’t see projects arising for that. So it’s a strategic decision what kind of maps you do. Do you focus on the whole experience, an experience centered map or do you do a product focused map which only shows your touchpoints.

What are the different levels of a journey map?

You have different scope levels, different zoom levels if you like to say. I always like to compare a journey map with a map in geography where you can zoom in and zoom out of it. You can zoom out and take a look at the whole world, where you don’t see a lot of details, but you get a good overview for everything. And then you can zoom into a country, zoom into a city and suddenly you see more details appearing. If you want to drive from one city to another one you need both kinds of maps. You always need the bigger picture and the zoomed in picture.

In journey maps – if we stay with the airline example – you might start with a high-level journey map, kind of the customer lifecycle. Then you can zoom in into any step, like the airport experience and create a sub-journey for this step. You can do that not only for one step but for all the steps at the same time, by that you actually build a hierarchy of  journey maps.

You start building a repository of your maps.

Then zoom in even further. If you focus on the airport experience, you can zoom into any step there and create new journeys for that: micro journeys or sub level journeys. So you build out a whole repository of your maps and you shouldn’t do that as a project like: let’s capture the whole experience as it is and build hundreds of maps, but rather doing over projects.

If you think not only within your own project, but if you see a project, always as a step towards building your repository you can build up this repository over time. You can connect journey maps with each other, particularly if you use a digital tool. And you can add the research data to a journey map, which helps you to build a repository of your research data and actually find it later on again.

So instead of doing research again and again and again, you can stand on the shoulders of giants and stand on the research of previous projects that maybe a different department conducted. So you might not be aware of it, but if you use one tool to connect everything, then you can find it.

You can connect journey maps with each other particularly if you use a digital tool and you can add the research data to a journey map which helps you to build a repository of your research data and actually find it later on again. So instead of doing research again and again and again you can stand on the shoulders of giants and stand on the research of previous projects that maybe a different department conducted, so you’re not aware of it, but if you use one tool for that to connect everything then you can find it.

What is a typical mistake that organizations commit when looking at their CX?

Marc: I would actually recommend to buy the latest issue of Harvard Business Review because that is on the topic of what is the biggest issue. The biggest issue is that organizations always try to quantify customer experience, to measure it, using stuff like a Net Promoter Score for example and then focus only on these KPIs and very often not on a set of KPIs or cross silo KPIs, but they pick a single KPI for customer experience like they say we just take the NPS for the entire organization and that’s it.

What happens then is that you see a lot of projects arising that try to impact the KPI, but actually not the customer experience.

I always like to share the story of my car dealer here. I drive a very traditional German brand car and at some point I was wondering why now my car dealers have posters all over the stores showing five stars and “our service is your five stars” and so on. There were projects arising trying to impact Net Promoter Score. Net Promoter score was quantified by telephone calls. So you get a follow up call and on a 11 star rating scale like how satisfied were you with our service. So as a trigger point they always said “please give us the highest rating”. They actually verbally said that. When I paid and left they asked me to please give them the highest rating because their bonus depends on that. How horrible is that customer experience now?

Anytime when you measure customer experience, you’re impacting the customer experience, and probably to the worse. So instead of that, think rather that it’s less about focusing only on KPIs and more about real research data and a mix of data.

Nicole: I can add to that. I think just, there’s a lot of industry standard CX measures and NPS is a great one – meaning very widely used and not always widely understood. So you want to make sure that whatever measure you are adopting, that they look at things from many different angles but that they’re relevant. And it seems obvious to say but my little story here is in the province I live in in Canada our car insurance is public, it’s owned by the government. So when you go to buy car insurance you have one choice. They chose to measure customer experience with NPS. Which meant I got a phone calls saying how likely are you to recommend our organization and I thought “what does that even mean, no one has a choice” so I felt very irrelevant and weird and I didn’t even know how to answer their questions and it really you know had a negative effect on how I saw them as an organization because I felt like they didn’t know what they were doing. It was very strange.

When you have different journeys, do you need to plan them in advance?

Marc: Again it depends on the the use case of your journey. If you use them within a project probably not because the project actually drives the kind of map that you need. Think about the difference of current state and future state. So probably in the project you start with mapping out, hopefully based on your research, how the experience looks like right now.

You might need another map which is like focusing on the higher zoom level, so at least always go up one zoom level to understand where this experience is embedded on a larger scale. But then you rather focus on future state journey mapping which helps you to prototype and communicate prototypes and so on.

When you start doing the management maps, you often already have a repository of these project maps that you can derive from. You can build on what you have and you start connecting them. That is then depending on the complexity of your service, also how many different products, different services you have, you might have completely different sets of journey maps if you have completely separated services and then depends on how many different personas you have, so how many different customer segments do you have.

For the more zoomed in level, you might need several journey maps showing the difference between different customer segments, different personas for example.

But you don’t need to plan ahead all of that. What I recommend to plan ahead is how you name maps, thinking about the different zoom levels. Try to build a consistent language around, that that will help you later on. Otherwise you will end up in a huge mess of journey maps and that you first need to bring in order.

What are the benefits and what are the downsides of journey mapping software? How can I convince the company I’m working for to get started with journey mapping software?

Marc: I will keep that very brief, but going back to the three kinds of journey maps. The workshop maps: I don’t recommend to use any software there, I recommend to work with pen and paper and post-its and the wall. If you have input, like if you already have a journey map – that’s great, but then please print it out hang it up at the wall. It’s so much better to work with pen and paper.

As soon as you go into projects, so where the journey map will live on for a longer time, for a couple of weeks, then it makes sense to digitize it and use a software because it speeds up and it helps you to do changes and so on. If you move into management maps, that’s definitely where you need software because it doesn’t work without it. You can’t do that with pen and paper, you need to connect it to live data like KPIs and so on and that only works with a digital solution. I would leave it there because in the next webinar we focus on journey map ops and I think that shows clearly way more benefits if you use it as a management tool.

I would like a more detailed description of third-level maps. I usually need level zero, so the framework and level to the end end journey, or the journey specific for channel or product – but what is that third level or micro journey exactly?

Marc: It can be even more, like you can drill down even more. It might be not only a third level, but maybe even a fourth level or a fifth level. The difference is basically the time.

Let’s do an example of a bank. As a bank you have different products, different services, so you have a different set of maps. Let’s say we focus on mortgages for a house. Its timespan: you’re paying for it for 30 years. So the highest level map for mortgages would be a 30-year map. Obviously you cannot do a lot of details there, but you get a big overview and you can zoom into one step.

A step on a high-level journey map becomes a whole journey when you zoom it. So highest level 30 years you zoom in to maybe the first year. The first year is is a rather complex year because you need to buy a house which is a huge experience in its own, you need to negotiate with different banks, you negotiate the interest fee, and so on. Maybe the timeframe there is one year. But then you can pick one of these and zoom in even further – and that would be the third level or in you example even already the level four.

When you zoom into a certain day and that might be just a conversation, that one hour conversation that you have with your bank supervisor where you actually make the deal and sign the contract. It’s a very emotional moment! Then maybe you can even zoom in even further and focus exactly on this moment what as a bank do you do when the customer actually signs the contract. How do you make this moment a very special moment for the customer? Because they actually just signed a contract for 30 years! How can you do that? So you jump between these different zoom levels and I think the timespan is what really makes a difference between these.

When you are building that hierarchy, do you generally start at the high level and then zoom in, or start with a small process and then start to zoom out?

Marc: Start with what you have. So if you already have done some projects and you have some maps based on research, use these. So maybe you think about if you have different maps in project they’re probably not the highest level they are one or two levels below. Think about how can you connect them so what is the higher level that actually connects the existing journeys. If you start with a blank field, with a blank canvas, start with the highest level one! I would really recommend to start with the top level journey.

Sometimes organization like to start with everything where they actually then start with the first project.

Do research on your highest level, identifying the pain points on your highest level. Look into the data from your call centers: where do you get the most complaints from? Where do you get the most shared complaints on social media? Talk to your marketing team: where do you have the most costly issues? Talk to you legal team: where do you have the most costly internal things? Talk about operations with your IT folks.

Based on that, try to find the one moment where you think: okay this is actually a thing we need to understand more in detail.

And then you can zoom in and create the lower level map, the more detailed level of that experience. So understand what exactly are the pain points you’re having in this field. That then helps you to prioritize.

There are two different approaches. The first one is: start with what you have. If you have journey maps, build from there. If you don’t: start from top.

I work for a company whose customers/users are CEOs and high-level management teams, so it’s really difficult to recruit these kinds of people. Do you have any advice on how to recruit participants for customer or user research?

Marc: It’s a typical problem in b2b relationships. If you cannot get the people directly, think about who has the most information about them. So maybe kick off with a workshop that you do internally with the folks within your own organization, who have a deep knowledge about them.

Maybe not in this example – but typically, I would start with call center agents, with people on the shop floor, who are in day to day contact with customers because they have a deep knowledge about the reality of customers. And loads and loads of stories to share. So learning from that and applying it in a b2b context.

In your organization, who has the most contact with your b2b customers, with your CEOs and high-level management teams? Is it maybe your key account managers, or your sales reps? Maybe start there, and ask yourself who has a deepest knowledge and kick it off from there.

Maybe don’t only do journey map, but also do a stakeholder map in a workshop. That can be really revealing because they can help you to identify the right people you should ask. In a project that we’ve done once, it was the admin folks – the executive assistants – who had access to the calendars of the folks they were working with. They could really help in finding information that we needed, and then we only schedule a very short interview with the C-level afterwards just to validate our findings. To minimize the time we need with them, that was very successful.

Nicole: I’ve definitely been in positions where I needed to recruit some specific people and specific to this question sort of in professional groups I’ve found a good way to find them is LinkedIn. LinkedIn will often have groups where people that are focused on very specific things gather and you can reach them there or when you do what Marc said where you’re talking to people who really understand that group the most, you can often uncover other third party organizations that might be able to connect you with that specific group of people, so whether it’s some sort of a business association in the community or within that certain field and then those can be really great recruiting resources for research for sure.

What is your advice for someone starting a service design agency in an evolving market?

Marc: I’d like to quote a client of mine “Just do it”. Maybe don’t overemphasize the term. Don’t call it service design and don’t go out there and push service design as the new thing coming from western countries – and that’s now this new thing we need to do. That’s crap and people hate that.

Rather, convince with projects that you did, with workshop that you run. What we saw what was very successful in in many emerging countries were: the jams. If you’re not familiar with the jam, I recommend to google the global service jam – that’s the biggest jam around service design and started by two friends of ours, Marcus and Adam, and who still run it. It’s a non-for-profit event 48 hours to jam a working prototype around a global theme.

Because it’s non-profit it doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t cost anything to run it, you just need a place, can be your office can be at home, whatever. Often they team up with universities or with governmental organizations, who actually host the jam. You invite folks to work together, and by working in this way they learn how to do it. So you don’t over-emphasize the theory, you don’t talk about service design or whatever. You let people experience. And once they experience it, they experience the power of it, they might get interested in it.

For yourself: how do you promote yourself as an agency? Be the thought leader in your own market, be the ones who really bring this, who offer knowledge to your own market, through talks that you give, workshops that you offer. Share as much as you can! Maybe do some pro-bono work as well, for example if you have cases from your own environment to share.

People hate it if they see cases from large startups from California – everything works there, but you’re a different market. You need to find something that works for you. And you need to share these stories and that’s not only true for evolving markets. And that’s basically true for every organization: you need to showcase your own success cases, show that it works within your own organizational culture.

I like the journey map as an actual map analogy. Has anyone perfected a few sentences to define and explain a journey map?

Marc: I don’t think anyone perfected it, that is a very high hurdle to have it perfect. We have a few things on on our company website for that, and on the TISDD book website, and within our books, but actually it is something we only talk about. I never put it down in words, but that might be something we can we can focus on because the analogy.

A journey map is a map and and it’s not only the zoom levels, it’s a lot of the data that you put on the map. So journey map needs to be relevant for the audience they talk to. And to make it relevant, you need certain kinds of data.

If you think about maps in geography: even if the map looks similar, you need different data on a street map if you want to drive by car, versus a map, if you sail a boat, versus a map if you are a farmer and you want to grow wine.

All of these are maps and all of them share basic structures, but actually you visualize different kinds of data. As a farmer the soil type, the rain, the climate is much more interesting than street names. Think about the same analogy for maps within your organizations. Who do you talk to, who’s the audience of the map? How can you add data to the map, so it actually becomes relevant to the audience? If you present the map to the legal department and they said “it’s not useful for us” – actually what they say is: this map does not include relevant information for me.

Rather think about: how can we add to it, to make it relevant for them?

What roles or people are necessary in a journey mapping workshop?

Nicole: First you want to get the biggest variety of people that you can in a manageable size workshop. If: I want to work on one map, I want to have some good conversation, I don’t want too much chaos – I’m probably looking at somewhere between 10 or 12 people. Sometimes it lands at around 18, which means it’s a lot more, but you want to keep a manageable group and you don’t want to have a room full of people who are all from the same areas of the organization, maybe all sitting at the executive level or just newly involved in that project.

You want to get people across the hierarchy and up and down!

Mix your frontline staff with your executives and get all of these different perspectives in the room. I think that’s the biggest thing with the people.

And then with the roles, depending on how many participants you have, obviously you need someone to facilitate. It’s great to have a co-facilitator or two who understand what your plan for the day is, understand what you’re trying to accomplish and can help the rest of the participants. Especially if this is sort of an introduction to them of working in this way and using these kinds of tools.

The job of those co-facilitators is really just to build creative confidence in the groups that you’re working and make sure they know that anybody can do this. Make sure they understand the rules, or the tasks that you’re trying to get everyone through. Keep them on track and just make sure everybody has fun. And then everyone else’s role is just to do it. Come in, be engaged, don’t pop in and out of meetings – because it’s hard to stay engaged then. You’re doing that and just just dive on in.

Marc: I would add to that. So this was a perfect description for workshop maps. If you do project maps, you might not do it in a workshop setting. Particularly if you do management maps, you probably don’t start with that in a workshop – 95 percent of service design is not a workshop! Workshops are  an important element and we would love to use it. They are really good to do research, or to to gather people in one room to work together – but it’s just a tiny element.

If you really focus on getting stuff done, you have to do a lot of research.

You can use workshops as a research method if you co-create a journey map, but you should always triangulate with other research methods. Same with prototyping. And particularly in implementation: it’s not a workshop, it’s about getting stuff done. A lot of the cases in when you do journey maps you work with journey maps you might do it alone or in small teams. So again you have the facilitator, but if you then look at maps that you use across different projects –management maps – you need someone who’s responsible for the map.

We call them the journey map coordinator.

That is always one person whose role is to be responsible for this journey map. We have them on different zoom levels, which often also reflects different hierarchy levels of an organization. Their responsibility is to check what the ongoing projects across the organization in the different departments are, that impact customer experience of that journey that they are responsible for.

This is really important because most customer experience projects that affect customer experience do not come from the customer experience department. They do not come from the design department, they do not come from the innovation department, they rather come from legal! Think about the impact of GDPR on customer experience. They come from IT, they come from any department that changes the standard operating procedures of your organization. And it’s really important to become aware of these different initiatives as early as possible. That’s then the role of journey map coordinator.

What was the highest number of journeys you saw at a customer? How did they manage to keep it organized and up to date?

Marc: I think the highest numbers was was a four digit number, something like lower thousands of journey maps. But that said, most of these were workshop maps: they took photos or they even digitized them, but you actually don’t really need them anymore. They’re not really useful, so it adds a lot of clutter to it.

How do you keep it organized? It helps if you standardize the way you do your journey map so using software, like our software Smaply, where you put in all the maps within one tool. Then you can actually link journey maps with each other, so what we’re talking about earlier, the repository of maps.

You best organize them if you have one management map that you keep up-to-date over time, with people responsible for it – the coordinators. And then you link them to the different project maps, where you store the data. You don’t need to keep all of them up to date, only those which you need for your journey map operations.

Nicole: It’s a great segway question for our next our next webinar about journey map ops.

And now, what's next?

Check out the other Ask Marc sessions about different topics of human-centric work, like multi-persona maps, creating CX insight repositories, and many more.