Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council
Project: A digital services review and discovery exercise.
Time frame: 5 weeks
My role: User researcher and service designer
Working for: Tim Daley, Perago Wales
Methodology: User centred design. Double Diamond Discovery Phase. Qualitative insights and research. Agile Sprints. Service Blueprints.
In line with the remit of the new Centre for Digital Public Services, Tim Daley has been working with Blaenau Gwent council to help them with improvements to their digital services. I worked as part of Tim’s team that were tasked to uncover the ways services were both delivered and experienced. This project was managed carefully within the climate of Covid19. All of our meetings, workshops and insight interviews were managed remotely using Microsoft Team meetings, MURAL boards and phone calls within the teams environment.
Our first task was to understand the service provided from the council’s perspective. Over the course of conversations with different departments on MS Teams, I was quickly able to piece together the basic workings of the services and map this on multiple service blueprints.
Following this I spoke to a wide range of residents to gather insights about their experience of the council services with particular reference to Waste Services. Qualitative research such as this encourages open conversations, feedback and requires a mindset of empathy to see things from the customer point of view. It’s worth noting that this approach still follows a sound process and methodology to ensure data compliancy, consistency and correct interpretation of conversations.
It became evident during the insight interviews that common themes were emerging from types of residents which we went onto cluster and combine into personas. Personas that had certain needs, behaviours and interaction styles with the council services, and that we could use as representative service users to play out the service experience.
Using the personas, I was able to add a layer onto the service blueprints to see the differences in how a service was both delivered and experienced. Further to this, I mapped a user journey of my experience of the contact centre and website whilst trying to do specific tasks, which brought more clarity to the blueprints as well providing useful UX design feedback.
Perago team members were able to unpack and corroborate data from website visits and contact centre calls. These findings alongside the user research were powerful in demonstrating how the council could make considerable time and financial savings through service improvement.
The purpose of the exercise was to only to discover and present findings, though the insights and opportunities became clear to all we progressed with the research and so we were able to present our suggestions for improvement to digital services as well as internal processes. The project has now received further funding to help Blaenau Gwent council to progress to the development phase for improved digital services.
What I learned:
- I learned how that where there is a lack of information, and where expectations aren’t set or managed there are problems with service, and this extends to service providers and customers.
- Service providers can go over and above to try to make services work the best that they can. By doing this consistently and meaning well, they are creating a level of service that isn’t always sustainable, even though well meaning.
- Human service can't be totally replaced by digital service. I believe there will always be a need for a real person to assist those that can't use digital services. Encouraging most people to use digital service means that when there are issues, stretched staff time and resources can be used to give to those that are genuinely stuck or unable.
- A variety of team skills provides good value to the client. User research alone is powerful but when combined with data research a discovery piece of work can pack a good punch. I saw that when both are progressed in an agile way, sharing findings on-the-go, we can get much further in a quicker time frame and deliver better value.
- Mural is a great tool for collaboration on user journey maps and for creating persona profiles.