A component of my MA design research project was to conduct a customer experience audit for Montsalvat Arts Centre. Activities included desk research, stakeholder interviews and design workshop, customer and staff walking interviews, research with museum experience academics and designers, and interviews with experienced human centred designers.
The research proposal was established to test a Sensory Anthropology method called sensory walking research within a service design context. I loved this project, it scaffolded my Art History undergraduate, and passion for the arts into my new found passion for human centred design.
Sensory walking research provided me direct access to participants lived experience as customers on a self-guided tour of the grounds, or service stakeholders working hard to deliver the service.
My research identified 22 key insights related to each customer step, within a complex service landscape. Recommendations were also captured in the customer experience map, research insights report and illustrated with excerpts from key conversations. These deliverables communicated the research findings effectively and tied tightly to the Arts Centres 2021 strategic vision.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work closely with Staff, Management and Board members, their support and guidance ensured direction was relevant and aligned to existing and future work. The response and gratitude for the work I conducted has reinforced the feeling that a great value exchange had been achieved. I was also extremely fortunate to have been supported by a group of academics, practitioners and museum experts who gave their time freely to support my understanding of industry context and considerations relevant to Montsalvat’s story.
I learned a lot about myself, my style and my practice during this research. My mindset regarding the role of the designer through the process of change matured with this project. I came to understand the notion of lived experience from the perspective of the researcher wanting to understand the customer and staff experience, but also as the facilitator of change making with humans through a process, and what happens to knowledge and understanding in this process.
I also came to understand my style as sensory and embodied, which made the research method I was testing incredibly suitable. Being in the customers space as they consumed and experienced the service was a wonderful compliment and support to my embodied learning style. The method provided me fast, effective insight into the mindset of the participant, and I exited this stage with heightened knowledge about how to improve self-guided tours.
The method provided strong human connections as moments of sensory experience were shared, bonding me to participants as we walked the site together. These shared moments created a sense of comfort and allowed me to extend my line of questioning into imagined futures. My prior research with museum academics, experience designers and sessions to understand the future strategy provided a strong foundation to reflexively adapt my questions as topics arose.
Achievement highlights included:
- Presentation of Customer Experience Map, Research Insight Report and recommendations to Montsalvat management team, receiving enthusiastic response.
- Finding that presentation of abstract insights were enhanced using excerpts from walking research video, reinforcing the voice of the customer, and transporting service stakeholders into the conversation to understand more deeply.
- The test and review of sensory walking research as an effective research method within exploration stage of service design.
- Deeper insight regarding my practice and style as a sensory embodied learner.
I loved the time I was fortunately enough to have spent dedicating myself to this project, and developed a maturity in my practice as an outcome.
Publication written throughout design research process:
If you’d like to read some more about the project please visit the medium publication ‘Taking service design for a walk’ I published through the research process. These journals deepened my appreciation of the value that reflective design practice provides and matured my practice with a disciplined process that let me trace key pivots, moments of change and areas for development.