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servicE JOURNEY Mapping

 How can municipalities design compelling and effective services? A team of City of Guelph staff asked the Guelph Lab to investigate service journey mapping.



Service Journey Mapping helps to illuminate the experiences, motivations, needs and challenges of the different types of people using your service. Service designers interview and observe people using the service, and then create different “personas” for the different types of service users. By building empathy for service users, service designers can not only identify problems, but also test potential changes to the service.


We first tested different ways of gathering data about service users’ experiences and piloted a training workshop for staff.

In 2017, we supported a major review of the City’s solid waste services through a service journey mapping project at the city’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Two PhD students conducted research with residents bringing their waste and recycling products to the MRF. The students rode in residents’ cars, helped them unload recycling, and interviewed them at different drop-off stations. This research was used during a workshop with frontline staff, who made recommendations for future improvements at the MRF. 

Lessons Learned


  • Service Journey Mapping is a robust and enjoyable way to engage front-line staff in reviewing and improving services.

  • It’s important to actually observe and talk to the people using your service. The process of developing personas helps bring to the surface staff members’ implicit ideas and knowledge, which is valuable. Without additional research however, there is the risk of reinforcing existing assumptions about why people use a service and how and why it could be improved. 

  • A word of caution – ensure you have the mandate and authority to change the service being reviewed. In one example – a review of the process for obtaining a marriage licence – significant elements of the process are determined by the Province, which limited the scope for improvements and proved frustrating for staff once they had identified potential changes.

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