Looking at the services we provide through the eyes of service users can be one of the most valuable things we do and often generates previously unknown insights to help us understand what adds value and what doesn’t, what’s working well and what could be improved.
Understanding service user experience is a key step in moving towards person-centred services. Looking at various aspects of experience can help us to understand the extent to which people are receiving services that are built around what people really need and want - their preferences, needs and values.The things that matter most to them.
The terms satisfaction and experience are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. To understand someone’s experience, one must find out from them whether something that should happen in a service (such as clear communication or being fully involved in decisions) actually happened or how often it happened. Satisfaction, on the other hand, is about whether a person’s expectations were met. Two people who receive the exact same service, but who have different expectations, can give vastly different satisfaction ratings because of their different expectations.
We often default to quantitative surveys measuring “satisfaction” when seeking service user insights, but this is one of the least effective ways to gain useful and meaningful information. The Scottish Government has committed to developing a more participative approach to improving Scotland’s public services and has published online guidance to support services to create a more user-focussed approach.
The Scottish approach to service design sets out principles for involving service user experience to inform improvement. It uses the double diamond method to explore experiences and potential improvements which can then be tested, refined and implemented. Some specific methods to help you explore and understand service user experience are outlined below. Links to further resources and tools are at the bottom of the page.
1. Narrative methods. Narrative can be collected in various ways, including:
2. Observational methods. Observation can be used in isolation or combined with a narrative approach to deepen insights. There may be times when observation is the only option because a service user finds it difficult to tell their story because of severe illness (such as advanced dementia) or for other reasons. The following methods can help you observe experiences and interactions in your service:
The Scottish Approach to Service Design – How to design services with and for users