Skip to content

Promised the world; given an atlas: A personal service experience (Part A)

30 October, 2011

I thought it was about time I did a post on service experience. Yeah, I talk a good rap about technique and philosophy, but how about capturing some (non-client) service experiences for dissection.

And so like Marie Curie exposing herself to radioactive material (albeit unknowingly) I chose the service experience of filing my tax return – online and in a new country. And like Madame Curie and her most likely uncomfortable yet inevitable death I too suffered the toils of hope (“Look at ze pretty bleu-verte glow of zis radio-active isotopes in my poche”) and the bowels of failure (“Perhaps ze radium has something to do wis zees troubles, but it cannot be affirmed wis certainty”). This is my service experience story, to be told in three parts:

  • Part A:The Experience – as an illustrated flow of what I went through (what I thought, did, used)
    • Phase 1: The Attempt
    • Phase 2: The Resolution
  • Part B: The mapped experience – taking the experience and extrapolating meaning for change
  • Part C: What could be done – focusing on one touchpoint (the atlas-like one) – I hereby reserve the right to bail on this one having looked at the source material again.

A few disclaimers:

  • This capture was done over a period of 10 hours – there’s other analytical and representational things I could have done given more time
  • This was just my experience – it doesn’t represent a body of research, or any background research. Just me, my experience, and my knowledge of services, (with a bit of tax service knowledge thrown in for good measure).
  • It was done on my own – no benefit from other voices, experience, bouncing around of ideas
  • I don’t purport to be a UXer, so any feedback on the online experience is only in relation to how that informs my service experience.

Here I go. Before I start I answer these questions:


How do I feel?


What’s my expectation?

I’ll get in, do the first screen and then realise I don’t have some vital piece of information.

I’ll feel relief that I can’t finish it because then I can put it off. The two rules of procrastination: 1) Do it today. 2) Tomorrow will be today tomorrow.

My fear

I’ll owe money – it’s happened before. And it was big –  it came down to a stupid bit of ignorance on my part, some poor information design on their part and an assumption that every person that earns income is interested and able to understand as a matter of daily routine tax regulations.

Disclaimer: I used to work in a tax authority so I have other fears – like, doing something wrong, not knowing how to answer something and not getting any sense from the provided information, having to read legalese, asking the tax authority for help and getting an officious “it’s so easy” response, things taking days longer than expected.

My hope

That I’ll get through it quickly – thinking 20 mins. That I have everything I need: Unique identifier (TFN), pay slips, bank details, etc.

My fantasy

That I’ll get a refund.


Warning: Expletives are contained in the following illustrated stream of consciousness dialogue. I’ve also chosen to use not-the-most-professional looking mood indicator to accompany the screens. Made me smile.

I’m in.

Instant panic – lodge it by 31 Oct!!! (It’s 24 Oct when I do this and I thought I had until February)

I click on to e-tax essentials because I’m determined to do this online. I choose to go straight to the demo (Key note here: I’m assuming, unless there’s flashing lights saying PC-ONLY I can complete my task ‘online.’) It takes four clicks but I finally get there.

I’m pumped.

  • Smart system because it picks up the financial data throughout the year.
  • I can save progress without lodging anything. Seems good. I can do this.
  • Pre-filling – nice. But she just said something about data pre-filled may not be available – what was that? Can’t rewind!? Have to replay the whole section.
  • Lots of recommendations to print. Ah, I don’t have a printer. So really you’re assuming I’m in a home setting that’s very much like an office.
  • Still – all seems like my panic over the deadline isn’t warranted.


‘Download’ – what?! Realisation it’s not an ‘online’ tool. I have to download software onto my machine. Still nothing about system requirements, assumption of hope exists. It’s still good. I progress to download.

Over six screens.

3 easy steps. Step 1. takes me to this part of the screen. My eyes are at the middle of the screen – I’m ready to download this mother.

Yup, I’m eligible, C’mon – let’s do this thing! OK, I’ll do one final check to see what downloading does seeing as it’s not online.

It’s bad.

Still, I delve into ‘information about other operating systems for e-tax users’ – only to realise it shouldn’t say ‘e-tax users’ BECAUSE YOU CAN’T BE IF YOU’RE NOT ON A PC SYSTEM!

[I shall now quote here directly from my notes]

FUUUUCCCKKKKKKK!!!!!!!! – I can’t do it from home!!!!!

Ok, ok. Don’t panic. Maybe I don’t actually have to do a tax return (I’ve moved swiftly from anger to bargaining…)

I step outside the system:

Nope. No hope. Took seven-screens to work it out – simple questions if a little too click-y.

So I have to do it manually. I go to the ‘Tax Pack’ – 130 page book I assume tells me how to do it. (…depression ensues, acceptance reluctantly murmurs…)

I scroll endlessly, hopelessly, there’s a chin shaped dent on my keyboard as my shoulders slump, my heart sinks and I realise I just can’t do this manually. I just have to find another way. What returns me to anger is this friendly green box that says ‘Helpful Hints.’ I know these types of boxes. I’ve suggested these types of boxes before. It may as well say ‘Helpful Hint, get a PC if you’re a Mac user’

I decide that I will download the software on my work PC. And now I quote again from my notes:

But even if it works, I now kind of hate you ATO.

Let’s examine where I am at the end of Phase 1. In the moments away from the service the experience still lives on, triggered by the unsatisfying interaction. As a Service Designer I can hear the voices of:

  • BAs, Marketers “the process is right there – all the information is only clicks away, and everything the user needs to do is written somewhere on-screen”
  • Managers “we must drive channel shifts to empower the customer to manage their own interactions”
  • Me, as customer: “Fuuuuuck – what do I do – I don’t have time tomorrow, I needed to do it tonight…..shit, I can try download it on my work machine – I. CANNOT. DO. THIS. ON. PAPER! Oh, god, what if I have to do it on paper. I’ll have to get a tax pack. I am not flicking through the PDF to do this. And I’m another day closer to the deadline!”

Rationally, I’ve made my decision, but subconsciously, the ‘think’ part of my experience (experience = think, do, use) trundles along in my head as I calculate and re-calculate options, remedies, blame underpinned by regulatory fear. All of this informs my level of trust with the organisation. It informs my expectations and how I think the next steps will go.

THE EXPERIENCE – PHASE 2: The Resolution

So, it’s the next morning. I have every paper with a dollar $ign on it with me – bank, employer, super, et al. I find e-tax. I download it – mere minutes. I get started.

First screen. Too much to read – I’m a skimmer for these sorts of things, because you’ve already put me off with the 130 page Tax Pack and even if e-tax is ‘part of a public ruling’ I just want to get this done, and if I break a law filling in something wrong, so be it.

What follows is a series of screens that may be information or transaction (all look the same) asking me to read technical language and agree or not, complete or not, verify or not.

Another way to put the experience would be to insert a video depicting a overwhelmed character walking down a darkened street as images of neon signs fly by that all have something to do with the plot – ‘deductions’ ‘one-third of actual expense’ ‘offsets”threshold’ ‘foreign source income’.

If this activity was intended to capture my user experience I’d describe my painful ‘Print’ experience, my confusion at where I was on the screens, my lack of understanding as to how to save my progress and come back to later. But that’s not what this is.

I get to the end, after 60 mins of clicking, seeking additional information online from my bank, my super, my Operations Manager.

And pleasantly see I’m entitled to a refund.

Until I then get stuck in a loop and can’t get out.

I simply close it all down. Waiting for final confirmation from the organisation. Remembering when I last thought I had a refund I discovered a massive tax bill. I wait. With no excitement, anticipation or delight.


So is the above what the service experience is like? No. Phase 1 and 2 simply captured one user’s thoughts, actions, tools. To leave it where it is is like presenting the powerful customer quote to an executive: un-mediated revelation is not meaningful extrapolation.  Sure, as customer I want filing a tax return to be ‘easy’ but this is a service experience – so I need to map it out. A service designer’s job is not to simply describe what happened (above) it’s to extrapolate that out into what it means from a service perspective; in order to ultimately examine what changes or impacts may look like from the customer and service perspective.

See next: Promised an experience; given a map: Filing a Tax Return Experience Map (Part B)

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: