The following are principles to guide the planning, delivery, operations, and evaluation of support services within learning spaces. Two key positions are the foundation for these principles: first, as an interface between a learning space and the people using it, services have a significant impact on the learning experience. Secondly, Services should be planned holistically with the furniture, technology, and spatial characteristics of a learning space such as size, proportion, views, lighting, and color. So, the experience you wish for your users will dicate the services needed and this may mean that staff will need to work in new ways, interacting with space and users in an entirely different way.
- Start with a vision for what successful service will be like in the future and use this to guide your planning and prioritization. Some ways to arrive at this vision is to create current and futures “maps” of services, to reflect on staff and user experiences of the best and worst service received in any context, and / or to use the ServicePlot tool.
- Make the services concrete with different tools, including personas that describe your users as characters, storyboards that tell the story of those characters experiences, customer journey maps which diagram those experiences and the “touchpoints” along the way, and service blueprints that describe how services will be provided.
- Explore multiple service scenarios, considering time of day, phasing within the overall implementation/adoption process, and different ways that external circumstances (such as a competing venue, a budget cut, or a new technology) would affect your services so that you are prepared and planning from different perspectives.
- Define roles and responsibilities for staff as well as how they relate to an overall mission, vision and purpose. These definitions should consider necessary mindsets and skillsets, knowledge, and experience and be linked to internal learning and development planning.
- Plan to orient and train both users and staff for the space, thinking of the space, furniture, and technology as “hardware” and the services and agreed etiquette/protocols as the necessarily complementary “software” that makes the hardware run. This training may be hands-on sessions, done in the moment, or communicated through videos and signage.
- Use services to build and engage your community, planning events like workshops, classes, tutorials, lectures, seminars, competitions, and social gatherings. These services can increase the utilization and responsiveness of the learning space to its user community.
- Understand that good service requires front-line staff playing “scripted” roles in a natural and unscripted way and they’ll need special training and preparation to understand the user needs, to “get into character” and prepare for the different scenarios or situations they may face.
- Assess your services in an ongoing way and be sure there is a plan in place for how you’ll analyze and act on the data gathered to refine and improve services in response to feedback. Feedback channels might include surveys, interviews, observations, and focus groups as described in the Needs Assessment section.
- Use Service Blueprints for operational evaluation. The service blueprints created in the planning stages outline the front-stage and back-stage staff activities as well as the systems and infrastructure needs. You can check back to these to verify that you are following them and can also update blueprints to serve as “living documents.”
- Ensure the sustainability of your services through upfront planning and on-going assessment that considers available funding, skills of staff and their roles, operating hours, and relationships with partners. This will also mean relating capital and operating budgets – there is perhaps nothing worse than creating an innovative space you cannot afford to keep sufficiently open.