Service Safari

Dive into a service experience in first-person

applied for



Service Staff




also called

Mystery shopping, Auto-ethnography

what is it

Service Safari is a research tool that helps designers develop interesting insights and inspirations by experiencing a service in first-person, as they were ‘in the shoes’ of a user. While pretending to be a user, designers can understand in detail all the aspects of the interaction with the service, observe how other people in the same space/environment behave, and eventually intercept the opinions and perceptions of other users. After having gone through the service, journey maps help generate a documentation of the experience that can be used for ideation and comparison purposes. Often times, the safari could be replicated going through the competitors’ service as well.

use it to

Develop a complete first-hand understanding of the service experience, before further research investigations.

remember to

Set a clear protocol for the observation and immersion, to be carefully followed along the journey.

case studies


feature image of 'Designing Schiphol Airport experience' case study

Example by Essense

Designing Schiphol Airport experience

Understanding the experience of an international airport from travellers' perspective


Essense worked closely with the Consumer Marketing team at Schiphol Group (Amsterdam Schiphol Airport) to develop a customer experience vision for all touch-points of the entire passenger journey across digital and physical channels, from buying a ticket to boarding a plane. After a first map of the customer as-is journey based on desk research, existing insights and learnings were validated and enriched through a two-day ‘service safari’ at Schiphol Airport with the respective client ‘area experts’ (parking, prior to security, after security). The service safari confirmed lots of the learnings previously developed but also clearly showed that there was little synergy between the three core airport areas, which appeared as three different silo experiences.

what is interesting

The Service Safari helped the entire team to develop a holistic understanding of passenger’s experience and the ecosystem at the airport, bringing the findings from the as-is journey to life. This led also to additional learnings about the context and commercial playing field (such as parking competitors near the lounge, external security personnel, etc.) that would have otherwise been missed.

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