Shifting cultural norms and operational changes lead to strategic service design and strategy work for the largest animal welfare organization in the Upper Midwest.

A Two-Part Service Design Initiative

Animal Humane Society (AHS), the leading animal welfare organization in the Upper Midwest, provides comprehensive programs and services for communities of people and animals in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. AHS approached Azul Seven with a multifaceted service design challenge: Evaluate the current pet adoption experience and identify long-term strategic opportunities to expand their service offerings.

An illustration of a person and cat. There is a heart between them symbolizing their love for each other.

Project 1: Taking a More Customer-Centric Approach

The relationship between people and pets in American culture has evolved significantly over the past few decades, to the point that many pet owners now consider animals to be integral members of their families. Given this evolution, AHS recognized it needed to take a more customer-centric approach in an effort to develop stronger, longer-term relationships with adoptive families and volunteers.

AHS had recently made changes to its processes and facilities at their main Golden Valley, Minnesota, adoption center, and was interested in replicating those changes at all its locations. AHS engaged Azul Seven to evaluate the changes already made and identify further areas for improvement before it rolled out any new processes agency-wide.

A little boy standing with a dog on a leash. His mother is kneeling down petting the dog.

Through ethnographic research, interviews and group discussions, we captured insights from stakeholders, volunteers and customers visiting and adopting from the center. Through observation of the physical space, staff, and current processes, we were able to identify opportunities to better align both the adoptive family and animal needs. We looked at facility layout and signage, staff and volunteer interaction with prospective adopters and other factors impacting the overall experience. Taking all this into account, we journey-mapped the adoption experience, benchmarked against customers’ expectations and identified areas for improvement and additional opportunities to amplify what was already a positive experience.

AHS quickly implemented many of the recommended improvements, leading to a more streamlined adoption experience for Animal Humane Society staff, volunteers, and prospective adoptive families. Adjustments to the physical space have enhanced the visitation experience between adoptive pets and prospective adopters. Optimized signage helps adoptive families better understand prospective pets’ background and health information. Digitized paperwork streamlined the adoption process. Additionally, AHS is updating the post-adoption email communications to help families care for and nurture their new pet and to sustain the relationship between the organization and adopting families beyond the on-site experience.

Two images are side-by-side. The left image is of people petting a dog while sitting on the floor. The right image is of people looking at pets in their cages.

Project 2: Planning for the Future

Understanding the evolving role of animal welfare organizations amidst people’s changing attitudes about living with and managing pets in their lives, AHS knows it needs to adapt its business model to remain relevant in the future. AHS asked Azul Seven to use our service design practices to help them understand how AHS’s mission “to engage the hearts, hands and minds of the community to help animals” needs to evolve in a world with fewer rescue animals and changing attitudes about pets.

Through ethnographic observation and interviews with pet owners, industry leaders and other service providers, and social media and trend research, we explored the key themes of “pets everywhere” and “pets as part of the family” with the goal of better understanding how AHS can support people with companion animals as attitudes about pets continue to evolve Returning from the field with rich insights, Azul Seven developed stakeholder and customer journey maps that outlined key touchpoints and triggers that suggest new service offerings AHS might offer to pet owners and animal lovers. Findings included a desire for more pet-friendly social spaces and activities, an opportunity for increased advocacy for more pet-friendly rental housing and homeless shelters, and a need for a rating system for pet service providers businesses such as groomers and boarding services. AHS is now using Azul Seven’s insights to inform their 5-10 years strategic plan.