Service blueprints are diagrams that visualize organizational processes in order to optimize how a business delivers a user experience. They are the primary tool used in service design.
A service blueprint is an operational planning tool that provides guidance on how a service will be provided, specifying the physical evidence, staff actions, and support systems / infrastructure needed to deliver the service across its different channels. For example, to plan how you will loan devices to users, a service blueprint would help determine how this would happen at a service desk, what kinds of maintenance and support activities were needed behind the scenes, how users would learn about what’s available, how it would be checked in and out, and by what means users would be trained on how to use the device.
Service Blueprints may take different forms – some more graphic than others – but should show the different means/channels through with services are delivered and show the physical evidence of the service, front line staff actions, behind the scene staff actions, and support systems. They are completed using an iterative process – taking a first pass that considers findings from personas, journey maps, and location planning and then coming back to the blueprint to refine it over time. Often blueprints raise questions that cannot be readily answered and so need to be prototyped; for instance by acting out an interaction or mocking up a product. Generally, one blueprint should be created for each core service, according to the right level of detail for each.
Effective service blueprinting follows five key high-level steps:
(i) Find support: Build a core cross disciplinary team and establish stakeholder support.
(ii) Define the goal: Define the scope and align on the goal of the blueprinting initiative.
(iii) Gather research: Gather research from customers, employees, and stakeholders using a variety of methods.
(iv) Map the blueprint: Use this research to fill in a low-fidelity blueprint.
(v) Refine and distribute: Add additional content and refine towards a high-fidelity blueprint that can be distributed amongst clients and stakeholders.
5-Step Framework for Service Blueprinting
1. Find Support
Level-set and educate on service blueprinting. First, pull together a cross disciplinary team that has responsibility for a portion of the service and establish stakeholder support for the blueprinting initiative. Support can come from a manager, executives, or clients.
2. Define the goal
Choose a scope and focus. Identify one scenario (your scope) and its corresponding customer. Decide how granular the blueprint will be, as well as which direct business goal it will address. While an as-is blueprint gives insight into an existing service, a to-be blueprint gives you the opportunity to explore future services that do not currently exist.
3. Gather Research
Unlike customer-journey mapping where a lot of external research is required, service blueprinting is comprised of primarily internal research.
(a) Gather customer research: Begin by gathering research that informs a baseline of customer actions (or, in other words, the steps and interactions that customers perform while interacting with a service to reach a particular goal). Customer actions can be derived from an existing customer-journey map.
(b) Gather internal research: Choose a minimum of two research methods that put you in direct line of observation with employees. Use a multipronged approach — select and combine multiple methods in order to reveal insights from different angles and job roles:
- Employee interviews
- Direct observation
- Contextual inquiry
- Diary studies
4. Map the blueprint
(a) Set up: It’s useful to organize a short workshop session (2–4 hours) to do steps 4 and 5. This helps create a shared understanding amongst your team of allies and ensures that the blueprint remains collaborative and unbiased. If all workshop participants are in the same physical location, set up by hanging three oversized sticky notes on the wall side by side. Each member should have a pad of post-its. The result of the workshop will be a low-fidelity version of an initial blueprint.
While any mapping method is collaborative at its core, blueprinting can still be done individually. If this is the case, be sure to share your blueprint with stakeholders and peers early and often.
(b) Map customer actions: In a service blueprint, customer actions are depicted in sequence, from start to finish. A customer-journey map is an ideal starting point for this step. Do note that a blueprint’s focus is the employee experience, not the customer’s experience, thus this portion does not need to be a fully baked customer-journey map — rather, you can include only the user touchpoints and parallel actions.
(c) Map employees’ frontstage and backstage actions: This step is the core of a service-blueprint mapping. It is easiest to start with frontstage actions and move downward in columns, following them with backstage actions. Inputs should be pulled from real employee accounts, and validated through internal research.
(d) Map support processes and evidence: Add the process that employees rely on to effectively interact with the customer. These processes are the activities involving all employees within the company, including those who don’t typically interact directly with customers. These support processes need to happen in order to deliver the service. Clearly, service quality is often impacted by these below-the-line interaction activities.
Layer in the evidence at each customer’s action step. Work your way through the first 5 steps and ask “what props and places are encountered along the way?” Remember to include evidence that occurs frontstage and backstage.
5. Refine and Distribute
Refine by adding any other contextual details as needed. These details include time, arrows, metrics, and regulations.
The blueprint itself is simply a tool that will help you communicate your understanding of the internal organization processes in an engaging way. At this point, you need to create a visual narrative that will convey the journey and its critical moments, pain points, and redundancies.
A good way to implement this step is to have another workshop with your core team. Having built context and common ground throughout your mapping process, bring them back together and evolve the blueprint into a high-fidelity format.
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