A service blueprint is essentially a diagram that visualizes the relationships between different service components (people, physical or digital evidence, and processes) that are directly tied to touchpoints throughout the customer journey.
Since Blueprinting acts as a sort of magnifying glass for the customer journey, the best place to use it is within highly complex experiences. Services that take place over multiple touchpoints are omnichannel or require coordination between various departments.
A single service may have multiple Service Blueprints. A retailer, for example, may have a different Service Blueprint for their physical store and their online shopping experience.
Service Blueprints are handy tools for identifying opportunities for optimization and are used regularly by Designers and Design Thinkers, as it ties in nicely within the Design Thinking Process.
How to Create a Service Blueprint
Step 1: Customer Actions
This component is the most crucial aspect of the puzzle. It’s essentially your customer journey map and includes the choices, interactions, actions, and steps that a customer takes while evaluating, purchasing, or using the service you plan to map out. These actions are organized chronologically across the top of your Service Blueprint.
The key element here is talking to actual customers about their experience with a particular service. Oftentimes, mapping out a customer journey from the provider’s perspective can cause your journey to miss out on crucial information regarding how your users think and feel throughout the process.
Rely on empathy and good questions to get the most out of your customer interviews. Identifying how users feel throughout the process can help pinpoint sections of the journey that are ripe for improvement.
Step 2: Frontstage Actions
These are actions that occur directly in view of the customer. They can be human-to-human interactions or human-to-machine. They are displayed directly below your Customer Actions and are connected to them by a line.
It’s a good idea to indicate not only what your customer sees throughout these actions but also how they feel during them. You can extract these feelings in your interviews, and they can later be used to identify where the most friction is occurring. Consider color-coding these experiences to determine how customers feel and use different shapes between each stage to signify a new line of information.
Step 3: Backstage Actions
As you might have already guessed, these activities occur behind the scenes and support Frontstage Actions. These can be performed either by employees that have no interaction with customers or by Frontstage employees that are simply doing something out of sight. Within your Blueprint, they go directly below Frontstage Actions and have lines connecting them to their respective counterpart.
Gaining customer insight is essential for activities they can see, but a lot of redundancy and efficiency loss occurs within internal procedures. Make sure to do an in-depth analysis of how your employees interact with the process as well. Their opinions on friction and frustration can help optimize unseen activities.
Step 4: Support Actions
These activities are the steps that need to occur in order for employees to be able to take Backstage and Frontstage actions within a given service. They include interactions with third-party service providers like delivery cycles, payment processing, and quality assurance.
Support actions are not necessary only tied to Backstage actions. Certain Frontstage activities might require a Support activity in order to function.
While the main provider of a Support Activity might not be a direct employee of the company, the interactions between Support Actions and employees are much like the interactions between customers and the company. Make sure to also analyze these “employee touchpoints” so as not to miss out on possible improvements.
The next step in designing a Service Blueprint is drawing your horizontal interaction lines.
Interaction lines come in three flavors: The line of interaction designates the separation between activities that are directly between the customer and the company (all those above it) and those that are between employees and customers (below it).
The second line is the visibility line. This separates the interaction that customers can see (above) and the ones that occur behind the curtain (below)
The final line is your internal interaction line, which separates the activities that employees have direct contact with from those that do not directly support interactions with customers.
Secondary Elements of a Service Blueprint
They indicate relationships and dependencies. A single arrow suggests a linear, one-way exchange, while a double arrow suggests the need for agreement and codependency.
If time is a primary variable in your service, an estimated duration for each customer action should be included in your Service Blueprint. Since actions are organized chronologically, this process is easier than you think.
Regulations or Policy
Any policies or regulations that dictate how a process should be conducted are good auditions to your Service Blueprint. This information will allow your team to visualize the procedures within the process that cannot be altered for legal reasons.
As stated previously, recording your customer/employee emotions at every stage of the Service Blueprint is an excellent way to quickly identify potential friction points and pains throughout the process. These can be delineated using color-coding for ease of visualization.
These help add context to your Service Blueprint, providing information such as target costs or time-frames. These can help teams set goals within the Blueprint, and facilitate prioritization when optimizing procedures.
Benefits of Using Service Blueprints
Services can sometimes be difficult to visualize. The complex nature of interdependent relationships within them can make it hard to convince decision-makers to finance changes to services and internal procedures.
Providing a full picture of the process makes it so that anyone can understand the relationships between procedures and the challenges these complex systems have to deal with on a daily basis.
It’s not just a great way for designers to revamp existing processes, but also a great way to visually present a new service to higher-ups. Additional benefits include:
- Competition: Service Blueprints are uniform in a sense. If you want to understand how a new service will match up against a previous one, or that of a competitor, all you need to do is put them side-by-side.
- Knowledge Sharing: Employees and managers involved in complex processes can sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. Service Blueprints efficiently represent how each action affects other departments, employees, and customers. They also reduce the creation of knowledge siloes by facilitating information sharing.
- Flexibility Scalability: As we’ve stated earlier, Service Blueprints can be used as magnifying glasses for complex and interconnected systems. But they can also be used across a much larger scope to visually represent an entire complex system.
- Process Analysis: This last one might be a little on the nose, but it’s one of the most direct benefits of creating a Service Blueprint. Once you gain a bird’s-eye view of a system, identifying possible future points of failure and bottlenecks becomes easier.
Service Blueprints are simply a tool that Designers and other employees can use to visually represent the complex interactions within a particular service. The ultimate goal of a Service Blueprint is up to its creators, and sometimes coming up with a detailed plan of how to use it can be a challenge.
If you’re interested in other material like this or would like to know more about Service Design or Design Thinking, why not check out our content here? If you’re looking to create a Service Blueprint yourself but aren’t quite sure what to do once you have it, why not reach out to one of our consultants?