27 Dec 2022

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Service Blueprints

Service design is the activity of planning and organizing a business’s resources (people, props, and processes) in order to (1) directly improve the employee’s experience, and (2) indirectly, the customer’s experience. Service blueprinting is the primary mapping tool used in the service design process.

What Is a Service Blueprint?

Definition: A service blueprint is a diagram that visualizes the relationships between different service components — people, props (physical or digital evidence), and processes — that are directly tied to touchpoints in a specific customer journey.

Think of service blueprints as a part two to customer journey maps. Similar to customer-journey maps, blueprints are instrumental in complex scenarios spanning many service-related offerings. Blueprinting is an ideal approach to experiences that are omnichannel, involve multiple touchpoints, or require a crossfunctional effort (that is, coordination of multiple departments).

A service blueprint corresponds to a specific customer journey and the specific user goals associated to that journey. This journey can vary in scope. Thus, for the same service, you may have multiple blueprints if there are several different scenarios that it can accommodate. For example, with a restaurant business, you may have separate service blueprints for the tasks of ordering food for takeout versus dining in the restaurant.

Service blueprints should always align to a business goal: reducing redundancies, improving the employee experience, or converging siloed processes.

Benefits of Service Blueprinting

Service blueprints give an organization a comprehensive understanding of its service and the underlying resources and processes — seen and unseen to the user — that make it possible. Focusing on this larger understanding (alongside more typical usability aspects and individual touchpoint design) provides strategic benefits for the business.

Blueprints are treasure maps that help businesses discover weaknesses. Poor user experiences are often due to an internal organizational shortcoming — a weak link in the ecosystem. While we can quickly understand what may be wrong in a user interface (bad design or a broken button), determining the root cause of a systemic issue (such as corrupted data or long wait times) is much more difficult. Blueprinting exposes the big picture and offers a map of dependencies, thus allowing a business to discover a weak leak at its roots.

In this same way, blueprints help identify opportunities for optimization. The visualization of relationships in blueprints uncovers potential improvements and ways to eliminate redundancy. For example, information gathered early on in the customer’s journey could possibly be repurposed later on backstage. This approach has three positive effects: (1) customers are delighted when they are recognized the second time — the service feels personal and they save time and effort; (2) employee time and effort are not wasted regathering information; (3) no risk of inconsistent data when the same question isn’t asked twice.

Blueprinting is most useful when coordinating complex services because it bridges crossdepartment efforts. Often, a department’s success is measured by the touchpoint it owns. However, users encounter many touchpoints throughout one journey and don’t know (or care) which department owns which touchpoint. While a department could meet its goal, the big-picture, organization-level objectives may not be reached. Blueprinting forces businesses to capture what occurs internally throughout the totality of the customer journey — giving them insight to overlaps and dependencies that departments alone could not see. NNg Service Blueprint Example