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Service Blueprint: A Service Design Tool
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Service Blueprint: A Service Design Tool

Service Blueprint: A Service Design Tool cover

When we talk about the difference between a service and a product, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the question of tangibility.

Although the concept of service and product is changing and they are increasingly incorporated, the question of tangibility is almost a mantra.

So, how can we analyze the service to improve it?

Now, a product, or an interface, are objects whose flaws and inconsistencies are more explicit. Some examples are a button that doesn’t work, a poorly written text, or an image with an error.

But when we talk about processes and flows, how can we identify their mistakes, bottlenecks, and improvement opportunities?

The good news is that there is a perfect tool for this: Service Blueprint.

Please continue with the article to understand precisely Service Blueprint and how to use it to map your services!

What is Service Design?

Before we talk about Service Blueprint, it is essential to understand the concept that precedes its use: Service Design.

User experience goes beyond the interaction with a product. For example, there are several user contact points between the brand/company during a purchase process, from attraction marketing to after sales.

Imagine going to a restaurant. As much as the final product is the meal, other factors can influence the customer experience, such as: waiting in line, waiting for a server, the speed of preparing the order, how it is presented, and how it tastes.

In this sense, the restaurant’s internal processes also affect the result and user experience.

Service Design aims to optimize and improve these processes so that the user feels satisfied as a whole, from start to end, and not just when interacting with the final product.

This way, Service Design ends up englobing two objectives:

  • improve the employee experience;
  • improve the end-user experience.

Therefore, understanding how to build internal processes is critical to ensuring the experience of both employees and end users.

Service Blueprint is an essential tool in Service Design because it helps to map and improve a company’s internal processes.

Reading tip: User Journey Map: Understanding and Improving Interactions

What is Service Blueprint?

What is Service Blueprint?
Example of Service Blueprint. Source: NN/g.

The Service Blueprint is a diagram that maps and shows the entire process of delivering a service.

This tool includes all activities, stages, and user contact points with the service to facilitate the development of improvements or new processes and services. In addition, the tool considers all the agents involved in the process and detailed delivery of the service or final product.

With this information, we have the flow of actions for each stage of the process and each agent’s responsibilities that influence the service.

In other words, the Blueprint works as a map of services, in which we can identify improvements and opportunities and show the elements involved in each part of the process, when they occur and how.

Despite being an internal document of the company, the Service Blueprint must also contain the vision and perspective of the customer and end user. However, Blueprint should not be confused with Customer/User Journey.

What’s the difference between Service Blueprint and User Journey?

At first, we can confuse and even imagine that they are two similar tools, the Service Blueprint, and the Customer/User Journey.

However, there is a crucial difference between the two concepts: focus.

While Customer Journey focuses on showing and mapping all user touchpoints with the interface, Service Blueprint considers all backstage processes that are not visible to the user.

The Blueprint shows the internal processes and how they influence the user experience. So the Service Blueprint is a much more in-depth document about a company’s operations and services. A Blueprint considers the company’s policies, objectives, departments, and stakeholders.

User Journey cannot show the services’ improvement opportunities as the Service Blueprint does.

What are the benefits of a Service Blueprint?

There are three main benefits of a Service Blueprint:

1) Exposing inefficiencies of processes

It can be easier to identify when something is wrong when discussing UIs. A button that doesn’t work or a confusing text, for example.

However, when we talk about processes within a company, it is difficult to identify right away which is the bottleneck in the flow.

This way, the Service Blueprint works as a detailed picture of the processes within the company. As a result, it is an essential tool for discovering process inefficiencies and understanding the best possible solutions.

2) Opportunities for optimization

Following the same line of exposing inefficiencies, Service Blueprint reveals redundancies when it clarifies the processes’ flows.

Eliminating redundancies saves time and energy for employees and customers and reduces the risk of inconsistent information.

3) Improved service overview

The Service Blueprint guarantees a broad view of the service and its processes.

This way, all the areas involved can see the flow clearly and the points to improve.

Usually, each area is only concerned with its activities, but ensuring that the system works as a whole is essential.

Reading tip: User Interview: Keys to Gather Insightful Information

Main elements of a Service Blueprint

Main elements of a Service Blueprint
The main elements are on the left. Source: NN/g.

A Service Blueprint can take many forms, depending on who is creating it and with what purpose. However, a few essential elements should always be present in a Service Blueprint. They are:

  • Customer actions: steps, choices, and interactions of customers and users during their journey;
  • Frontstage actions: are the actions that occur directly with the end user. They can be human-human—when the user interacts with a collaborator—or human-machine—when the user interacts with a computer or any other technology;
  • Backstage actions: are the activities that happen outside the end user’s field of vision but that support the service to happen;
  • Support processes: the interactions that support employees in delivering the service to end users.
  • Physical evidence: proof that the interaction has happened like the product itself, receipts as proof of purchase, physical store, or websites.

These key elements are organized into clusters and separated by lines. There are three primary lines in the Service Blueprint:

  • The line of interaction: represents direct interactions between the customer and the organization;
  • The line of visibility: separates activities visible to the customer (frontstage) from activities not visible to the customer (backstage). By default, frontstage activities are above the line and backstage activities below it;
  • The line of internal interaction: separates employees who have customer contact from those who do not interact with or support the customer.

Finally, the last layer of the Service Blueprint corresponds to the evidence of the service, which can be involved in both frontstage and backstage processes and actions.

Secondary elements in Service Blueprint

Secondary elements in Service Blueprint
Secondary elements in Service Blueprint. Source: NN/g.

There are secondary elements in the Service Blueprint that can help adapt it to the context of each business and the company’s objectives.

Arrows

The arrows indicate the relationship between the activities and their relations. In addition, they show the direction of flow.

A one-headed arrow represents a one-way flow, with no exchange between the agents involved. But a double-headed arrow indicates a need for cooperation and agreement between the parties involved.

Timing

If time is a fundamental aspect of providing your service with quality, this information has to be included in your Blueprint.

This way, it is crucial to determine the estimated time for each step and the corresponding customer or employee action involved.

Policies

You should also add any regulations about your service. This way, you know what can and can not be changed while optimizing the customer experience.

Emotion

Registering employee emotions helps to identify the points of frustration in each activity throughout the process and service. For example, where are employees frustrated or happy and motivated?

Metrics

Any metric or information that offers context to your Blueprint is helpful.

Collect data to understand how time and money are wasted due to miscommunications or other operational inefficiencies. Some examples are process duration and the investment required for each step.

These numbers make it easier to see which part of the process can be optimized or reduced in costs.

Reading tip: Information Architecture: How to Organize UI Content

5 steps to create a Service Blueprint

You may have already understood the importance of Service Blueprint in Service Design.

But then, the question remains: where do I start?

There are 5 essential steps you must take to create an effective Service Blueprint:

  1. Find support;
  2. Define the goal;
  3. Gather research;
  4. Map the blueprint;
  5. Refine and distribute.
5 steps to create a Service Blueprint

1) Find support

primeiro passo para construir um service blueprint

Gather a multidisciplinary team from areas that are responsible for most of the processes involved in the services and seek the support of a stakeholder.

Getting this kind of collaboration from a manager, executive, or client is essential to creating a blueprint.

Cooperation and support will be the driving force that keeps the project going.

However, we know that finding the right people might be challenging, especially if it’s your first time creating a Service Blueprint.

So, here are some tips to help you in this stage:

Start with a multidisciplinary team of up to 4 people

Find a few people from other areas who can help you build and sell the Service Blueprint project within the company.

Starting with a small team allows you to focus more on the method without being overwhelmed with effective communication between a larger group.

Engage people who are relevant to the project

Choose people who have the necessary experience and skills for what you need.

Then, within this selected group, choose those with decision-making capacity and influence within the company.

Involving influential people can be a great win as it will help make your project seen.

Prioritize collaborative work meetings

At the beginning of the project, it is essential to have the entire team aligned and working together on the same task.

This way, there is a sense of belonging and engagement with the Service Blueprint project.

Align goals, purposes, and objectives

Before starting, ensure everyone is on the same page and align the purpose and goals of the project.

Ensuring the benefits of a Service Blueprint are clear to everyone will make people more engaged with the project.

2) Define the goal

Segundo passo: definir um objetivo

Choose a scope for your Service Blueprint and bring it into focus. Identify scenarios and customers and decide how detailed your mapping should be.

There are a few steps that can help you at this stage:

  • Choose a scope you have control over: if this is your first Service Blueprint project, prefer an area you have authority over. You will have more confidence to work with a process of which you already know about;
  • Map between 8 to 12 customer actions: more than that, your project may be going down a very specific path. Less than that, it can be too generic;
  • Create criteria to compare and prioritize different scopes: if the idea is to map different services within the company, it is essential to establish criteria to standardize contents and projects.

3) Gather research

terceiro passo: reunir pesquisas

Surveys are essential in providing information about customers and their interactions with the service.

However, unlike the User Journey, the surveys for a Blueprint are primarily internal to the organization.

But even so, conducting research can be a stage where people have a lot of resistance. It takes time, and many people are not willing to invest that time.

So, to make this process easier, you can:

  • Share responsibilities with your allies: once you have assembled your team with people who also believe in the project, it becomes easier to carry out research and gather information;
  • Start with a scope on which you already have some information: this way, you will be more familiar with the topic, and you will be able to expire confidence in your team;
  • Start with a hypothetical Blueprint:
  1. Build a Service Blueprint solely on the knowledge you already have.
  2. Ask your team for help reviewing it.
  3. Send it to the process experts to fill in the gaps and correct any inconsistencies.

4) Map the blueprint

quarto passo: mapear
Fonte: NN/g

Once you have all the necessary information, it’s time to write them down.

Gather all the project participants and start describing the customer actions. Service Design is concerned with the employee and customer experience, which means frontstage and backstage activities.

Do not forget to indicate critical moments for the user and the collaborator, such as: waiting time, physical or data security, payment methods, or other essential mechanisms.

Then, it’s time to detail the actions of employees.

After this, you’ll move to support processes. Support processes happen throughout the company and do not necessarily interact directly with customers.

Finally, add KPIs and other metrics, such as cost and time reduction, how many touchpoints require more effort from the user, and the most satisfying moments for them.

Reading tip: Outcomes and Outputs: Know the Difference

5) Refine and distribute

Fonte: NN/g

The last step is to refine the Service Blueprint and detail it with more information that might be relevant.

Also, build a narrative to effectively communicate the opportunities and proposed improvements that the blueprint revealed.

Disclose the final result to stakeholders and colleagues. That way, everyone will be aware of all the processes involved in a particular service, which helps communicate the vision and strategy for a complex service.

Don’t forget to test the blueprint as if you were testing an interface. This will help you build confidence in the detailed processes and gain the trust of your audience.

Another point to remember is regarding the Service Blueprint update. It is essential to update the blueprint whenever there is any significant change in the service processes.

That way, the document will always be up to date and can be used as a source of truth.

These were the main steps for you to be able to create and implement a Service Blueprint.

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