Using Service Blueprints to design customer-centered processes
Service blueprinting is a method used by businesses to better understand and optimize the processes that impact customer experience. It enables businesses to identify areas for improvement and make changes to enhance customer satisfaction. This article guides you through all you need to know about service blueprints: their main elements, benefits, as well as some examples and tools you can use to create one.
- Definition of service blueprint
- Importance and benefits
- The main elements
- How to create a service blueprint
- Challenges of service blueprints
- Examples of service blueprints
- Useful tools
What is a service blueprint?
Let's start with a definition:
A service blueprint is a diagram that outlines the steps involved in delivering a service, from the customer's as well as the company's perspective. It includes all the processes, systems, and people involved in the service delivery, as well as the physical and digital touchpoints that customers encounter. A service blueprint helps to identify potential bottlenecks, gaps, and opportunities for improvement.
Thus, service blueprints are usually a great addition to customer journey maps: whereas customer journey maps show the customer experience from the perspective of the customer, a service blueprint also shows the happenings behind the scenes.
Why are service blueprints/is service blueprinting important?
Service blueprinting offers several benefits to businesses looking to improve their customer experience.
A service blueprint ...
... visually represents the service and its inefficiencies
Service blueprints provide a visual representation of the service process, making it easier to understand and identify potential issues like redundancies or bottlenecks.
... provides a holistic view
Blueprinting services provides a holistic view of the service process, from the customer's perspective to the underlying systems and processes that support it.
... enables collaboration and communication
Service blueprinting brings together employees from different departments and levels of the organization, as well as external partners involved in the service delivery process.
... supports continuous improvement
By regularly reviewing and updating the service blueprint, businesses can continue to make improvements to the customer experience over time.
... is customer-focused
Being closely connected to customer journey maps, service blueprints are customer-focused. They help organizations understand the customer's journey and identify ways to improve the customer experience.
The elements of a service blueprint
There are several key elements that make up a service blueprint:
- Customer journey: The customer journey is the sequence of steps that a customer goes through when receiving a service. This includes all the touchpoints where the customer interacts with the service provider.
- Frontstage activities: The frontstage lane represents the elements of the service that are visible to the customer, such as the physical location, staff interactions, and digital interfaces.
- Backstage activities: The backstage lane represents the elements of the service that are invisible to the customer, such as internal processes, technology, and staffing.
- Support processes: Support processes are the internal processes that support the delivery of the service. These might include scheduling, staffing, training, and quality control.
- Physical evidence: Physical evidence refers to the tangible elements of the service experience, such as the environment, equipment, and signage.
- Customer actions: Customer actions are the behaviors of the customer throughout the service experience.
- Employee actions: Employee actions are the behaviors of the service provider throughout the service experience.
Anyways, when looking at service blueprints you will notice that there is no one-and-only way to map them; the elements can depend on the organization or service and can be used flexibly.
How to create a service blueprint
Service blueprinting lets you map out the customer journey and the underlying service processes and systems that support it. Here are the steps to create a service blueprint:
- Identify the service or service phase to be mapped. Usually, it’s a good idea to start with a clearly framed part of the service, like making a reservation, placing an order, or receiving support.
- Map the steps of the customer journey. Start by identifying the customer journey or the steps a customer goes through when using your service. Break it down into smaller steps. These steps could include activities like filling out a form, waiting for service, or receiving a response.
- Map out the service processes. Identify the service processes or the underlying activities and systems that support the customer journey. This could include activities like order processing, inventory management, or payment processing.
- Identify the people involved. Understand who is involved in delivering the service – this could include employees, third-party vendors, or partners.
- Link the steps with the service processes. Connect each step in the customer journey with the service processes that support it. This will help you understand how the service is delivered and where there may be bottlenecks or inefficiencies.
- Analyze the service blueprint. Finally, analyze the service blueprint to identify areas for improvement. Look for ways to streamline the service, improve the customer experience, or reduce costs.
A service blueprint is a dynamic tool that should be updated regularly as the service evolves. By using this tool, you can identify areas for improvement and ensure that your service meets the needs of your customers.
Challenges of service blueprints
Service blueprints are an effective tool for understanding and designing services. However, like any tool, they also come with a few challenges.
- Complexity: service blueprinting can become complex and time-consuming, especially for services with many touchpoints and support processes.
- Limited scope: Service blueprints are focused on the service process and may not capture other important aspects of the service, such as the emotional experience or the brand promise. Thus, you might need some additional tools to cover those aspects, e.g. a more elaborated journey map in which you put a stronger focus on the customer's emotions.
- Static representation: Service blueprints are a static representation of the service process and may not reflect the dynamic nature of services, which are constantly evolving and changing. You can obviously control this by updating the service blueprint frequently to make sure you’re close to the status quo.
- Limited impact: Service blueprints can identify areas for improvement, but may not necessarily lead to actual changes or improvements in the service. Thus, it’s crucial to take the insights from a service blueprint further and see how you can optimize or innovate the service for a more user-friendly future experience.
Service blueprints only lead to innovation if the resulting insights are translated into actual projects and initiatives.
Overall, service blueprinting is valuable for understanding and designing services, but the output should be used in conjunction with other tools and methods to ensure a holistic view of the service and its impact on the customer.
Examples of service blueprints
Let’s now have a look at some service blueprints from different industries to illustrate how service blueprints are used in practice.
Example of a service blueprint from healthcare
Example of a service blueprint from events planning / panel
Example of a service blueprint from finance / loans
Example service blueprint from hospitality: a cafeteria's processes
Service blueprint tools
There is a variety of tools that you can use to create your first blueprint or to scale your blueprints and make them manageable. Let’s look at some of the most common ones – starting with hands-on tools, and transitioning to more professional tools.
Pen, paper, and sticky notes
Pen and paper: One of the simplest ways to create a service blueprint is to draw it out by hand. This can be a good option if you're working on a small project or need to quickly sketch out some ideas.
Sticky notes: Another low-tech option is to use sticky notes to map out the different components of your service blueprint. This can be a useful method if you want to be able to easily rearrange and modify your blueprint as you work.
Templates: If you prefer to start with a pre-made template, you can download a blueprint template and print it for analog use.
Diagramming tools and whiteboards
Common diagramming tools have a load of features that help you illustrate service blueprints and other kinds of flowcharts in a digital format:
Lucidchart: This is a cloud-based diagramming tool that allows you to create service blueprints and other types of diagrams. It has a variety of templates and shapes to choose from, as well as collaboration features.
Gliffy: Another cloud-based diagramming tool, Gliffy allows you to create service blueprints and other types of diagrams. It also has collaboration features and a library of templates and shapes.
Miro: As a digital whiteboard, Miro has been made for collaboration and comes with full flexibility. Tools like Miro are great for workshops. It’s important, however, to afterward review the output and bring it in a more standardized form that everybody can grasp and that is transitioned into a management tool to make sure it’s not lost, but can really make an impact.
Customer journey management tools
Smaply: Smaply is a tool that combines journey maps and service blueprints. The tool has both mapping and management capabilities, thus letting you start with a first draft but also keeping track of derived activities.
In conclusion, service blueprinting is a valuable tool for businesses looking to improve their customer experience. By mapping out the various elements of the service delivery process, businesses can identify areas for improvement and make changes to enhance the overall customer experience. Choosing the right tool for service blueprinting will strongly impact the ultimate effect the insights can have.
And now, what's next?
Sign up for Smaply and create your own service blueprint!