While a customer journey captures the customer’s experience across various touch points, a service blueprint encompasses the full-service delivery process and how it directly contributes to a customer journey. It is best used for journeys that involve multiple touchpoints or require cross-functional operations.
Dating back to 1984, G. Lynn Shostack defined the use of service blueprinting in the Harvard Business Review as, “A service blueprint allows a company to explore all the issues inherent in creating or managing a service.” Although the concept of service blueprinting isn’t new within the service industry, it is becoming a popular research tool in other industries where analyzing customer influences, interactions and touchpoints, both physical and digital, are essential.
In this article, we explain the key elements of a service blueprint and two approaches that could benefit your business. The techniques we provide are common practices and are meant to inform you on the importance of customer engagement data, but you should always cater the information to what’s right for your business goals.
Four Components of a Service Blueprint
A service blueprint is represented in a diagram comprised of four primary components (each component being a category).
The components are as follows:
- Customer actions
- Support processes
The first step is to choose the service or journey you want to blueprint. Below is an example we’ve put together for you to reference throughout the article.
The journey we’ve blueprinted is a customer attending a UX course.
1. Customer Actions
These actions are what a customer does during their interaction with the company.
In our UX course example, customer actions include checking into the conference, receiving a presentation USB, finding their room, and participating in a lecture.
Frontstage actions are visible employee actions.
These are employee actions that a customer can see during the process. These could be human-to-human or human-to-technology interactions. Human-to-technology actions are carried out with self-service technology, such as checking into your flight using a self-serving kiosk.
In our UX course example, frontstage actions include greeting attendees, serving food and drinks, lecturing a session, and filling out an online survey.
Backstage actions are invisible employee actions.
These are employee actions a customer cannot see during the process. Although unseen, these actions support onstage happenings. Note that frontstage and backstage employees can move between the two.
In our UX course example, backstage actions include putting out signup sheets, setting up workshops, prepping food and cleaning up.
4. Support Processes
These are processes that support the employee in delivering the service to the customer.
In our UX course example, support processes include creating the USB, reserving conference rooms, allocating proper number of power cords, and ordering catering.
In addition to the four primary components of a service blueprint, there are additional elements that help organize the information.
- Lines of interaction—A distinction between interactions with the customer and the business.
- Line of visibility—A distinction between business activities that the customer can and cannot see. The frontstage actions are on one side, and the backstage actions are on the other.
- Line of internal interaction—A distinction between employee actions and support processes.
Lastly, you will want to analyze your service blueprint and record your findings by adding the following.
- Flow lines—An indication of what kind of interaction took place between customer and employee, or between employees. An interaction could be one way, such as a waiter delivering food to an attendee’s table, or two-way, such as a waiter giving the cook a food order they received.
- Markers—An indication of interesting moments or pain points. This could be from either the customer or employee’s point of view. Pain points can be takeaways from the service blueprint as areas of improvement.
Approaches to Service Blueprinting
There are several approaches to service blueprinting depending on the business goal. We recommend beginning the process by clarifying the approaches being used in order to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.
Current and Future
Consider documenting an existing service and/or journey and comparing it to a future or ideal service and/or journey. This can help you identify whether your current state is close to your ideal state, identify pain points and areas of opportunity, and bring together cross-functional teams to work towards one common goal.
Zoomed Out and Zoomed In
Starting with a zoomed out approach can help a company interpret how they are delivering a service as a whole over a lifetime. Many times, the lifetime customer value is substantial, and improving the entire service experience to convert more customers to lifetime customers or extending customers is more than worth the effort.
After documenting a zoomed out version of a customer’s experience, we recommend zooming in and documenting as few as 1-2 interactions. This allows the service blueprint to focus on specific service details that would otherwise be lost at a more zoomed out approach. This can also be effective in taking an entire service process and breaking it into more manageable steps.
Customer Research Methods
Service blueprinting, which represents just one touchpoint, is useless if you don’t have a comprehensive customer journey. We recommend nailing down the journey you choose by conducting customer research. Here are four research methods we use to understand our customer’s goals and map out their touchpoints.
This research method involves asking a series of questions to customers and/or employees. A benefit of this method is impromptu follow-up questions that can be asked in real time, allowing for deeper insights.
This research method involves observing a customer performing normal actions in their usual environment, without interfering with their experience. A great example of this is Walt Disney, who would walk around Disneyland dressed a regular guest and listen to what real guests were saying about the rides, the food, the experience, etc. Knowing these were real, unfiltered thoughts allowed him to improve weaknesses of his park that he might not have otherwise known.
This research method is a combination of interview and observation. The customer performs a normal action, and the interviewer observes and asks questions where appropriate.
This research method involves a customer documenting their activities over a period of time. They may be asked to answer specific questions or write their unscripted thoughts and feelings of their experience.
Service blueprinting is an excellent tool that allows you to look beyond a typical customer journey and into the touchpoints and operations that directly impact the actions and decisions of your customers. By understanding key touchpoints along your customers’ journey, identifying pain points and optimizing interesting moments, and analyzing trends, you’ll ultimately create an experience that leads to loyal customers who are sure to tell their family and friends about your organization.