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Imagine an oil rig at sea, there is a structure above water that’s obvious to an onlooker because it’s above a visible line. But, if you go underwater, below what’s visible, you find the drilling mechanism and the structure’s foundations. These vital parts of the oilrig are doing most of the work, from drilling to keeping the structure afloat. Much like an oil rig, every company has its foundations and mechanisms below a visible line. What’s above the visible line is what your customers see, but when you create a service there are many processes required that your customer will never see. Whether you are completely digital or have a combination of digital and offline touchpoints, your service survives by having the right processes in place, the right people in position and an understanding of your customers.
In a previous article, Menno Huisman, Managing Director at Booreiland, shared details on how ‘Service design meets UX’, how to determine your value proposition and services mix using service design thinking to deliver a better customer experience. We learned the importance of service design for determining the UX of your digital product but how do you conclude that you need a new brand touchpoint? And, what about the processes that are not visible to your customers, but operate under the surface for your service to survive? And, how do they connect to what’s above? By creating a Service Blueprint you provide instructions and a base to innovate from.
Sorry, what’s a Service Blueprint?
When you build a boat you need a blueprint, an instruction for all the people involved to understand the required building processes so that the boat is built a) well and b) as agreed. Without the right instructions and processes in place, the boat may be badly built or have a missing part, making it end up at the bottom of the sea. A Service Blueprint follows the same logic, without understanding how all of the actions of your business and customers affect each other and the processes you have in place, your service may not float people’s boats.
A Service Blueprint is an establish service design concept consisting of a diagram that breaks down and visualizes operational processes and the actions of all people involved in delivering a service. From your customers or employees to the delivery man, everyone becomes a ‘crew member’ in your service’s voyage. The actions of your crew members can make up a customer journey, mapping out the actions and touchpoints with your business, which forms the basis of the Service Blueprint. From there we can then take the mapping a step further, understanding what actions are required by your business that aren’t seen by the customer and therefore aren’t touchpoints, rather processes which happen below the surface of your service.
Okay, how do I create a Service Blueprint?
To create a Service Blueprint, you break down the diagram into ‘swimming lanes’, which contain:
Anything that a customer can see, hear, smell or touch belongs in this lane. This isn’t limited to shop windows and websites but should include signs, forms, products, etc.
How does your customer feel while using the service? Take into account the physical evidence, the customer actions and the frontstage actions to draw the emotions graph.
What does your customer have to do to use the service at the touchpoint? If the customer doesn’t take action, you can’t respond to their needs.
The activities, people and physical evidence that a customer will be able to observe after they have taken an action.
The activities, people and physical evidence that are necessary to deliver the service but that the customer cannot see or interact with directly.
Anything that supports the service without being unique to the service.
Extra additions to the diagram can include where the ‘Line of visibility’ is and the ‘Line of internal interaction’. From there it’s important to link activities together to create a natural flow for your service. Once you’ve mapped out your blueprint, you can provide your employees and stakeholders with a reference and starting point to improve the service from, reducing touchpoints or actions, or creating a new touchpoint. It’s from here we connect with UX to design a new touchpoint which meets the needs of your customers and improves the service, based on the blueprint.
“It's at those touchpoints that you can innovate from, conceptualizing to find new solutions and ideas to improve your service and ultimately your business, both internally and externally.”
But, when is a Service Blueprint useful?
Whether you are improving a service that already exists or creating a brand new service, it’s important to map it out. Equally, the service can be a small part of your business, such as a single event, or you can create a blueprint which encompasses your full business and all the processes involved.
At Booreiland, we focus on digital products and services. If you’re building a brand new digital platform then a Service Blueprint is an absolute must. Often when building a digital product or the focus lies on the UX and UI. However, who will be the system administrators? They must understand all the processes that happen below the surface, out of sight of the customers. All digital products evolve and hopefully improve over time, but if below the surface the mechanisms aren’t in place, you risk end-users, stakeholders and operating staff refusing or struggling to adopt the product.
5 tips for your blueprint:
- Get support from stakeholders and a cross-functional team to collaborate on the project and ensure acceptance across your organization.
- Define and understand what the goal and scope for the blueprint are, aligning with the team to find support throughout the business.
- Bring information and research from user feedback, customer interviews, team interviews, observations, etc. to validate your assumptions.
- Map the blueprint as a team, define the ‘crew members’ actions and touchpoints along with what happens above and below the visibility line of your customers.
- Refine the blueprint to give context, add parameters to the map which help to add to the story such as time scales, emotions, and metrics.
By mapping the processes both visible and not, you open up the possibility of spotting opportunities, a part of your process that’s not benefitting any of the crew members or a new action that will make a big impact to your customers. It’s at those touchpoints that you can innovate from, conceptualizing to find new solutions and ideas to improve your service and ultimately your business, both internally and externally.
For more helpful service design tips and tricks, check out our free Toolkit download!