What is Service Design: Part 3 – Service Blueprinting

Service design is the process of understanding and refining an organization’s people, processes, systems, and policies to improve both the employee experience and, directly and indirectly, the customer’s experience. I communicate to clients a simple 3 step approach to service design including:

Personas -> Journey Maps -> Service Blueprints

In Part 1 we defined customer Personas and in Part 2, stressed that a Journey Map reflects a specific Persona’s experience with an organization. To close out this series on service design, we will discuss what we do with this gained empathy for the customer experience.

Service Blueprinting: Visualizing the Employee Experience

Think back to the pre-COVID days when you could get a reservation at a nice restaurant. Chances are, many “cooks” contributed to your dining experience. From the line cook and sous chef to the executive chef and baker, all of these functions contributed to your culinary experience, for better or for worse.

sous chef preparing plates

Yet if we took the role of food critic, our review would reflect our experience in the dining area, not what may or may not have happened in the kitchen. While a journey map reflects the customer view of the “dining room” experience (i.e., what the customer sees), a service blueprint is an artifact that visually describes the “kitchen” - how the people, processes, and physical (or digital) resources ultimately supports a specific journey.

Think of service blueprints as the flip side of the same coin, yet representing the employee experience. So what is this artifact and what do we do with it? A service blueprint provides details about how employees support a specific customer journey. So, what types of information should a good service blueprint include?

service blueprint

A service blueprint recipe of basic ingredients should include:

  • Evidence – This represents the physical and digital touchpoints, or focal points for interaction. Following the restaurant scenario, evidence could be a billboard or menu or emailed coupon.
  • Customer Actions – A slimmed down representation of the steps, choices, activities, and other actions a customer takes with an organization to reach a particular goal.
  • Frontstage Actions (what the customer sees) – A customer does not just act – they interact with you, so this layer should reflect what the customer sees during touchpoints along the journey. Who do they communicate with? What tools do they use to transact with the organization? What is the trigger? What happens next? How is the transaction completed?
  • Backstage Actions (unseen steps and activities that support Frontstage) – This is the most important information in this artifact, reflecting the actions taken by employees unseen by the customer (e.g., cook in the kitchen) or a frontstage employee who does something unseen by the customer (e.g., waiter entering order into a touchscreen system)
  • Support Processes – This reflects the steps that must take place internally in order to fulfill the customer journey. This typically reflects actions from employees who do not regularly interact with customers.

Service blueprints must be created by pulling frontstage and backstage inputs from real employee accounts and validated through internal research. This research and validation will likely need to traverse functional groups across an organization. Some key benefits of this work and the resulting artifact(s) include:

  • Uncover systemic organizational weaknesses and inefficiencies
  • Identify opportunities for optimization
  • Assign areas of ownership for the experience
  • Flatten silos by sharing responsibility for the customer experience
  • Helps organizations make decisions that matter