How We Create and Use Service Blueprints

August 29, 2019

Service Blueprints are a tool used to harmonize business and technical processes, particularly those that involve complex interactions. At Section, we are increasingly embedding them into our workflows to help create more clarity, transparency, and cohesion.

Service blueprints are a critical part of the service design experience, aimed at putting the customer experience first through understanding the process by which a product is made and how an organization produces it. Service design has been a disruptive force over the last twenty years with many companies such as Apple, Starbucks, P&G and Nike building their companies around its principles. Service is often the thing that drives customers to and/or from a product.

What is a Service Blueprint?

“A service blueprint is a diagram that visualizes the relationships between different service components – people, props (physical or digital evidence), and processes – that are directly tied to touchpoints in a specific customer journey.” This definition comes from the Nielsen Norman Group, the founders of which are often credited with leading the field of user experience design (UX). Their website includes many useful UX tools, including this service blueprint example:

nng service blueprint example The top layer involves time and scale – showing how long an action typically takes to complete. The next is evidence, whether physical or virtual, for instance, a website, an in-store discussion, a sales call, etc. Then there is the customer journey - from enquiry through to sales completion all the way to sign-up and delivery. The work of the company is split between frontstage actions: those elements which the customer sees that involve actions and technology; backstage actions: those things that the company does that take place behind the scenes; and support processes, processes which are instrumental to enabling the customer experience.

The Benefits

Service blueprints are increasingly used across industries to map out the service experience and make it more efficient. A well-defined service blueprint covers multiple areas in the company: from the business side to the technical, serving as a communications and planning tool. A service blueprint can be as simple or as complicated as you need it to be.

Blueprinting is an especially useful approach to cross-functional efforts and those that involve numerous touchpoints. Each subsystem can be mapped out, from architecture to project planning. Instead of different parts of the company working in silos without knowing about the contribution of other departments, a service blueprint can provide an overall map for how a product flows through a service across an entire company. It is also a useful tool for working with external elements for clearly showing the responsibilities of each party, what the customer does vs. what the company does, etc.

How we use Service Blueprints at Section

At Section, we are increasingly integrating the use of service blueprints into our workflow engine. Service blueprints help us to provide support from start to finish by visualizing where a customer is within their journey, including where they might be experiencing pain points and more proactively resolve any issues. As the company grows, we are finding it to be a particularly useful tool for onboarding new employees, making it easy to see what each stage of the customer journey looks like and the actions necessary to enable it.

We have recently started to use service blueprints to help us manage the implementations of our edge module. Here is an example of a service blueprint we have used for adding ShieldSquare, the real-time bot mitigation and management tool, to our customers’ tooling:

Section service blueprint edge module The ShieldSquare blueprint maps out the various stages of the customer journey and its interactions with Section.

The left-hand column is laid out in the same way as the example from the NN Group, moving from time to supporting processes. The first customer action shows a customer experiencing a bot attack, then finding the Section website and seeing that we have bot management software, including ShieldSquare. Next, they might have a pre-sales call and conversation with one of our engineers to discuss the product. This will involve a discussion around commercials, including how much it might cost per metric, its benefits and a quote. Next, we move to the ShieldSquare trial stage, followed by a baseline and monitoring stage and finally to sign up via a physical contract, which signs the customer into active mode.

We could add multiple more layers to add higher fidelity, for instance, to address the complications of having suppliers. In this instance, it’s a stylized and simplified blueprint. Nonetheless, it allows both ourselves and our ShieldSquare customers to understand the boundaries of each of our actions. Our service blueprints are orthogonal – it doesn’t necessarily replace another planning tool. Indeed we use it alongside our long-form step-by-step written documents as a way of visualizing the process. By mapping out the processes we hold in our heads, it allows us to see more clearly where problems might be encountered, and better anticipate ways of solving them.

Here’s an example of another service blueprint in use at Section for onboarding new customers:

Section new customer service blueprint

Other Useful Tools

The NN Group has many further excellent Service Blueprint resources, including:

Service Design 101 https://www.nngroup.com/articles/service-design-101/ UX vs Service Design, or how do they compliment https://www.nngroup.com/videos/ux-vs-service-design/ Service Blueprints Definition https://www.nngroup.com/articles/service-blueprints-definition/ More excellent Service Blueprint Resources from NNGroup https://www.nngroup.com/search/?q=service+design