When and Why UX Practitioners Use Service Blueprints

I surveyed over 90 U.S. professionals on when and why they use service blueprints, and just to be clear, a service blueprint maps out the relationship between various service components, those people processes and props and customer touch points.

Practitioners mentioned using hypothesized service blueprints when defining their research plan to identify gaps in their current knowledge. This usage of blueprint reduces the likelihood of spending significant time and resources, gathering research that’s already known. Additionally, these blueprints educate stakeholders of the resources and bandwidth needed to conduct the necessary research. Now, once a service blueprint, I’ll be at a low fidelity one is created. It can be used to evaluate the holistic service and identify gaps, redundancies or friction points.

These gaps can then be prioritized for redesign based on the opportunity they present to the organization. Service blueprints are also used later in the product design lifecycle to help inform project planning, tracking success and informing strategic decisions for practitioners. In these cases, the artifact acted as a shared visualization used to communicate future work, aligned priorities and inform ideal future state service models in terms of benefits. The most frequently mentioned benefit of using a service blueprint was a shared language and understanding service. Blueprints help departments align behind a common goal, empower team members and educate stakeholders about the experience as it exists.

Today, service blueprints make invisible service components visible and help put products and context refocusing on the bigger picture instead of products or departments, as silos can lead to consistency across channels and a positive experience for both end users and employees. So whether your goal is to discover service weaknesses, reduce redundancies, converge silos or anything in between service blueprints help visualize all of the intangible aspects of the experiences we provide.

What is the relationship between user experience and service design? I’m going to start with user experience. User experience is what Nielsen Norman Group is really well known for, thanks to Don and Togue and Jacob. It is anything the end user comes across. So this could be an app, a website, a kiosk or an end to end experience that they encounter. Now, I like to think about this as the what service design is the how how does that end experience get created? So we’re speaking internal organizational, the people, the processes, the technology that have to align in order to make all the different pieces of the user’s experience. Why do you have to have both? Well, you can’t have one without the other. Think about them as the same coin, but different sides. You can’t have the end experience if you don’t have anyone to create it. And you can’t create something if you don’t have an end user to experience it. Understandably, organizations tend to divide themselves based on the user’s experience. So you have marketing, sales, product development, customer support.

The problem is that the user usually doesn’t experience them in this siloed nature, really. They experience multiple different touch points from these different silos. And that’s where service design comes in service design, alliances, different departments and silos in order to create the end user experience that you as an organization want. The problem with only thinking about the user’s experience is that we get what we call a delivery gap. A lot of companies who think they provide a superior proposition when very few of them actually do. I think about this all the time when I fly Delta and they put a status tag on my luggage that I’m checking with the promise that it’s going to come out first at the baggage claim. Now, that would be an amazing user experience. However, they’ve never aligned to the people, even third party people who work at airports to provide that superior experience that I now expect because the promise has been made.

So while they have good intentions when it comes to user experience, they’re not practicing service design. Thus I’m left disappointed. I’m not at all advocating that we only prioritize users experience or we only prioritize service design. Instead, I’m suggesting they should be practiced in parallel with equal efforts in both places. As you come up with innovative ideas for your users experience, think about how they are going to be delivered this way. We live up to our customers expectations.

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