what is a service blueprint?

8 Mar 2020

5 min read

A service blueprint provides insight into how the customer experience of your organization is created, for all channels and touchpoints. It shows the front stage (the user experience) and the back stage (the operation and processes). Suppose your organization is a restaurant. Then on your service blueprint you will find a guest dining (the customer experience), the interaction with the waiter (the front stage), the cook in the kitchen (the back stage) and purchasing from the wholesaler (supporting processes). You will see that everything is connected and that everything influences the dining experience.

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example; front- and backstage of a restaurant

To properly understand what a service blueprint is, the example of a restaurant is a very clear one. 

As a guest of a restaurant, you call to make a reservation. Or maybe you book online. When you enter someone will meet you to hang your coat and take you to your table. You order the dish of the day, sip your drink and then your dish appears on the table. The waiter asks if everything is to your liking, collects the empty plates and a little later asks if you want coffee or dessert. You want to pay immediately and you walk to the bar. There you pick a peppermint while your coat is taken. In service design we call all these things the front stage of your experience. It is everything you consciously experience as a customer.

In the meantime, a lot is happening behind the scenes to make your dining experience as smooth as possible. The cook was there a few hours earlier to make all the preparations for dinner, the waiter wrote the dish of the day on the board and the hostess already placed the reserved plates on the table. The tables were divided among the waiters. When you enter, the kitchen assistant will receive a signal to prepare some bread with spreads. The waiter enters your order into the system and a receipt rolls out of the printer at both the kitchen and the bar. Your order is taken and once it’s ready, the chef rings a bell for the waiter to serve the dish. All this (and more) is the back stage of your experience. Everything you don’t see, but is essential to make the front stage possible.

service blueprint

In this example of a restaurant it is very clear how the service blueprint assumes a front stage and a back stage. The connections are also obvious. What happens backstage directly impacts the front stage. Purchasing processes, training new employees, preparing the service: the better this is arranged, the better the experience of a dinner guest.

You may have seen Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. He studies the ins and outs of a restaurant, explains why things go wrong and what needs to be done to get things back in order so that employees and guests are happy again and profits are made. He does this without a service blueprint, but the principle is the same.

Make the switch from organization-oriented service to customer-centric organization.

why make a service blueprint?

We make a service blueprint for many of our clients. We do this firstly because we want to view an organization’s services through the eyes of a customer. Secondly, because a blueprint helps to clarify dependencies between internal teams and processes. The service blueprint is a service design tool, not a result. You always create a blueprint with a goal, such as working more efficiently or breaking through internal silos. The starting point can be an existing process (to evaluate and optimize) or a new process (to clearly define what is needed to successfully offer a service). The service blueprint enables you to make the switch from organization-oriented service to customer-centric organization. Do you want to know more? Read here about 8 reasons to create a service blueprint.

service blueprint vs customer journey map

To clear up any misunderstandings: a service blueprint does not replace the customer journey map. It’s a supplement. A sequel even. The customer journey map shows how the end user experiences and experiences a certain service. It describes what the customer does, thinks and feels. It is all that can be seen on the surface, the front stage.

With a blueprint you dive into the world behind the experience. You involve the back stage: you dive into the organization. A service blueprint is the visual representation of (a part of) a service and shows the underlying internal processes.

Put very black and white: a customer journey map focuses on the customer experience and a service blueprint on the process through the eyes of the customer. So they complement each other perfectly.

service blueprint

Is one service blueprint sufficient?

Every organization benefits from a service blueprint. In fact, you should even make several.

You create a service blueprint based on a scenario. A scenario is part of a customer journey with a beginning and an end: someone wants to achieve a goal and the scenario illustrates the path he or she is following. Don’t be tempted to put multiple scenarios in one service blueprint: that makes things way too complicated. The purpose of the blueprint is precisely to clearly map out the entire scenario. So really start with one scenario per service blueprint. Optionally, if they turn out to be simple scenarios, you can still merge them or use them as a stepping stone to unravel more complex scenarios.

The service blueprint provides insight into internal connections and dependencies. This way you discover bottlenecks in your organization and you can get to work on them. It is a pragmatic tool that saves the customer frustration and saves the organization money. Who would not want that? Do you want to develop yourself in working with service blueprints? Then book the training ‘Aligning teams with service blueprints’ from our Academy.

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