Service Blueprint

What is it?

In its formal definition, a service is a value exchange between two or more people that occurs over time and across multiple touchpoints, including products, places, digital systems, and all forms of media. A service blueprint maps these touchpoints and describes how their tangible and intangible qualities affect how people feel and how much value they receive.

How do I do it?

Creating a service blueprint requires you to think of a service from the perspectives of both the recipient and the provider.

  1. Think about the service process. Describe the value that the recipient (or customer, or user) will receive if the service is provided successfully. For example, a hospital service may be "A patient's trauma is fixed or repaired."
  2. Service value is usually hierarchical. Working from service completion to inception, list any service goals that support the ultimate goal along the way. For example, the hierarchy of the hospital example might look like this:
  3. A patient's trauma is fixed or repaired

    A patient's family knows the status of the patient after surgery

    A patient's family is able to locate the patient

    A patient's family understands where to park

    An ambulance clearly knows where to bring a patient

    A patient's family is able to call for and secure an ambulance

  4. Consider whether you are missing items between the goal elements. For example, when the family arrives at the hospital, are there multiple buildings? Is there a guard or information booth that greets them? Do they need to pay for parking? How do they pay? Add these to the list. Arrange the goals and steps in a visual timeline. Label the timeline from the perspective of the user.
  5. Consider each timeline element from the perspective of the service provider (or providers, as in the hospital example). For example, when the patient's family calls for an ambulance, what is the experience of the service provider? Who answers the call? How does it get routed? What information is collected and passed from person to person? If you don't know, you'll need to find out. Write these elements on the map. Add a new row for any new individual or group. A blueprint may have as few as four rows or as many as dozens, depending of the complexity of the service.
  6. You need to distinguish between interactions that users are aware of and those that are invisible to the user, such as the use of payroll or finance systems, complex forms, or highly technical language, or the need for training. Don't let these off-stage interactions become visible to users because they introduce anxiety or unnecessary complexity and may serve to reduce users' trust or confidence in the system.

  7. Consider the transaction points—the handoffs—between the user and the service providers. What artifacts are used to support these exchanges? Is information... written on a piece of paper? ...entered into a computer system? ...spoken? Show these handoffs on the map by putting a symbol of the artifact between symbols of the people. These handoffs describe the touchpoints of the service. Along with written policies and procedures, these touchpoints dictate how people will use, experience, and feel about your service, so, ultimately, they will describe success or failure.
An example service blueprint

When should I use it?

Use a service blueprint when you are designing a new system or service to help you understand the various people involved and the necessary touchpoints you need to design. You can also use it to map an existing service, identify and articulate the problems and breakdowns, and propose solutions or touchpoint changes. And a digital product with multiple touchpoints (used in person and on a mobile phone and a computer) is opportune for service blueprinting. Use the method to ensure users' ability to access the information they need and desire on multiple platforms and in a way that makes sense to them.

What is the output, and how can I use it?

A service blueprint is a detailed map of how a series of interactions plays out over time. The output is a visual representation of these interactions. It can be used to present a complicated system, to call attention to areas that need improvement, to define areas for more research, or to drive collaborative consensus.

Where can I learn more?

Read "Designing Services That Deliver" by Lynn Shostack.

Continue to the Next Section:
Methods of Planning a Business

Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving