A service blueprint is a tool of marketing strategy designed to help guide effective business decisions, such as innovations. Service blueprints are a customer-focused process for visualizing what factors are necessary to produce superior service, how superior service will be performed, and how to create optimal experiences for consumers.
Just like companies use schematics or blueprints to help them construct products and buildings, service businesses use blueprints to ensure all the factors are in place and processes optimized to ensure optimal customer experience.
Underpinning the notion of service blueprinting is an understanding of customer expectations and evaluative schema.
Strategic Advantage of Service Blueprints
Service blueprints are beneficial to organizations because they provide concreteness in the innovation process and specificity of language lacking in simple verbal treatments of a service innovation. Service blueprints also help detect potential areas of service failure and highlight potential service problems before they occur. * Service blueprinting also shows inter-relationships between the actions of various internal actors in providing optimal experience to consumers.
Constructing a Service Blueprint
First, you need to collect information regarding 5 aspects of the proposed service:
- Customer actions – these should conform to service schema. For instance, when visiting a physician, patients know they must check in with the receptionist then wait to be called. Once called, they proceed to the inner office where a nurse weights them, takes vital signs, and medical history. Alternative, an innovative service might break from traditional schema to increase competitive advantage.
- Onstage elements — things the customer sees as part of the service. Examples in a restaurant might include the waitstaff and hostess.
- Backstage elements – things that occur behind the scenes in providing service. Examples in a restaurant might include chefs, prep staff, and the cleaning crew.
- Physical evidence – Onstage elements also include elements of the servicescape such as lighting, decor, and layout. Backstage elements might include pots and pans in a restaurant.
- Support processes – for instance, a lab supports the physician by processing and reporting results of lab work.
Once processes are identified in chronological order, a flow chart can be constructed linking elements from each of the 5 categories into a cohesive framework. A critical element is constructing separate blueprints for different types of consumers based on their needs and the types of service required. For instance, a patient coming for a routine physical will likely involve a different blueprint than one coming for a complex office procedure.
Other Uses for Service Blueprints
While useful in service innovation as a means to conceptualize what a service might look like, service blueprinting is also useful for existing services as a tool to visualize bottlenecks in the service, show interrelationships between departments and personnel, and suggest ways to improve the customer experience.
*G.L. Shostack, “Designing Services That Deliver,” Harvard Business Review, 62 (January-February
M.J.Bitner, A.L. Ostrom, F.N. Morgan, “Service Blueprinting: A Practical Technique for Service Innovation,” California Management Review, (2008).