The experience a person has with a product or service has always been important, but as the five star customer experience has increasingly become the norm, a “good experience” just doesn’t cut it anymore. “Exceptional” and “terrible” are memorable, leaving “good” to fall by the wayside.
In order to deliver such a memorable interaction, the consolidation of all touch points of a service must be established. But how do you do this in a way that is innovative in providing value to your customer and your organization?
This is something that Mary Jo Bitner explores in her paper “Service Blueprinting: A Practical Technique for Service Innovation.” Bitner explains that there is an immense lack of innovation in the designing of services as compared to the constant innovation of tangible, stand alone products.
All businesses are services at some level, and more attention needs to be paid to the designing and crafting of the service in order for a business to differentiate itself from the competition. Bitner offers up one method for such innovation: Service Blueprinting.
“…service blueprinting can facilitate the detailed refinement of a single step in the customer process as well as the creation of a comprehensive, visual overview of an entire service process.”
You can think of service blueprinting as a participatory design exercise where the stakeholders (executives, employees and customers) get together and analyze the current state of a service and collaboratively design the ideal state. Together, they visually model all the components of the service process. With all perspectives accounted for, service blueprinting can be a powerful tool for insight and innovation.
As a cross sectional view of the entire system, it forces people to stand up, look around and reframe their understanding of the effect they are having on each other as well as the system as a whole.
I can see how this is a powerful participatory design tool. It’s a form of problem modeling by dynamically reframing the problem through multiple perspectives. While the final blueprint is important in laying out the vision for the service, the co-creation makes it so any changes made to the existing service are more willingly adopted.
Bitner explains that once designed, the blueprint acts as a constant collaboration tool that can be referenced and iterated on as the service evolves and the company grows. This left me wanting to know more. How can it be properly iterated upon without collaboration and feedback? The blueprints form a vision for the company– Once implemented, how is the vision carried on through new employees?
I imagine there needs to be a continuous co-creation process.
I question the power of the form of the blueprints following the co-creation and implementation. I’m not sure if delivered as is, they would resonate with new employees who did not help create them. It would seem that if you have total buy-in from employees who were a part of the creative process, then your best bet of getting new adoption is by example. This provides an opportunity to transfer the value of the blueprint to another form of delivery.
The blueprint could take the form of a series of learning experiences. Possibly, on-boarding for new employees could involve being a customer for a day as well as working in adjacent departments. This would encourage a shared perspective and possibly continue the co-creation process.
The power of service blueprinting lies in the collaborative experience that allows for a shared understanding and visualization of current breakdowns and opportunities for change. It works because those who will be most affected are fully involved in the process. I’m curious how this method could be applied to larger constructs such as education and city planning.