Blueprint is generally referred to as the design of a plan. Similarly, service blueprinting is a technique that is used when planning a newly revised process and prescribing how it ought to function.
The process of service delivery is broken down into individual elements through a step, by-step mapping. This technique helps the organizations in designing, monitoring, controlling, and improving the service process on a regular basis.
The service blueprint can also be referred to as a visual representation of the service delivery process. It can be linked detailed map or flowchart.
Service blueprinting is a customer-oriented approach that aiH creating service improvement and innovative practices. It aims to chart out the entire service experience.
It also identifies the customer segment that is being targeted, the sequence of actions that are involved in creating the service, and also the various touchpoints and likely service failures that are expected in the service process.
The service blueprint helps to highlight the customer’s role and also points the value that exists in the experience that is being created.
It also helps to identify the likely service failures that can derail the service process. It can be used as a means of designing a new service.
It aids in the designing of customer-oriented matrices which can be used to gauge how efficiently the service is performing.
Components of Service Blueprint
A service blueprint has five components which are as follows:
1. Customer Actions: Customer actions mean all the activities of the customer as a part of the service delivery process.
The blueprint at its top mentions the activities of the customers in a systematic manner. It is different from other flowcharting processes because it makes the customer’s activities central to the creation of the blueprint.
Other functions in the blueprint support the value proposition offered to the customers.
2. Onstage/Visible Contact Employee Actions: Another critical component of the blueprint is “onstage/visible contact employee actions” which are separated from the customer by the line of interaction.
The activities of the front line staff in the form of face to face encounters are depicted on the service blueprint as onstage contact employee actions. Every such interaction between the customer and the employee is considered a moment of truth.
3. Backstage/Invisible Contact Employee Actions: The next vital component of the service blueprint is the backstage or invisible employee actions.
Everything seen above the line can be seen by the customers whereas everything below the line is not visible to the customers.
The activities which are below the line of visibility are explained. These can be in the form of tele-calling activities or activities that employees engage in to cater to customers as a part of their job roles.
4. Support Processes: Support processes are another vital component of the service blueprint. An internal line of interaction separates these processes from contact employees.
These support activities are performed by entities in the organization who are not contacted employees but such support activities are important for successfully delivering the services.
The supporting activities are shown in the form of vertical lines that originate from the support area and connect with other functional areas.
These vertical lines also represent the total support required by the service firm in delivering its services to the end customers.
5. Physical Evidence: The last part of the service blueprint is physical evidence. This comprises all the tangible elements of the service which are essential to influence the quality perception of the customers.
These elements of the physical evidence are necessary at every moment of truth.
Process of Service Blueprint
The process of service blueprinting is different for new and existing services. This has been explained below in detail:
Service Blueprint for New Services
The service blueprinting process for client-oriented new services involves four steps:
Step 1: Depiction of the Service Process from the Client’s Point of View: The very first step in the creation of the service blueprint is Ratifying and delimitating the service. The modeling of the service is done keeping the perception of the customer as central.
The whole process is arranged emphasizing achieving maximum customer satisfaction. For various target segments, the optimum definition of service is different.
It is, therefore, necessary to make a separate blueprint for each customer segment also additional blueprint needs to be prepared for meeting the needs of additional target groups.
For example, older customers prefer a face to face interaction with the service staff whereas the younger staff typically initiates their service requests through apps or the internet.
The activities of the service blueprint are shown with help of flow diagrams. The actions here are shown by rectangles; process transitions by arrows; start/endpoints by rounded rectangles and the decisions & ramifications by a diamond shape.
In the simplest form, a service blueprint appears as a linear process comprising steps following a sequence, Generally, the service blueprints are generated with the help of software.
Step 2: Identification of Client Contact Points: The blueprinting firstly focuses on defining the difference between the actions of clients and the service provider.
In the next step, the point of contact between the clients and the service firm is determined. Those steps which are performed solely by the clients are located above the interaction line.
The part of the process that deals with the interaction between the clients and the service firm are located between the interaction line and the line of visibility.
In the final step, the customer-oriented activities performed by the firm which do not necessarily imply contact with the customer are included in the service blueprint.
For example, in restaurants, the ordering of meals involves direct interaction with Ih clients. However, determining the restaurant’s menu is a customer-oriented process but does not involve direct contact with the customer.
Step 3: Identification of Front- and Back-End Integration: Once those activities are identified which can be perceived by the customer the next step is to identify the unperceivable activities.
The process step for these will be placed between the interaction line and the visibility line. Sometimes a service blueprint also includes two lower planes (support and control) depending on its objectives.
For example, in many cases of household repair of gadgets like washing machines the repair activity is not possible at the customer’s home address.
Also, many times the spare parts of the washing machine are ordered in advance. In both cases, the process is invisible or unperceivable from the client’s end.
Step 4: Resource Definition, Time Standards, and Tolerance: The next step in the service blueprint is to define the timeframe of the process.
This is done by determining the employee count, labor time, and other costs involved in the process. The requisite time for each process is calculated and then the resource for the same is allocated.
Possible deviation in estimated time should also be taken into consideration in order to derive accurate results.
This helps in testing the criticality of a service in terms of time and determining whether the services can be delivered within the stipulated time given by the customers.
For example, in the case of household repair of electrical appliances the required time and resources for the repair activity are calculated based on experience.
This is utilized later when the simulation of the service is done. In this manner, it is possible to work out the ideal work quantity that an individual employee should do and also the number of employees that will be required.
Service Blueprint for Existing Services By understanding and analyzing the present status of the service process, new innovation opportunities can be identified within the existing services.
Service blueprinting of existing services involves the following steps:
Step 1: Service Documentation and Decomposition into Component Processes: The first step in service processing of existing services is service documentation and decomposition.
It involves creating a record of the various service processes through a process of documentation or monitoring service transactions.
From the perspective of clients, the process can be carried out using the Critical Incident Method. Structured interviews and workshops are some of the most suitable methods for documenting internal service processes.
As we have seen that service blueprinting involves the representation of the process in sequential format; hence, this representation must be integrated with the decomposition of the service process.
This needs to be followed by resource and time documentation.
Step 2: Depiction of the Service Process: In case, the documentation cannot be synchronized with the service blueprint or cannot be represented in form of a flowchart with ordered process steps and interaction planes, then the conversion of the same into service blueprint Deeds to be changed.
A software package can be used for undertaking this process.
Step 3: Determination of Resources and Time Standards: This is the third step where the actual process roles must be transmitted to the service blueprint.
Each process step can be integrated with executable roles that are pre-defined. In the case of large organizations, RACI-Model (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) can be used.
Besides the information about the service process, the roles of the advisor and the information provider also need to be detailed.
Finally, the sequence of the service steps is determined and the time is taken completely the process is computed.
Step 4: Analysis and Service Improvement: Last but not least step involved in the process of service blueprint is analysis and service improvement.
Various methods can be used for analyzing the services. Any changes that are deemed necessary after the analysis of the process are incorporated and the same is included in the service blueprint.
The figure given below shows the service blueprint for a household maintenance service. This has two main objectives.
The first part tries to capture the various customer interactions that happen in the service activity whereas the second part tries to capture the various cost elements that are associated with the service.
The service process gets initiated when the machine suffers a breakdown. The client at this stage contacts the service company.
The client will try to explain his problem and will schedule an appointment with the service technician. The technician then visits the client’s home.
In the likely event that the client is not at home, a second appointment is scheduled. The technician inspects the fault in the machine and then makes an estimate of the prospective expenses in getting the machine repaired.
In case the repairs do not require the purchase of additional parts then the technician gives an on-the-spot estimate of the cost, which if found suitable, initiates the repair activity.
However, a follow-up appointment is given if any additional part or special tool is required by the technician.
Once the repair activity is carried out successfully the firm gives an invoice to the customer, follow-up activity of the service is considered as part of the distinct service function.
The figure shows that all activities in the blueprint are not at the same level. Activities like the description of the problem, fixing up a technician visit, or making a payment are done by the client and not the service provider.
The onstage activities can be perceived by the customer as he is directly involved in the process. However, the backstage activities like spare part order, preparation of the invoice, traveling of the technician, etc., are unperceivable.