Expressive Service Blueprinting

Guido Stevens | Jan 23, 2012 | design
Providing a visual model and language enables learning and communicating about complex service delivery systems.

When I talk to people about design, they usually think of visual design only, or maybe product design. In my mind, interaction design and service design are much more important, but the more abstract nature of those design disciplines (you can't see them) makes them more difficult to talk about.

The book, Living with Complexity, by renowned designer Donald A. Norman, contains an insightful essay on service design.

Services are far more complex than products and service design deserves far more attention than it gets. Norman quotes the Köln International School of Design on the the detrimental effects of this lack of attention:

Disfunctionality and formlessness are not unusual in this sector: endless waits, broken appointments, unfriendliness, unreliability as well as the torture of formalities that seem absurd determine the everyday service from the customer’s point of view. And the suppliers of service moan about the customer’s lack of price willingness, about unreliable loading factors and unmotivated service employees.

Köln International School of Design

A Systems approach to Service Design

The customer experience of any service results not only from the direct interactions between that customer and the service front-end, but also (and more so) from the interactions between and within the various back-end components performing the service, that are hidden from view from a customer perspective.

Executing a customer service request across a complex backend assembly in a seamless way, is only possible if all the component services involved have been designed from a systems perspective.

A consistent conceptual model encoding that systems perspective, should be exposed to help clients learn to navigate the service interface, and to understand and respond to any breakdown in the service choreography.

Expressive Service Blueprinting

Service Blueprinting is a diagramming technique that can be used to model service interactions as a system.

Expressive Service Blueprinting extends that method by also modeling the emotional state of the customer consuming the service, throughout the interaction with the service contact points.

Expressive Service Blueprint

Cosent has collaborated with the Köln International School of Design to apply this technique in a training programme for Siemens Energy services, as part of a Service Science Factory project I've blogged about before.

Encoding the Expressive Service Blueprint into a simulation environment that is played as a learning game, provides a shared visual model to all actors involved in service provisioning. Playing the simulation game visually demonstrates how actions traverse a full service systems model and affect client experiences, with the client expressing "unhappy", "neutral" and "happy" emotions.

This demonstrates how Service Blueprinting is not only useful as an analytical tool in (re)designing services, but can also be used to structure visual interfaces in ways that help participants in service choreographies, to better understand their role and the impact of their actions on the resulting customer experience.

Condensing complex service systems into a consistent model and language that can be explained and exposed to customers, transforms those customers from passive victims of torturing experiences, into active participants in co-creating solutions.

Even if nothing very much were to change materially, the switch from a passive to an active psychology will produce a vastly better experience for your customers. But of course the kick is, that once you start empowering your customers this way, it will become inevitable that you'll start learning to do things better and faster. And you can be pretty sure you'll have more fun, too, as your customers get happier.

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