Featured Project of the Month: How to use service blueprinting to map your organization end-to-end experience

Our monthly feature of a cross-company product development at Tamedia.

There is this guy (let’s call him Kevin), who is selling his old singing equipment on an online-marketplace and has had trouble publishing his ads online. He wanted to upload more than three pictures without having to pay a monthly premium rate and is now extremely annoyed by the marketplace.

And then there’s this Product Manager (let’s call her Vicky), who has been managing the process of the payments  but does not know which difficulties may await the user in his or her user journey beforehand. This is where it can get tricky, because users bring certain emotions and mindsets into each step of their journey, as we all know… So, we believe it is crucial for all stakeholders of a product to understand each and every tiny step in the journey of their users.

The user-centered approach to product development being quite new, it naturally takes a little time to establish itself, both in the realization of a product, as well as in the perception of the stakeholders working with (and on) the product. So here are the good news: There exists a validated method for stakeholders to see the customer’s experience from a holistic viewpoint.

This is what stood our test:

Designing the service blueprint of a product, service or online platform together with the stakeholders. The outcome is not only a visual instrument for interactive meetings, but it also helps to raise awareness of all the different steps in the services your company offers. It is an instrument for continuously improving  not only the user’s journey and experience but also the organization and the way a service can be delivered.

And this is what the canvas board, as we call it, will look like:

You can print the board in oversize for the largest  wall of your office and have everyone interact with it in meetings and ideation sessions - and as a bonus, you can torture newbies by asking them to learn it by heart on their first day… (just kidding, or not?)

The process to generate it, could be a one-day collaborative workshop or a longer process guided by user research. To begin with, it will probably look somewhat like this:

And this is how you get there:

So what we’ve worked out is a canvas that essentially it can be defined as a photography of the front-end and back-end of a service and his touchpoints. The layout we’ve used proved to be very helpful: Our blueprinting system includes the user journey as its top layer, like a storyboard. This allows following every step of the user flow and tracking the interaction of the user with the platform. The blueprinting extends to the user line thus making it possible to display clearly its connections with the organizational structure of the company at each step.

Let’s see this on the example of a marketplace: There we have a buyer and seller perspective, a money transaction, and a real-life interaction between buyer and seller. And in between all those steps: The stakeholders of the brand.

1 - Analyzing the user journey:

In the workshop, as a first step, all stakeholders think about user profiles and stereotypical context situations or start with already validated personas profile or user context observed in a previous research phase. For example: What is the user looking for? What does he or she need, and why or what for? Once you’ve chosen a prototypical user you can go on and create a user journey for him or her. It begins with the first idea of buying or selling something, all the way to the actual transaction. In our workshops with Tutti and Ricardo this included the process from searching something on the platform to the purchase, the payment process and the in-person meeting between buyer and seller.  The stakeholders started creating the user journey of their prototypical user step-by-step in order to identify and refine the ideal process.

The user’s needs at each step of the journey have to be defined, as do any possibly upcoming difficulties he or she might face at specific steps of the interaction with the platform.

Further, we analyzed how satisfied the customers are at each step of their journey and how they assess their experience with the platform interaction. Where are the critical points in the journey where users tend to become unhappy or angry ? This may be internally weighted, though it  eventually needs to be confirmed by conducting fundamental research on those topics.

2 - Defining the Blueprint of the user journey:

The Blueprint reflects the organizational structure at every step of the user journey.

We then defined the role of the individual stakeholders in the journey who are responsible for guaranteeing that the promised services are being provided. For example, there is the developer’s team that builds the webpage, the designers in charge of the visuals and the client support team that assists the user with any questions or problems in the course of the journey. We found out that it is very important to understand who has influence on the user journey, and at what stage from a company-perspective, as well as to identify which technologies are being used.

3 - Using the Canvas board in day-to-day work life: Ricardo and its humongous printouts

Ricardo, as one of the Tamedia brands, has already integrated the canvas board into its daily work life. There are two huge printouts hanging in the office in Zug, moving again and again form department to department. In a short interview with Daphne, the Head of Design,  she told us how she uses the user journey daily as the essential blueprint on which she bases her ideation sessions, strategic meetings and team discussions.

“You have to bring the best experience to your customers otherwise you could not exist” she says. And if you don’t know what you’re delivering to your users, “then there’s an issue”, Daphne laughs out. She sees the canvas board as a living document that is constantly worked on and improved. For her, the blueprint is a start, based on assumptions made by  the stakeholders during the workshop, and on already existing data: She knows her users log in, buy, and sell - she doesn’t need research for that. So this is where Ricardo started. And now that it is displayed in the middle of the office, the teams can improve and expand it. They continue to validate the steps they defined in the workshop with UX research.  Some steps they didn’t map, leaving them to be found out through the process: such as, whether users change their profile settings. But this is why she looks at it as a lively process and not a static plan. “A user journey is very stable and won’t include drastic changes, except if we would branch out strategically into a whole different direction. What changes are the pain-points in each and every step, so each step you try to improve  may change the way the user interacts with the platforms”.

Daphne told us that the user journey was recently used again in an exercise with the product team as key reference in defining the product strategy. Evaluating the user journey from the perspective of different key users and identifying the SWOT at every step helps the whole product team to understand where the product is today and where it could potentially improve.

How to build your own service blueprint canvas

We offer workshops where you can visit us with your whole team.  In a one- or two-day session we will help you create your very own canvas board and support you all the way through from the very start to the final outcome.

What would you like to read about in our next "Project of the Month" coverage?