Transformation initiatives generally have low levels of success according to research. The limited success according to John Kotter, a leadership and change management professor at Harvard Business School, is the result of not following due process. In the field of digital transformation, due process involves first developing a thorough and robust understanding of the current state. In other words, we need to have an understanding of the customer’s end-to-end journey that includes the various touch points as well as the multiple processes and tools that support those experiences. This article will highlight the importance of developing a service blueprint when considering digital transformation. Additionally the importance of the customer’s experience as central to the development of the service blueprint will be explored.

As business owners, we first need to understand who our customers are and why they buy our products or services. Clayton Christensen, another Harvard Business School professor says, “People don’t simply buy products or services; they pull them into their lives to make progress. We call this progress the “job” they are trying to get done”. We, therefore, need to determine first and foremost, what is the job the customer is hiring the business for? Understanding this allows us to better define the customer journey, which is the first step in creating a service blueprint. 

Customer journey maps are a vital step in understanding the current state of the customer experience in any given service or product. However, it is important to note that these journey maps do not provide sufficient understanding of the process and tools that support the customer journey. When creating a digital transformation strategy that is intentional about customer engagement, we need to have a clear view of the entire service. A service blueprint provides us with a framework through which we can assess the efficacy of the business’ processes and tools. 

Every service a company offers will include multiple touchpoints with various products and people within the organisation. Additionally, each person within the company may trigger a number of different business processes through the use of more tools. It is not uncommon for employees to have to make use of more than 3 digital tools to get their job done. We can think of a service as a staged performance.

While there are a number of events happening on stage, there is usually a hive of activity backstage. Furthermore, there is all the effort involved in creating the production. The customer is only interested in the performance on stage, but it requires every part of the production to work together to deliver a great experience.

There are typically 5 key elements to a service blueprint. These elements help to visualise and differentiate the various processes within the end to end service. The key elements are;

  • The customer journey
  • Front stage actions
  • Backstage actions
  • Support processes
  • Lines that categorise the different functional areas

Creating a service blueprint follows a logical and inclusive process. It requires the input of a cross-functional team. This team ideally consists of people representing various divisions within the business, including front line staff. 

The first step is to create a high level view of what the customer journey is. We can use the example of an online retailer. Using Clayton Christensen’s framework, the customer has a “job to be done”, that job is to get a product they need or want. The customer needs to “hire” a service to get the product. With that in mind, we unpack the customer journey at a high level initially, the first phase of the customer journey would be to “browse”. The customer is deciding if the retailer is worth “hiring”. The second phase is “buy”, the customer has decided to hire the service provider and makes a purchase. The third phase is “receive”, the customer receives the product. The fourth phase is “query”, the customer may need to query or complain about the product. We can represent these phases in the diagram below.

Our next task is to flesh out each of these phases into touchpoints the customer might face. When we consider the browse phase in the context of “jobs to be done” the potential customers may want to evaluate whether the product is available, if the price is reasonable and how easy the website is to use. Once the decision to buy is made, the customer will need to follow the payment and order process. This process continues through the phases and we will create a level 1 customer journey map, as in the figure below.

Having established the customer’s journey, we can then assess each touch point in the journey and measure with our customers whether these touch points are a positive or negative experience. In addition to the customer journey, we need to understand which internal business process and tools we are using to support the touch points. As per the framework, we can divide these tools and processes into categories, Front stage, backstage and support processes. From the framework we see that customers interact with front stage processes and tools. We then need to map out all of these touch points. Once we have mapped out all the points of interaction, we can then step behind the “line of visibility” and map out the processes and tools that are triggered by the interaction points in the front stage. Additionally there may be some supporting processes that are triggered, such as third party systems. It is important that these are also captured in the service blueprint. 

With a service blueprint in hand, we are able to evaluate which technologies and processes interact with each other and how they support the customer journey. This information, combined with the measurement of customer experience through the journey now serves as the baseline from which to proceed. Understanding the problems we are trying to solve, we can then  leverage the latest technology to help solve the problem. Sustainable digital transformation is now possible.

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