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Rethinking Library Service: Improving the User Experience with Service Blueprinting
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Pretlow, C., Sobel, K. (2015). Rethinking Library Service: Improving the User Experience with Service Blueprinting. Public Services Quarterly, 11(1), 1-12. doi:10.1080/15228959.2014.967826
Sobel, Karen ( Author, Secondary )
Pretlow, Cassi ( Author, Primary )
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Service blueprinting is a process that businesses use for analyzing and improving service. Originally presented in the Harvard Business Review in 1984, it has retained a strong following ever since. At present, it is experiencing a revival at numerous academic institutions. The authors of this article present the process of service blueprinting. They illustrate it with an example that will be familiar to a range of librarians at academic libraries.
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1 Public Services Quarterly 11.1(Jan. Mar. 2015): 1 12. Title: Rethinking Library Service: Improving the User Experience with Service Blueprinting Abstract: Service blueprinting is a process that businesses use for analyzing and improving service. Originally presented in the Harvard Business Review in 1984, it has retained a strong following ever since. At present, it is experiencing a revival at numerous acad emic institutions. The authors of this article present the process of service blueprinting. They illustrate it with an example that will be familiar to a range of librarians at academic libraries. KEYWORDS: service blueprinting, academic libraries, public services, customer service, computers, usability, library users INTRODUCTION In 1984, G. Lynn Shostack, a bank CEO, created a model for analyzing processes in which customers took part in identifying diffi culties they encountered. She called this service blueprinting Long lines, limited hours, challenges with terminology or rules? A committee would look at these problem factors, enter them onto a detailed chart, and work with their colleagues to resolve them. The simple design facilitated great im provements at many corporations. Soon, all kinds of organizations adopted service blueprinting. Discussions of the process spread throughout scholarly and professional literature in many fields. At present, blueprinting is experiencing a revival at acade mic institutions across the United States. Some institutions invite representatives from


2 interest ed departments to take part in university wide blueprinting sessions. Departments identify challenges faced in their own realms, and convene with each other fo r advice and support. This article presents customer service blueprinting from the viewpoint of academic librarians who work in public services. The authors present the process of blueprinting, along with sample documentation used by their library: an institution that serves over 50,000 students from the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and the Community College of Denver They discuss a sample situation in which they have used blueprinting to create real change at their library. They hope that the model will inspire patron centered change at other academic libraries. What is a Service Blueprint? Service blueprinting is a technique used for service improvements and innovation. In the view. For libraries, the customer experience could focus on undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, or staff. Mapping processes of a service involves different components (customer, front and backstage actions, support processes and physical evidence) which are separated by lines. hat makes blueprinting different from other flowcharting approaches is that the actions of the customer are central to the creation of the blueprint, and as such they are typically laid out first so that all other activities can be seen as supporting the value proposition offered to or co Bitner (2008 ) defines the blueprint components as the following: Customer Actions: The chronological steps that customers take as part of the service delivery process.


3 Front Stage (Visible Contact Employee) Actions: The face to face actions between staff and customers, separated from the customer actions by a Backstage (Invisible Contact Employee) Actions: The parts of the the front stage from the backstage actions Customers see everything above the line of visibility and do not see any part of the service processes under the line of visibility. Support Processes: arates the public service staff from the support processes. These are all the behind the scenes actions that need to happen for the service to be delivered. Physical Evidence: For each customer action, this is the physical evidence that customers come in c ontact with and is described at the top of the service blueprint. These can influence quality perceptions of the service. Vertical swim lanes are included in the blueprint, connecting the different components to show essential points of contact and suppo rt for delivering the service. For example, a swim lane would exist between the customer seeking help and the staff providing help. In some circumstances, particular components may need modification. For instance, if blueprinting an online service that does not require any face to face interaction between staff and customers, front stage actions could be removed. This could be replaced with a front stage technology s might need both a front stage employee contact actions row and a front stage technology row. After documenting the components, fail points are added. Fail points are issues in the service where the process is time consuming, inconsistent or of low quali ty (Shostack, 1984; Ostrum, 2011).


4 Internal fail points may also exist and need inclusion. Ostrum (2011) explains process that employees perceive as taking too much effort and can negatively affect their ability to serve customers If applicable, the final layer of the blueprint includes enhancement opportunities, which are not barriers to service, but would improve the customer experience. step process was used to construct an Aur aria Library service blueprint: 1. Identify the service to be blueprinted. 2. Identify the customers that experience the service 3. the time. 4. Map the actions of the contact employee (front stage and backstage), and/or technology actions 5. Link the customer activities to the any support processes 6. Add physical evidence for every customer action step LITERATURE REVIEW A broad range of professional and scholarly literature discusses service blueprinting. This literature review explores articles that portray the history of blueprinting, as well as the usage of blueprinting across various professions. Readers will notice that blueprinting has only received a few not able instances of discussion in literature coming from academic libraries. A Select History of Service Blueprinting


5 Harvard Business Review presented service blueprinting. Shostack a senior vice president at the Bankers Trust Company, created the process in an effort to improve customer service in the banking industry. Her article provides charts that will look quite familiar to readers of recent articles on blueprinting. She discu sses examples both in terms of banking and in terms of another service familiar at the time: shoe shining. The corporate world adopted and embraced service blueprinting. In 1989, Lynn G. Coleman of Marketing News published portions of a handful of intervi ews on blueprinting. Interviewee Jane Kingman Brundage, of Kingman Brundage Inc., discussed ways in which service blueprinting allowed her interviewee, Wendy M. Hos blueprinting aided her group in better selecting phlebotomists with strong interpersonal skills. Kingman Brundage discussed her own strategies, and also provided a detailed analysis o f the sections of a service blueprint, in a 1989 book chapter. Readers will find the details on material that can be covered in a blueprint practical. Nonprofit organizations eventually embraced service blueprinting. Michael Jay Polonsky and Romana Garma d fundraising. The article also provides a detailed history of blueprin ting in the nonprofit sector. workflow. He then gives scenario s in which the employees themselves help to reenvision workflow and come up with more practical models. presented her blueprinting model to business audiences in a revise d format. She highlights a new aspect


6 of blueprinting -the fact that it is not solely presented through text or through visuals, but through a combination of formats (6). She emphasizes that this helps reach out to a wider audience, and to present a rich er picture of need and improvement. Numerous articles and chapters focus on detailed examples of improving customer service in the business world. Books on customer service often present blueprinting as part of a bigger customer service improvement strate The Service Quality Handbook presents it as a middle stage of customer service improvement and evaluation. Other stages and options in the book include familiar strategies such as Total Quality Management. Service blueprint ing was alive and well at the end of the twentieth century. Numerous articles came out of the business and nonprofit sectors at this time. The articles demonstrate ways in which users were adapting the process to their own prefe rences and needs. Elsa Koljo nen of Intel and Richard A. Reid of the University of New Mexico provide a text and data heavy service blueprint. While many organizations may find the more common graphic oriented plans more to their taste, this article provides an alternative presentati on. Interestingly, throughout three decades of intense usage, the general model for service presents service blueprinting for modern audiences in almost the exact same forma t that Shostack had created 24 years common in the business world. Service Blueprinting in Libraries one of the first to discuss blueprinting in the library setting, focuses specifically on Association of Research Libraries (ARL) libraries assessing and meeting student and faculty needs. Phipps presents a


7 holistically (639 41). She also discusses service blueprinting as a step in strategic planning (643) Bulu Maharana and Krushna Chandra Panda (2001) discuss a nuanced version of service libraries (106), and guide other librarians toward doing so as well. Their goal is to analyze and update these core processes, so that libraries may focus on their greatest areas of institutional need. Maharana article provid benchmarking. Within [higher education] there is a shift away from a n elite to a mass system, where the Radnor et al. (2014 ) present a public servic es oriented discussion of the service blueprinting experiences at the library (403). The authors provide a flow chart style alternative to the typical service bl ueprinting graphic (415). This option may interest readers who are already have a high degree of comfort with flow charts. Baranova, Morrison, and Mutton (2011) present a useful and detailed case study from the University of Derby. Readers may find their a Customer Service in Academic Libraries


8 A few articles have explicitly discussed service blueprinting and customer service in academic libraries. In a 2011 Library Journal Academic Newswire editorial, Steven J. Bell argues that customer service blueprinting helps a cademic libraries to genuinely understand and respond to large scale student needs. He notes that some libraries have unintentionally adopted an approach of providing technology to meet each need. However, this is not appropriate for all situations. Bluepr inting guides librarians toward more informed decision making. Judith Andrews and Eleanor Eade express a similar concern with genuine improvement of customer service, as opposed to trying to improve too much while missing genuine issues (165 6). In additio customer service mapping, including articles on its use in preparation for the London 2012 Olympic Games (166). Service Blueprinting across Higher Education Other areas of higher education have adopted service blueprinting on a larger scale. The Center for American Progress (Ostrom, Bitner, and Burkhard, 201 1 ) has collected case studies of blueprinting in many disciplines (29 38). Librarians interested in blueprinti ng can learn much from these examples. The authors present highly tangible benefits for all, such as advice on using blueprinting as a part of the grant writing process (47 8). Ostrom, Bitner, and Burkhard ( 2012 ) have also written a succinct piece for EDU CAUSE Review highlighting the process and benefits of service blueprinting. One useful area of clarification is that of microprocesses and macroprocesses. The authors discuss the scales of such goals, and map out several examples based on popular goals in higher education. METHODOLOGY


9 wide service blueprinting project. library to evaluate th e user experience by uncovering shortcomings in library services. This way changes could be made to improve the experience and facilitate academic success The authors joined university monthly blueprinting meetings to discuss the process and milestones. The library organized a task force with representatives from al l departments who contributed their various areas of expertise It is suggested that service blueprints be created by cross functional teams of individuals who have knowledge and awareness of t he service process. (Bitner, 2012; Ostrum, 2011). The task force first met to identify services that had the most failure points based on user feedback This feedback had been collected by online, written, and in person methods. The following services wit h the biggest fail points were identified : Research h elp Checkout Course Reserves Scheduling a group study room Faculty r esources online Finding an article Finding a book Distance e ducation experience with the library Student desktop computing in the library The task force chose student desktop computing as the first project. They felt that this would be a smaller scale project, which was preferable for two reasons: 1) This was the first time implementing a


10 service blueprint project; and 2) A quick turnaround of results to facilitate staff buy in of the model was ideal. In addition, librarians were aware of many fail points through anecdotal feedback. The task force then drafted a scope statement and a summary to detail the vision of the with students entering the library, to finding a computer, logging in, using the computer and possibly To find the fail points, the authors chose a mixed methods approach. Quantitatively, the authors analyzed and coded help desk questions. Qualitatively, they performed non participant observation and unstructured interviewing of public service staff. In addition, comment cards were reviewed for patterns of issues with public computers. All methods were used to map the customer process and discern fail points. The authors and their colleagues examined computer and printing help desk questions gathered between August 2012 and May 2013. The H elp D esk is not staffed during June and July hence the exclusion of these months The majority of printing and simple technical questi ons asked in the library originate at this desk. Thus, the committee felt that questions asked there accurately represented student needs. were not used in this study due to the focus on desktop computing were too random to prove useful for this project A total of 17,895 questions were as ked during this period A breakdown revealed questions regarding printing (4,978), log in to computer (4,008), using the hardware and software of the computer (2,178), and how to do research (758) (See Figure 1)


11 FIGURE 1 Help Desk Questions by Category, August 2012 May 2013. These four categories comprised 67% of total questions asked during this period. The authors were confident that fail points existed due to the number of questions about printing, log in to the computer and using the computer. 108 ,333 computer sessions occurred during this period, so approximately every 17th person using a public compute r asked a question. The authors recognized that one person could ask multiple questions. After analyzing the number of questions, qualitative metho ds were used to distinguish the fail points. First, one year of comment cards were reviewed to uncover any issues with public computers. Of the 63 cards, 45% related to the computing areas. 35% of the computing area complaints regarded signage, noi se, finding help and printing. It is understood that these comment card submissions may not have been representative of the library user population since no demographic data was requested on the card; yet they provided unsolicited insight on fail points N ext, the authors interviewed staff who worked at the Help Desk. Through open ended questions, we asked staff to elaborate on the specific questions they were asked by users within each category (computer, log in, printing, research). For example, they were 4,978 4,008 2,178 758 0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000 6,000 Printing Log in to computer Using computer How to do research Number of Questions Question Category


12 issues in the service might be prompting these questions? Finally, five staff, who had never used the public computer and pri nting services before were asked to go through the process of finding a library computer and perform ing specific tasks such as opening Microsoft Word, send ing a print job to the printer and pay ing for a print at the print station. Without any leading questions, they were asked to explain their experience at every step and include any frustrations they encountered. The authors observed behaviors and wrote down comments. The authors acknowledge that this was convenience sampling and not representative of the user population. The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and RESULTS The data gathered provided a surrogate for the user point of view to document each step of the customer actions from the minute they begin the service until the end. Participating committee members made a chronological list of steps on a plain text document before entering them into a blueprint. They then presented the document to the rest of the task force. The fail points were determined and connected to the customer actions. There were six fail points for customers and one internal fail point: 1) Hard to find computers 2) No quick way to find available computers 3) Computer login screen confusing 4) Finding help 5) Finding printer 6) Expectation of free prints


13 7) Internal: staff receives complaints from students about paying for prints 8) Have to go far to get change for print payment The enhancement opportunities were: 1) Computer does not have the same software that my lab has 2) There is no clear distinction on which areas are for group/noisier work and which are for individual/quiet work 3) Finding citation format help 4) Complex printing guide ins tructions With the task force in agreement on the customer action s and fail points, the authors began to formulate the blueprint. After the customer actions and fail points were added, the Front Stage and Backstage Actions, Support Processes, and Physical Evidence were included. Swim lanes were added to show the connections and support for delivering the service. (See Figure 2) [INSERT FIGURE 2.] After completing the blueprint, fail points and enhancement opportunities were added to the project management software Trello ( ) to track and assign to individual staff for amelioration. Committee members and their colleagues have addressed all fail points and enhancement opportunities. Some c hanges include clearer and more obvious signage, purchasing of additional software, editing of the login screen text, and adding visuals to the printing instructions. CONCLUSION The service blueprinting model and example illustrate how a customer centered technique can be used to assess a service and create a better user experience Future implementations of service


14 blueprinting at the Auraria Library will involve student and faculty input and perhaps use video to capture the service experience A great outcome of implementing the service blueprint process was that the service blueprint to explore pressing questions, such as why do some students not come into the library and what service improvement might help address the issue? With the growing interest in service blueprinting, this has set the framework for a cult ure of providing user centered rather than library centered services. REFERENCES Andrews, J., & Eade, E. (2013). Listening to s tudents: Customer j ourney m apping at Birmingham City University Library and l earning r esources. New Review o f Academic Lib rarianship 19 (2), 161 177. Baranova, P., Morrison, S., & Mutton, J. (2011). Enhancing the student experience through service design: The U niversity of D erby approach. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 15 (4), 122 128. Bell, Steven -and it may help. Library Journal Academic Newswire. bell/a little business wont hurt and it may help from the bell tower/


15 Bitner, M. ( 1993 ) Managing the e vidence of s ervice In Scheuing, E. and Christopher, W. (Eds.), The Service Quality Handbook (pp. 358 370) New York: Amacom. Bitner, M., Ostrom, A. L., & Morgan, F. N. (2008). Service b lueprinting: A practical technique for service innovation. Californi a Management Review 50 (3): 66 94. Bitner, M. J., Ostrom, A. L., & Burkhard, K. A. (2012). Service blueprinting: Transforming the student experience. EDUCAUSE Review 47 (6), 38. Coleman, L. G. (1989). Blueprint sets foundation for better service and customer satisfaction. Marketing News 23(26) Dec. 18, 14. Koljonen, E.L. P.L., Reid, R.A. (2000). Walk through audit provides focus for service improvements for Hong Kong l aw f irm. M anaging Service Quality 10(1): 32 46. Jeal, Y. (2005). Re engineering customer services: University of Salford information services division. New Library World 106(7 8):352 62. Kingman Brundage (Eds.) Designing a Winning Service Strategy (pp. 30 33) Chicago: American Marketing Association. Maharana B., & Panda, K. (2001). Planning business process reengineering (BPR) in academic libraries. Malaysian Journal Of Library & Information Science 6 (1), 105 111.


16 Nielsen, J. (2000, March 19). Why you only need to test with 5 users. Retrieved from Nielsen Norman Group website: you only need to test with 5 users/ Ostrom, A. L., Bitner, M. J., Burkhard, K. A., & Center for American Progress. (2011). Leveraging service blueprinting to rethink higher education: When students become valued customers, everybody wins. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress Phipps, S. (2001). Beyond Measuring Service Quality: Learning from the Voices of the Customers, the Staff, the Processes, and the Organization. Library Trends 49 (4), 635 60. Polonsky, M.J. and R. Garma. (2006). Service b lueprinting: A p otential t ool for i mproving c ause d onor e xchanges. Journal Of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing 16(1 2): 1 20. Radnor, Z., Osborne, S., Kinder, T., & Mutton, J. (2014). Operat ionalizing co production in public services delivery: The contribution of service blueprinting. Public Management Review, 16 (3), 402 423. Shostack, G. L. (1984). Designing services that deliver. Harvard Business Review 62 (1), 133 139. Shostack G. L. 1992. Understanding s ervices through b lueprinting. Advances in Services Marketing and Management 1: 6 23. Zeithaml, V. A., & Bitner, M. J. (2000). Services marketing: Integrating customer focus across the firm. Boston, MA: Irwin McGraw Hill.