Techniques to Visualize Product Impact: Experience Maps and Service Blueprints
August 31, 2022
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes
At Connected, we use our Product Thinking Playbook for just about everything: from designing new projects with clients, pivoting projects to yield better results, to learning new techniques as practitioners. Critical to the success of our playbook is the wide array of techniques that we as practitioners employ in our projects with clients to help them build better products.
In this article, I am going to talk about how two of our techniques work together to create meaningful and visual tools for organizations to think about their products beyond the process of product development. I will start by talking about how Experience Maps evolve into Service Blueprints, and what that means specifically for understanding your product at a deeper level. Surprisingly, these techniques are not commonplace in product strategy, but they should be because they illustrate not just what you do for your customers but how you do it.
In my experience, one of the most effective tools for visualizing the product experience is the experience map. The objective of an experience map is to visually represent the different stages, steps/actions, thoughts and emotions that the customer undertakes when using or interacting with a product (full technique definition below). There are a multitude of variations of experience maps, many of which you’ve probably heard of before (for example user journeys, journey maps etc.). For me, the most important distinction of an experience map is that it visualizes the emotional dynamics of the customer experience in a way that can help product teams understand the nuanced flow of emotions that occur at different stages. This helps us understand exactly where things need to stay the same and where things need to change to make the product experience more enjoyable.
Or, in the case of a future-oriented experience map, help hypothesize what the customer could feel throughout. This, in turn, equips you to make better product decisions when building it out.
One method for capturing customer sentiment throughout the product journey is capturing two specific psychological states: arousal (level of calmness or alertness) and affective valence (perception of negative or positive emotions). By understanding these types of perceptual and emotive attributes you can better understand the peaks and valleys of the customer experience. This allows the product team to pay particular attention to where the experience is lacking and where it is delightful.
Tip: Pay attention to the emotions at the end of your product experience, poorly designed customer experiences are easier to recall than good ones, especially towards the end. This is referred to as the peak-end rule, whereby people remember the highs, lows and ends of an experience and apply what they remember to the entire experience. This is why it’s important to understand fluctuating sentiment throughout.
While experience maps are excellent as a tool to understand your customer, they are still only half of the picture. This is where service blueprinting can come into play which shows the operational and technical requirements needed for your product to work as intended. It is, in fact, an evolution of your experience map that shows what happens in the organizational domain instead of just the customers’.
The service blueprint (technique definition below) is a surprisingly old tool, having been originally used to coordinate people in service delivery jobs: ones where people were involved with multiple ‘actors’ operating in front and behind the scenes of a customer experience. Now, in large organizations especially, they have made a comeback because product experiences don’t exist in isolation; they are connected to many different parts of the organization, even if experienced digitally. Sometimes they are even connected to other organizations.
For example, your credit card is not just connected to your bank account, it’s also connected to the loyalty program associated with it, to an agency for credit scoring, as well as various departments of customer care when things go wrong. All of this requires sophisticated coordination and symbiosis of the product experience with the organization’s operational capabilities. The product exists as part of a system and a blueprint can illustrate how that system works.
A service blueprint, even for a digital product, can help visualize this complexity and help you understand what connections are critical to ensure your product experience isn’t fragmented, disjointed or destined for experiential blackholes. In terms of the typical components of what is included in a service blueprint, see the figure below. There are many different variations of service blueprints; the best ones are simple and are relevantly designed for the type of customer experience that you have.
Tip: When evolving the experience map into a service blueprint pay attention to the changes in customer sentiment, if there is a dip in the sentiment you may be able to further investigate and diagnose operational deficiencies, we call these ‘service breakdowns’.
To conclude, these two techniques of the Connected playbook work together to give you a more holistic understanding of your product experience, not just in terms of what customers do but what you do to serve them. By building out these tools, decisions can be made, gaps can be assessed and filled, and experiential pitfalls can be managed. These techniques, when working together, visualize how you will make your product vision a customer and organizational reality.
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