There are many facets to service design, and that’s honestly why I love the discipline. Designing a great service involves service touch points (interactions customers have with your service in physical and digital spaces), supporting operational processes, and communications.

The primary tool to visualize a service is called a “service blueprint“. Service blueprints conceptually illustrate a service in layers – from what the customer experiences (touchpoints and artifacts), to how the organization interacts with customers, to supporting back-end operations (think processes and systems).

And here’s the deal. Service blueprints, because of how they connect customer needs with business operations, are an ideal tool for framing content strategy.

Content strategy confuses many people because they’re not sure where it belongs and who’s in charge of it (spoiler alert: content strategy needs to float across all organizational departments to be truly effective). I think it has something to do with the fact that content strategy looks something like marketing, but doesn’t quite fit in that box. It also looks something like digital strategy and even customer service, but doesn’t quite fit in those boxes, either. And it doesn’t help that there is no standard definition for what “content strategy” is. Does a full page magazine ad count as “content”? A :30 TV spot? YouTube video? Banner ad? Instagram post? Call center script?

But it doesn’t have to be this difficult. When you define content strategy as an integral part of the solution to providing a quality service for your customers, it makes it clear as to what the purpose of content should be. Content helps your customers solve their problems and inspires them to complete their goals.

By defining content as a key part of delivering a quality service to customers, we’re now back to service blueprints as a helpful tool for planning and executing a content strategy. Here’s a few tips to get you started:

  1. Begin with documenting your baseline service blueprint. Similar to a journey map, you want to document all of the steps your customers take when they engage in a service with you. In addition to process steps, what are the “artifacts” and other interactions (websites, physical communications, human interaction, etc.) customers come in contact with? Finally, what internal processes, procedures, data, and tools does it take to deliver this service? You can usually document this by talking with your colleagues – those within your team as well as across other departments that play a role in delivering the service.
  2. Now that you’ve documented the “layers” of your service blueprint it’s time to create hypotheses around what the goals and pain points are for your customers in each step. What are they trying to accomplish and what barriers to accomplishing those goals stand in their way? This will become a fundamental piece of information for your content strategy.
  3. With hypotheses in mind, it’s time to talk to customers. Ask them to articulate the steps they take when they engage in a service with your organization. How well does that align with what you discovered earlier? Also ask them about what frustrates them or what could be better and why. See if this aligns with your hypotheses above. Take this customer insight and use it to update your service blueprint. You’re now ready to use this information to inform your content strategy.
  4. Grab a cross-functional group of colleagues and review the service blueprint together. Brainstorm ways in which content can help solve problems as well as inspire customers to attain their goals. Consider all forms of content – from inspirational marketing communications, to helpful content that answers questions along the way, to content that helps deliver utility. Capture all of these ideas for the final step.
  5. Once you’ve got a significant number of content ideas in the hopper, it’s time to prioritize what you’ll do now vs. later. Use a simple matrix to prioritize ideas in two dimensions: impact and effort. Ideas that are both high impact and low effort get done immediately. Ideas that are high impact and high effort get done next. Low impact and low effort ideas may get done after that and you can drop the low impact/high effort ideas altogether. Once prioritized, it’s time to turn strategy into action by prepping and executing a production schedule.

That’s it. Content strategy doesn’t need to be complicated; it just needs to be purposeful. Give us a shout and we’ll help you use service blueprints to create some content strategy magic.