September 28, 2015

Co-creation - How to create new mobile services together with users?

Sami Uski

Advisor, Customer Experience in Financial Services, Tieto

The key to co-creating new mobile services with users is helping users and providers to learn from each other: developers must understand customer needs, whilst users need to discover new ways of utilising services. Sami Uski explains the key insights from our experience in a collaborative research project with Nordea, Nokia, Aalto University and VTT.

How can a bank create new mobile services that truly appeal to users in an industry plagued by stagnating development of new services? This was the starting point of our Mobile Financial Services project nearly five years ago. To solve this problem, we decided to bring together two major industries that had not collaborated previously: the financial industry, through Nordic bank Nordea, and mobile services, by bringing in Nokia.  

In order to truly understand what kind of new mobile services banking customers would benefit from, we initiated a service development project based on co-creation with the end-users. The aim was to not only better understand users and their needs, but also to examine the benefits and challenges of involving users throughout an iterative service development process. Research institutes VTT and Aalto University were invited to help focus our research.

In practise, the co-creation process consisted of three elements: interviews, field studies and finally testing prototypes with users. In this post I share the key lessons we learned during the process.

Phase 1: Interviews and field studies — understanding customer needs

When developing a novel product or service, it is crucial to start with a deep understanding of the end users. Some of the questions that need to be answered are:

What are the main needs of service users? 
How are they currently executing their tasks?
What services are they currently using and in what way? 
Could there be simpler or more effective alternatives?

To answer these questions, we conducted both interviews and observation-based field studies. In the field studies, we were able to access the real-world environments in which services were being used, such as the workplaces of small and medium-sized enterprises. This enabled us to identify gaps between needs and current service offerings. In this way, we not only observed how tasks were executed, but could also challenge users and suggest alternatives.

This process allowed all parties to learn simultaneously. As service developers, we learned completely new use cases for financial services; Nordea, on the other hand, learned that users desired far more from their banking services than was being offered at the time - such as the ability to predict and visualise business trends. But most importantly, the users learned that their tasks can be accomplished more effectively by utilising different services.

Phase 2: Prototype-testing — improving the user experience

User experience can be a dealbreaker when new digital services are brought to the market—even if a service meets user needs, a poor user experience is typically a deathblow to the new service.

In the second phase of the research project, we aimed to answer the following questions:

What makes a new financial service feel safe to use?
What could discourage users from utilizing the new service? 

In order to answer these questions, we let real users test concrete prototypes of the service concepts.  Users tend to be creatures of habit that are rarely question their routines and therefore do not find new ways to execute their tasks. By testing with concrete prototypes, user friendly innovations can be discovered much more quickly than through standard open innovation alone.

In one batch of prototype testing, we tested the use of proactive push notifications from a new mobile bank app. The key discovery was that user experience is greatly affected by the feeling of safety. New products and services should not just be easy to use or elegantly designed—they must also feel safe. The instant feedback from the users was used to directly improve the design process.

Conclusion

The biggest benefit of co-creation for us was the wealth of knowledge we gleaned throughout the project. Clearly, no single group could have achieved the same insights without collaboration. The project was a powerful learning platform. It was a means of acquiring the right knowledge of users by inviting them to take part in the design process. Accordingly, we have employed this methodology in every single client case following this pilot project.

Read more about Tieto Customer Experience Management here and/or follow us on LinkedIn

Customer Experience Management for Financial Services

Download our study which investigates CEM within the Finance Industry in the Nordic region, with emphasis on the generic CEM maturity and development actions on digital CEM. 98 Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian decision makers within Finance were interviewed in this quantitative study.

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