Like all industry leaders, KONE understands that the success of any product hinges on one keything: how people feel about it.
Picture yourself in a busy shopping mall during an end-of-season sale. The elevator is stuffy, slow andovercrowded. It stops on every floor. You feel flustered and begin to perspire. This isn’t your idea of a relaxing shopping day.
Now picture yourself in a different mall, speeding toward the ceiling in the comfort of a cool, spacious and impeccably designed elevator car. At which mall would you prefer to spend your time and money?
It’s a no-brainer: a good user experience drives revenue growth, whereas a poor user experience drives consumers into the arms of the competition. This is why KONE keeps asking the following question: How does the user feel?
“We place a huge focus on the user. It’s at the heart of everything we do. It differentiates us from the competition and drives the development of all our solutions,” affirms Pekka Korhonen, head of People Flow at KONE.
User experience is a term denoting how a person feels when interfacing with technology. User experience specialists ask three basic questions: Is it fit for purpose? Is it easy to use? Is it pleasant to use? In KONE’s case, user experience is a key dimension of People Flow™, the science of transporting people in buildings as smoothly, efficiently and safely as possible.
“When we design a solution, we first consider how large crowds can move through the building as smoothly as possible, yet we also think about each individual and everything they see, touch and feel. Understanding their personal experience is the only way to design a truly successful product,” explains Korhonen.
Eye for detailKONE leads the industry in user experience enhancement – but it also brings tangible, added value to customers.
“A successful user experience enables customers to reach their business objectives,” asserts Korhonen. “Based on the evidence of our extensive studies, we can support them in generating more revenue. Take a residential proprietor, for example. A high tenant turnover means lost rent and high maintenance costs. By making sure your tenants are happy, you reduce the risk of losing them. Added to that, you can collect higher rent by offering added luxuries such as comfortable elevators.”
Korhonen is happy to note that years of ‘education’ are paying off and many customers are recognizing the benefits of adopting a more user-centric approach. “The message is sinking in. Our customers are asking us how we profile users, and they are beginning to use that information in marketing buildings to particular target groups such as seniors.”
A good user experience often boils down to a variety of details such as the optimal elevator car size or escalator speed. Such a detailed level of knowledge comes only from years of intensive research, and puts KONE in the role of a front-runner.
“We conduct many types of user experience research. All our designs undergo extensive usability studies. We do basic research, collaborate with universities and compile user profiles to shed light on the needs of different user groups,” says Korhonen.
Charting user experiencesLast year KONE publicized the results of its People Flow Opinion Poll, a comprehensive survey charting the opinions of respondents in eight different countries around the world. The poll revealed five distinct elevator user profiles and four escalator user profiles, each with their specific concerns and preferences. (To find out which profile matches your personality, complete the quick online survey at www.kone.com/pfd).
“The survey really raised our awareness of different user concerns. You might assume that everyone is thinking the same thing when boarding an elevator or escalator, but the poll revealed this is far from true. Different people might be nervous, relaxed, excited or indifferent. It’s important to go out into the field and find out what they are really feeling.”
This is precisely what nearly 800 KONE employees did on People Flow Day last October 27th (see story on page 10), KONE’s most ambitious field research project to date. By going out to over 70 cities around the world, observing real-life situations and conducting interviews, KONE’s researchers collected a vast amount of user experience data for different building sements. The project was such a success that it is now to become an annual event.
“People Flow Day raised the awareness of our personnel and generated a large database of information on user needs. We go through it every time we start a new project. The database will be utilized over a period of many years,” says Korhonen.
In the user’s shoesA 2009 study of the Delhi Metro by KONE offers another good example of project-specific research that has led to important practical improvements. A team of observers spent four days making observations in the subway, studying the interaction between ticketing, platform size, equipment and human behavior.
“We discovered that many subway users were in the city for the first time and were unsure about how to use the equipment. Some were scared to hop on the escalator – we fixed this by slowing down the speed. Many didn’t understand that you have to press a button to catch the elevator from the platform straight up to street level. This was causing overcrowding on the platform and presented the risk of someone falling on the tracks. We addressed this by developing software for fully automated passage,” says Korhonen.
“We put ourselves in the shoes of the locals so that we could really understand their perspective. By observing the whole chain of behavior, we were able to introduce concrete improvements that made the station safer and possibly even saved lives.”
User experience will remain a key company-wide focus at KONE for years to come, Korhonen promises.
“We are proud of what we have achieved, but we are always humble and willing to learn more. We are currently the forerunners in user experience research, but we must continue improving in the future as well – not just to differentiate our company, but as the key thing that keeps us in the game.”
Commemorating its 100th anniversary on October 27th last fall, KONE organized a showcase event named People Flow™ Day.
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What is People Flow®?
People Flow means people moving smoothly, safely, comfortably, and without waiting in and between buildings.
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