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Design in its truest form: why service design matters

In an ever-changing world, the one constant is that consumers demand the best. How can companies deliver on this expectation? Not just by providing the best products, but also by listening to their customers and personalizing solutions. We caught up with Olli Hänninen, Head of Service Business Development, to understand why this concept is so business critical.

Service design is an industry buzzword. Why is everyone talking about it, and why now?

Well, if you look at industries overall, the importance of the customer experience has increased tremendously over the last few years. Initially, design was built from within to become a key strategic focus of product R&D at KONE. Users were brought to the core of the development, and as a result of these efforts, our products have been recognized for good design. For us, thinking about designing services was the natural next step. We believe that by creating solutions from a people-based standpoint we can be a better company. Our strategic focus of winning with customers, enabling our customers to run their businesses more successfully, is at the core of our service design efforts.

That is quite a shift for a company like KONE, which is known primarily as an industrial company.

It’s true that we have historically been known particularly for our products. But the idea of providing excellent service to customers has been in our corporate blueprint right from the start, for more than 100 years. What has changed, however, is that our customers are increasingly looking for a partner who can help them in all the stages of their product’s lifecycle. For us, this means providing flexible and attentive maintenance services, and being able to think about how modernization and upgrades can improve our customers’ lives and the way they use their equipment. So, really, the shift is one of perspective: we now start by defining value for our customers and equipment users, and use this as the basis of our own solutions.

How, then, has service design evolved over the years at KONE?

Service design is not an isolated activity. It requires strong leadership and a cross-company shift in thinking. When customer value is at the center of the process, it is very possible that this results in changes across the board: from organization to products to processes to competencies. So, while we started the actual service design work a few years back as a small team with pilot projects whose successes propelled us forward, the evolution has been massive in scale. Nowadays, service design and co-creation with customers is pretty much an everyday activity.

Would you be able to illustrate how this works on the ground with a few examples?

Collaboration and evolution are the very nature of service design. And I believe that deep collaboration with a mix of different kinds of people with different kinds of expertise, with colleagues, various partners and, of course, customers, is the key to success. A great example of this is our maintenance offering, which is going through a tremendous change. The outcome – a shift away from fixed service packages to flexible, customizable solutions – is the result of numerous interviews with customers, of co-creating and prototyping solutions together with them. By working in this way, we have gained insight into their varied needs and are better-equipped to provide personalized products and services that our customers value and remember. And we have become more flexible in the process, which is business critical considering that services evolve and grow constantly.

Any interesting trend that you foresee emerging in service design over the next few years?

One trend that we believe will emerge is digitalization and its effects on the service business. Digitalization opens up a totally new world of opportunities for us. Making it possible to mass-customize services to fit every customer’s specific needs while keeping the resulting complexity in control, or making it possible to keep our customers informed and up to date on exactly the way they want. It’s the way forward, and there’s a lot more we can do here.

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