Involving Customers in Service Innovation

In this case study a medium-sized Finnish insurance company recognised that customers can be more than just recipients of innovation delivered by the provider; they can also be sources of innovation. Decisions about new services previously based on systematically gathered information were felt to be too product oriented so working with a team of researchers (details below) the company sought to develop a new approach that would involve customers in the innovation process. Several insurance services were  used to test the new process model.

customers not so happy! but can they innovate?

One of the test cases chosen was to develop next generation health insurance that would better correspond to the changing needs of healthcare. A series of workshops and a range of techniques were employed including:

  • Building a future-oriented concept of health insurance: two separate workshops were held; one for a group of customers, one for a group of company representatives and the differences in outcome compared.
  • Using readymade cards that illustrate twelve trends related to healthcare and asking customers to select three trends that they thought most important for health future insurance.
  • Concept formulation using physical materials (modelling pastes, sticks etc) to create a 3D model of the next generation health insurance for the year 2025.

The researchers noted that; “Interestingly, there was a clear difference in the ways in which the customers and the company built their concepts. The former concentrated on modelling their health related social network, whereas the latter built a network including customers as ‘members’ but controlled by the company”

One outcome from this process of ideation was that the workshops provided ‘completely new information’ for the company bringing forward issues that cannot be reached through more traditional methods.  Issues included:

  • “The versatility of customer situations in relation to the service
  • The ignorance of customers about the content of available services
  • The importance of solutions instead of detailed pieces of information
  • The significance of customer care throughout the lifespan of customership
  • The decisive role of service encounters when customers evaluate the success of the service”

So can customers help innovate or be part of the innovation process?

In this case customer involvement enabled the insurance company to gain valuable insights into customer issues which may influence the design of future insurance services.

Further information about the case and the resulting service innovation process model can be found in Involving Customers in the Service Innovation Process.

The researchers involved in this Case were:

Marja Toivonen, Director, VVT Technical Research Centre, Finland

Mari Holopainen and TiinaTuominen , BIT Research Centre, Aalto University, Finland

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