Creating new services is crucial for continuous increase in value creation. Services should be always based on customer needs but gaining the information what the customer actually wants has been always a paradigm and challenging to realise. Traditional way to do this has been customer research where customers are asked what they want, either directly or indirectly. Problem with this approach is that customers might not know themselves what they really want since it is challenging for them to see beyond the services they receive currently.

Good examples of this development are for example Henry Ford who said that if he would have asked customers what they want, the answer would have been “faster horses”. Another example is Nokia who had the technology for touch screen phones but didn’t proceed since the customer surveys showed that customers prefer long-lasting batteries instead of a touch screen.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.
— Henry Ford

However, technology and techniques have developed over the years and academic approaches such as service design have brought the ability and understanding of prototyping and testing with customers. So the underlying question is that where do the ideas come from? Ideas can be generated either internally or externally. It is noticed that the repletion of certain process over and over again brings up differentiating approaches to execute the same actions with different ways. So it can be said that everything starts with an exceptional individual who can see beyond the process. These individuals can be identified in different ways but most common way to see the is highly interested about the topic.

But still the challenge is first to identify these individuals, give them the instrument to communicate their ideas to the crowd and thirdly, motivate them to bring those ideas up. Grönroos has challenged the co-creation with customers and to some extend it can be said that If customers create the best services for themselves, where do we need companies?
Another interesting question is still why do customers participate? Why are they willing to spend any of the valuable time in order to create new services for themselves?  Could it be some of the following:

  • Generating better services for myself / in general
  • Helping the favorite brand to get better
  • Shining amongst the other customers
  • Natural creation of ideas
  • Stress with the current situation

When these questions are answered, next question is that why do they do it for the exact company or would they be willing to generate new ideas on a “white label” basis? Do the generated ideas need to be executed back to the customers by certain companies or could it all be done by any player in the industry? What value does it add in either case and can the difference be measured? Stefan Stern collected a useful do's and dont's list for co-creation.

If customers are mainly meeting with companies employees, it could be also thought that the employees would have a better overview of possible ways to develop the business. This thought I base on repetition of customer meetings managed by the employees. Is the thought of possible increase in value creation the only reason why customer would participate in service innovation.
Is the industry in correlation of customers interest to participate in co-creation? Could the value creation in some industries be that irrelevant that the need cost of participation is higher than the estimated increase in value?

Retail banking is still considered from internal perspective as something extravagant but customers find it more as a bulk service that just help them reach their own future goals in their process. So does the participation actually increase value in the service that the bank offer or could it add value in customers end goal? If it is the end goal, how could those be identified and how else could the value add be measured other than by the customer himself?

I will start my research to gain understanding to these questions. If you are also interested about this topic, I would love to hear your thoughts. You can drop me a line mikko@riikkinen.com and lets discuss.