Unboxing Posti’s Design Culture
How does a 400-year old company rethink how it can evolve in a rapidly changing business environment where one part of the business is booming and the other is at a risk of vanishing? One very integral approach is relatively new Posti’s design culture that brings Posti’s customers to the forefront of service design and development.
“Times, they are a-changing” is one of the first things you can read in the summary of Posti’s “in-house design culture”. Indeed they are, and especially for Finland’s oldest company – Posti – this calls for another step forwards to keep up with the times. But there is just one pretty substantial problem to solve first, before taking that step: which direction is ‘forward’ exactly? As times change and the world becomes smaller, faster and more complex, companies including Posti are having a hard time planning for the future. Sometimes, a big corporation can crank out a fresh strategy and realize that their plans have already been turned obsolete by, well, their operating environment.
To find the right way in the unknown, one needs to explore. This is exactly what Posti has started to do within the past few years, and the way it has begun to explore has a lot to do with Posti’s in-house design team and Posti’s new design culture that came with it. We talked with both Posti’s Design Lead Juho Paasonen who came to work at Posti from a similar job at Google, and Karoline Kwon, Senior Service Designer and Juho’s colleague to find out more about the ins and outs of how Posti is moving forwards to keep it’s nearly-400-year history going:
So Juho, let’s start with your story first. How did you get to work on setting up Posti’s design culture?
Juho: I was about to move back to Finland and on my way I was thinking about what would be the most interesting design challenges in Finland? Posti surfaced to the top of my list because of two main reasons. First, it’s a large company with a very long history and their customer base equals Finland’s whole population. Second, my dad worked at Posti for his whole career, so the company had always been close to me and I had personal bonds to Posti’s objective in our society and the role Posti plays in people’s everyday lives. Starting out I of course realized that Posti is at the biggest transformation point ever. Digitalization is prevalent, postal service characteristics are changing very quickly and people are beginning to expect new kinds of services from companies like Posti. This is why I first set out to examine how customer experience development was done at Posti. Based on what I found initially, I began to foster a new culture of design thinking and processes that support it.
What about you Karoline, what was it like to be one of the first designers to start out in Posti’s in-house service design team?
Karoline: When I first started out my position had not existed before and lots of groundwork had to be done. Initially the role was somewhat ambiguous and my first tasks had a lot to do with vision work and aligning our vision with our customers’ needs. Also, there was a need to define the role of service designers as more higher-level conceptual thinkers instead of purely UI designers. Luckily Juho had already done a lot of ‘pounding the pavement’ in the beginning to transfer the designer role from the tactical to a more strategic level.
Then we started looking more at how our customers live their lives and how do we make using our services seamless, no matter which services they are using. We went from product-specific thinking to designing an end-to-end journey for our customers. We also added our customers’ voice to the work we do here at Posti and started doing lots of validation for our thinking with our customers.
After ‘setting up the table’, how did you start your journey in creating Posti’s design culture?
Juho: First we set out to create Posti’s customer experience pillars and principles. They can be seen and felt in both our service production and marketing communications. For example, one of our pillars is ‘Simplify.’ It means that we both try to simplify our services in a way that removes any unnecessary mental burden from our customers who use our services. At the same time, we want to simplify our marketing messages and make communication about these services more understandable.
Karoline: In the very beginning one of the main challenges, that was also a massive opportunity, was to try to change the mindset and to be experimental internally. Not to be bogged down by any stiffness, practicalities or legacy. Everyone at Posti knew that there has to be change, so there was lots to do in many different areas. This is why when we started, it was a very good time to use design thinking and learn about it throughout Posti. Initially when people tried their hand at design thinking with us, they felt that “hey, that was really good!”
Juho: Right! When we started out, I was impressed how human-centric people at Posti were to start with, but we did lack a deeper way of thinking about the customer journey. That is, to think about our customers’ whole journey from beginning to end, instead of focusing just on individual service moments or touchpoints. For example, thinking of how people receive a package, we started to look at the whole act of receiving instead of looking at just a string of actions within a process. This approach was very well received at Posti, all we needed were the language, tools and resources to start working in a new way.
And what’s Next for Posti’s design culture?
Karoline: Currently we are focused on the need to build a community and build relationships and dialogue with our customers. Now I'm working on lots of different projects and gathering insights, opening up the problem of how could Posti create a vast community of customers who want to solve various issues with us, for them.Juho: One of my favourite subjects now is the challenge of better understanding the customers’ individual contexts. How could we become better at understanding the subtleties of our customers’ unique aspirations and needs? What are they telling us they need, and what are they currently doing to have those needs met? These are the kinds of questions we want to dive deeper into with the community that Karoline was referring to.
Final question: how do you see the future of Posti and how your customers interact with the company?
Karoline: Now that service design thinking has a more strategic role at Posti, we are in a place where we want to talk to customers, get more feedback and really try to tell the customer’s story. When you push the limits and show people new approaches, you can get people to move from their own comfort zones. People have seen that it is okay to try something different, to challenge and ask questions, and even to fail at times. In the future we want to develop our communities further and build a pool of customers who want to and can help us to co-create new services. We’re trying to build a process on how to find the right customers at the right time and to have a continuous feedback loop. Then, if we have a new idea, we can quickly find the right customers see how they like our approach.
Juho: One really interesting design challenge for the short-term future is how could we enable a seamless experience when customers jump from the digital dimension to the physical, and back to digital again. The world is moving towards experiences where both the digital and physical dimensions are intertwined, so we want to combine these two into one smooth experience for our customers. In the long-term, and I am just speculating a bit here, we might want to give our customers as recipients more power so that they could get their parcels and mail delivered to them when and where they are, not merely based on which physical address they have on file. For example, instead of shipping goods to specific addresses, they could just be shipped to specific people, wherever they are.
Thank you so much Karoline and Juho for sharing your thoughts on Posti’s design culture and giving us a sneak-peek of which direction you are looking to and going to explore next – we can’t wait to hear, see and especially get to try out the new ideas you are helping to create.
Do you find Posti’s service design ambitions something you could contribute to? If so, you should definitely join us! Check out our open positions here.
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