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Hellon aims for the top in service design

According to Jaakko Wäänänen, Nordic values and ideas about equality allow Finnish service design to stand apart from the rest.Roman Schoeneboom

In the future, robotisation and artificial intelligence will replace a large proportion of service sector jobs, making service design all the more relevant. For this reason, more focus should be placed on well-functioning and solution-driven service design. This is what the international award-winning Finnish service design company Hellon believes.

“If you think about robotisation and the increase in artificial intelligence, we are up against a huge shift that will create unprecedented mass unemployment predictsJaakko Wäänänen, Hellon’s CEO and co-founder. “In the future, we will need people with creative problem-solving capacity, empathy and who can solve complex challenges.”

A service designer is precisely someone who has these abilities.

Investing in service in order to succeed

In service design the services of a company, or any other organisation, are designed so that the customer is as happy as possible with the service.

“Processes and structures are designed around the customer, not the organisation,” explains Wäänänen.

Demand for service design and its significance are continuing to grow globally. An indication of this is, for example, that an increasing number of executive groups now have a design director. Large consulting companies have also begun to buy service design companies in order to strengthen their expertise in the sector.

Focusing on the customer is important in a tough competitive environment.

“Today, Chinese products are equal in quality to Finnish products, so we need to find new ways to stand out from the competition. Service and, above all, customer experience are the way to stand out,” Wäänänen says.

He points out that satisfied customers are likely to use a service again: “You can never stop investing in developing the customer experience. Otherwise your customers will look for another service.”

Passengers were given the chance to participate in yoga and Pilates classes or practice yoga on their own at the Yoga Gate studio, which was established at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport as part of Hellon’s project improving the travel experience. Image: Hellon

Business between people, not organisations

Hellon believes that business in industry’s sometimes long production chains is conducted between people, not organisations. Human-centric thinking is at the core of service design.

“The service design process seeks to find insight into what customers are like and how the service is connected to their everyday lives,” says Wäänänen.

He illustrates the holistic customer experience using restaurant patrons:

“We don’t just think about what happens when you step through the door and step out again – we consider the whole experience. When you hear about the restaurant for the first time, what happens when you consider different options, when you go to a restaurant and enjoy a meal there and how you could be a customer of the restaurant again.”

Many types of teams with commercial, technological and human-centric insight are required for mapping out this understanding. Hellon’s 20-person team includes designers, ethnographers, graphical and spatial design professionals as well as engineers and commercial experts.

Benefit from cultural background

According to Wäänänen, the background of Finns can boost the global success of their service design expertise because the ideas of equality inherent in Nordic culture and the welfare society model are the same values and ideas that are required to achieve smooth service.

“Our cultural background helps us understand what is key to providing good service,” he explains. “In a more hierarchical culture the tendency is to develop things so that they benefit yourself and few services can succeed based on that model.”

Relevant expertise can attract investments, as well as the offices of international companies.

Joining the world’s big names

Last autumn, Hellon won two of the four Global Service Design Awards up for grabs at the service design sector’s one and only annual global conference.

One of the awards was presented to the company for its TravelLab project, which was aimed at making the transfer time between flights more pleasant for passengers at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Passengers were able to participate in airport yoga and a Midsummer festival including dancing, birch trees and a maypole. A bicycle-powered mobile café, floor stickers showing the way to the children’s play area, information screens on the airport buses and a Finnish-themed photo backdrop were featured at the airport.

Hellon’s success is boosted by its continuous research and passion to develop the field.

In seven years’ time, Hellon plans to be among the seven largest service design companies in the world. Last summer, the company opened an office in London and is looking for opportunities in Asia and the US.

“We have a lot of insight into what direction this sector is taking,” Wäänänen sums up.

Passengers at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport could participate in Hellon’s service design project through traditional Finnish Midsummer dancing and a flower head wreath workshop. They also got to sample some Finnish superfoods. Image: Hellon
By: Heidi Höök