Saturday, February 3, 2018

My journey towards marketing excellence and generating holistic customer understanding

Creating service excellence in organisations
Okimo Clinic´s article series on Superheroes explains my approach to marketing and learnings during the journey.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Transformation of service work – what affects your future job description?

It´s been decades since elevator and switchboard workers. Nowdays receptionists are being replaced by machines and energy consumption is being monitored remotely instead of inspectors coming onsite. Service work transformation is not new. The potential of robots replacing people has been discussed since a long time. What is new is the pace.

If not entirely replacing humans, technology and robots can and will support people in their work by conducting e.g. repetitive, strenuous or unsafe work. One profession may include several tasks. Thus some tasks may be replaced or be supported by technology but the profession or what it generates as such may not entirely disappear. What elements modify our scope and choice of work? What does a future service worker do? What is the logic between human skills vs technology?

Researcher Eveliina Saari, research manager Jokke Eljala and journalist Jarmo Laitaneva discussed transformation of work in YLE podcast “Arjen tulevaisuus”. Some considerations of the discussion elaborated below.


If robots can perform our work in the future, what would be our own choice what to do? What work do we value? Person´s basic needs cover job security and its meaningfulness. One also needs the social interaction that work provides through a network of co-employees and customers. Thus, work will not only be about speed, productivity or efficiency but it is a wider context of elements that contributes to the meaning of life.

Technology can also bring new opportunities of consuming services. Could virtual reality provide value and desired experiences to e.g. senior citizens who want to enjoy their day? Go rowing virtually during a rainy day. If we value certain experiences, can services be provided that make their consumption easier?

Self service

How many people still go physically to a bank? We don’t because it´s easier to take care of financials online. We even have a service to conduct an online meeting with a bank representative. If people feel they get service faster or easier, they do it increasingly themselves.

Technology is however only one element. Interaction, feeling of safety and empathy play a big role. Not everybody wants to do everything online. A personal encounter may make a difference. A professional can help make things more meaningful. Example is a doctor, who may have somewhat better analysis of a disease and provide empathy. This combination can be more attractive than self analysis.


A complex and demanding surgery may be done later by robots, who might provide a safer option than a real person. Will people choose a real doctor or a robot? Will people choose a lawyer or a robot? Will people choose a financial advisor or a robot? What are the ingredients that influence our choice?

Emotional intelligence will play a bigger role in the future than before in managing customer relationships once the interactions become more meaningful. Facilitating a virtual meeting requires different skills than facilitating a face-to-face meeting. We face new type of interactions where old behaviours are not valid.

Social innovation

A service worker and a customer can build new approaches by working and contributing together. How one performs on-the-job may be influenced more independently than earlier. Out of the box thinkers can bring new ideas that customer welcomes and begins new consumption behaviours.
Service design

An increasing number of experts are conducting service design. They help navigate services, make them logical and easy to find. If you enter an airport, pay attention to how easy it is to find check in, security, your gate and an empty cafeteria.

Light entrepreneurship

Companies have emerged providing professional services for freelancers to easily get hold of entrepreneurship. They provide accounting and taxation services in order for freelancers to be able to focus on the work itself. The challenge may be lack of job security – there is no guarantee of work continuation. The bonus of course is a low barrier to starting one´s own company. Will search for self management increase so working on your own feels more rewarding than working for somebody elses company even if more risk included?


If you enter working life today, it is most likely you will not retire from the same job. Therefore what keeps you competitive is continuous learning. One builds proactively one´s own work by learning about things one values and is interested in. Thus one can influence the future work. Generalists may do better in the future since they build skills in understanding a wide variety of things and be receptive to learning new and working in multi-cultural or multidimensional environments. Talking about improving our intelligence, there is of course a limited capacity. Learning is continuous, but we cannot assume a person can absorb an unlimited amount of new things. Knowing your history is a good platform for understanding the new. Curiosity can complement what a person lacks in a position today.

My future job description?

What could robots do in my marketing work? Collect customer understanding from various sources automatically? Plan and choose topics relevant for customers? Link offering that matches customers´ needs? Conduct activities at customer interface that are in right places at right time? Discuss with and make recommendations to customers online? Evaluate results and optimize? Most likely all of this in the future. Coming back to the emotional intelligence part, maybe with more challenging and meaningful tasks even customers still want to engage with real people. Perhaps I become a concierge linking people either to robots or other people. Planning marketing-as-a-service. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Ingredients of a great team

When looking for a well performing team, we often consider benefits of diversity, typically consisting of gender, experience, nationality, culture and creativity. Instead, or in addition, should we be looking for a mix of behaviours, such as skills in social interaction, empathy and influencing? What are the ingredients that provide best outcome for a given purpose?

Researcher Katri Saarikivi at Tubecon industry day in Helsinki discussed elements of creating great online experience. She emphasized importance of empathy and interaction. A “human centered design” was featured as a key element in planning online experiences.
How do we do that? Demonstrating emphathy and interaction towards our customers? Saarikivi stated that (customer´s) problem solving is a combination of 3 factors: technology, cognition and sociability. In addition to technical knowledge, competitive advantage is built on better human understanding and better human contact. The key drivers to this, in supporting employees, are according to Saarikivi ability to provide psychological safety and trust, clarity of structures, meaningfulness and impact. In Saarikivi presentation the core is everybody´s voice to be heard. Thus, understanding, experience and actions together, generated by a well functioning team, drive good customer service. More on Saarikivi viewpoints in recent interview by Kauppalehti Optio.
The New York Time Magazine wrote about a quest to find the perfect team. The challenge was to find out how to turn employees into faster, better and more productive versions of themselves, also referred to as “personal productivity”. Some studies show findings that out of our daily work, more and more time is spent on collaborative work. This should enable better innovation and problem solving. Thus, focusing on team effort and its impact is a big deal.  
Successful outcome does not mean gathering the best people to do the work, but rather forming a team that has best ingredients contributing to success. New York Time Magazine case on Google proved that mix of personality types or skills or backgrounds did not make the difference. The “who” part didn’t matter. The norms and collective IQ that is distinctive, than that of any single member, makes the difference. The right norms could raise the group´s collective intelligence, good performance leading to another. Some norms were identified; group members talked the same amount of time ie everybody is listened to. Second, group members have social sensitivity, demonstrating interpersonal trust and mutual respect.
Behind great customer experience is therefore a great team that feels their work is meaningful, supported by open dialogue and sharing, and understanding their mission. Team members, in ideal situation, have various behavioural patterns. Those complement each other and each others´ experience, driving common, shared norms and raising the collective performance.
Aiming to develop our own competences and performance, and living in a world that is never ready, our marketing team established an own quest. Mission is to learn from digital marketing and online customer behavior. One of the learning experiences was to choose a platform where to benchmark our own work. As a result, we are now shortlisted at European Communications Awards as Team of the year. Final results will be announced after a pitch end of September. Feeling extremely proud of the team, I think we have some great ingredients. Work and development continues.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Transformation to a service company

Industrial companies are considering ambitions to re-position themselves towards service companies. We live in a service economy, thus the direction is evident. Consumers having great service experiences in e.g. retail, banking, and entertainment start having bigger expectations towards business interactions as well. A big consideration is profitability – how a service generates more value than a product, which may have attractive margins – but even bigger consideration may be how to maintain customer loyalty and remain competitive – since customer needs evolve.

An industrial transformation towards a service company will most likely not be a fast turnaround, but depending on the industry, customer base and scope of business a gradual change. From engineering towards technology provider, from integrated solutions towards services provider. There are a number of elements to be considered a part of this transformation.  

Ø  How do customer requirements change?

o   Customers understand increasing opportunities of online, data and analytics. Learning from consumer services, they expect a smooth customer service in various channels. Customer needs may shift from single transactions towards efficiency improvements, performance guarantees and consultancy. Some customers still want individual products, but delivery or installation requirements may change, and they may be willing to pay for them.

Ø  What is a positioning that provides a competitive edge?

o   Once the company understands its customers business requirements, it is time to decide what positioning to take. How to differentiate from competition? How to not just respond to customers basic requirements, but help them improve their operations, and even help them grow. Price, value, service, speed, sustainability, safety, peace of mind?

Ø  How to develop the footprint?

o   A company may own a number of locations ranging from offices, production or service facilities and research and development. Based on the positioning, what are the key factors? What are the operations that support company positioning and increase profitability in the long term and require more investments? Instead of own production, would joint ventures, partnerships, or leasing make sense?

Ø  What competence shift is needed?

o   A transformation towards a service company requires new kind of competences. These are wider set of various competences. Engineering and technology skills will be complemented by powerful supply management, partnerhsips, integration capabilities, business planning and advisory skills. Customer understanding is prerequisite for a successful service company.

Ø  What kind of offering sells?

o   What does the company sell? What is in the catalogue that transforms into money? What responds to customer needs and how can the portfolio be planned that it is modular and meaningful for volume and value selling? A company needs solutions that can be commercialized and promoted to its customers, not only tailor made upon request, which may become too expensive.

Ø  Importance of company culture and internal communications?

o   What are the employee processes, measures and rewarding systems that support the transformation? Is induction for newcomers still in own facilities or would it be time to get the employees closer to customers business? How to reward for value creation?

o   In cultural context, it is never too much to emphasise importance of internal communications. Employees need and deserve to know about the company´s vision and business, and be able to discuss and contribute to it. Next to customers, employees know best of the customer business.

Recommended article European Journal of Innovation Management Volume 7 · Number 3 · 2004 · pp. 218-228


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Marketing as a service

I´ve never liked the concept of “content marketing”. Shouldn’t all marketing have some “content” that is relevant for the target group. The definitions I`ve seen have sounded like what integrated marketing has been about for decades. We need to find relevant message for our customers in a channel where they get most value of it.

In a meeting at Finnish Advertisers Association, we had a much more exciting discussion over “Marketing as a Service”. Since people spend increasingly time in various social media channels, it has become a hub for performing various tasks or activities. Finding information, making comparisons, finding inspiration, looking for services, performing transactions, or simply being entertained. This is where customer service, sales, marketing and communications get mixed. Someone may look for advertising for the sake of entertainment. Someone might be looking for online technical support to use a product, and ends up buying more.

Marketing, with the purpose of generating demand, can actually be used as – or generate - a service. Online channels provide great opportunity for various kinds of interactions – when wished by customers. Thus the customer journey logic works well. How can we serve the customer within their purchase process through various actions that help them make a decision – and be happy about it. Thus, the “Maalilinja” service by Tikkurila, who provides inspiration for interior design over selling paint, and “Traveller” service by Marriott, may be bigger reason to buy than a single offer. In fact, a short movie by Marriott, ended up with 80.000 bookings, with service being destination information.

We marketeers may spend our times on customer magazines and newsletters, which as such may be relevant and informative. The challenge for the future will be where and when to publish content to our target audiences. Someone suggested there should be a story bank. When there is a trigger, such as political or economic event, or cultural phenomena, we are ready to publish instantly. In addition to the annual or quarterly plans, we need to be prepared for instant feed. How does this change our planning or resourcing practices? Do online service personnel equal marketing as a service?