Beyond Chatbots: Customer Service in 2023

Tanel Kärp
Feb 12 · 7 min read

Let us imagine it’s the year 2023. What driving forces have changed digital communication? What do people expect from customer service? And which products are going to help businesses meet those expectations?

For the 2018 Digital Product Design class, EKA’s Interaction Design master’s programme teamed up with Elisa to explore the future of digital customer service. In eight weeks, the IxD.ma 1st year students explored customers’ needs and expectations, and imagined how these will evolve in the near future. They analysed trends, advances in technology, and designed concepts for the newly uncovered possibilities.

Senior TV

Sigrid Sitnikov & Villem Nilbe

Elisa Senior TV is a concept for the tech-curious elderly to encourage and educate them through a medium they already know — a smart TV channel.

Tech and telco services are developing rapidly. For the older generation, new solutions implemented in this pace can be often too much to comprehend. Scaring them away, leaving them unsatisfied with the service.

Sigrid’s & Villem’s framed their design challenge as — how might we change customer service to give the elderly new information in a stable and clear way? Through the research process it was understood that the customer service must be integrated into something already familiar to them, something that they have used for years.

No Packages, Just Connection

Sebastian Delón & Laura Grigorjan

Sebastian and Laura worked with the youth who are starting an independent life. They named the target group as “the Whatever’s”, as the word “whatever” is commonly used by them to justify their actions, or describe their attitude towards certain topics. The Whatever’s prefer simple, fun, flexible and often random solutions.

Whatevers also find it unnecessarily complicated to choose a service package when all they need is a service that would just work. Elisa Connection could become the easiest tool when a person needs to just connect.

Telcos have all have information on our data usage in our devices. Elisa Connection would use this information to find out how much calls and mobile data one exactly needs. While the data is being analysed, the user would play a game that will satisfy any instant gratification needs. The connection is then provided and is given a random name and avatar (“the Quantum Cat”). Shaking the device can reveal many other options, so the user can shake the device until a likeable avatar appears. The chosen emblem is also used in the future to interact with the user to provide a flexible connection.

A First Step Towards Independency

Alexia Kraft de la Saulx

Alexia also worked with the “Whatevers” target group, but came up with a totally different concept.

A large majority of the young population in Estonia are part of a family package for the mobile data amongst other things. Around the age of 18, important changes start to take place — they have to discover what they want to study or what they would like to do in their lives, they travel much more to other countries. However, when they want to change some features in their mobile package to adapt to these changes, they still need legal parent permission to do so — what an inconvenience!

As a possible solution, Alexia targets the parents and proposes them a new way to help their kids towards independency with her concept «The Birthday Message». On their 18th birthday, the youngsters would receive a message from their parents that will lead them towards this new mobile app. Thanks to this app they would now begin to understand and change any feature concerning their package according to their needs. This way Elisa increases the trust with the parents, and the youngsters that could become, later on when they’re ready, new loyal customers.

Take Back Your Time

Tatiana Rubiano & Roxana Macovei

To the working mother, one of the most important users of Elisa’s services, telco customer service is frankly ‘a waste of time’. Therefore, with the purpose to rethink the concept for the future, Tatiana and Roxana asked themselves: how might we create a customer service that respects time?

Design in the era of immediacy will have to look past efficiency. In a future where every interaction with a business is characterised by seamlessness, how will telcos’ customer service stand out from the crowd? Tatiana and Roxana believe that focusing on the experience provided for their clients will have a greater impact on identifying and communicating value to them.

Consequently, they propose a bold shift from the current trend of believing that the best customer service is no customer service at all. Invisibility might imply efficiency, but for such a big data holder it may also be deemed untrustworthy. Therefore, they want to flip things inside out. From invisibility to transparency. From hidden internal standards and metrics to a company that is transparent about its promises. A company that makes visible it’s time demands and lives up to its word.

Elisa Homespace

Katrin Rekor & Thomas Hartnell

Elisa Homespace is the reinvention of the home phone number and the evolution of the family package. A unique gateway to a personal and private AI-enhanced hub for your home.

Adding your home’s new number to your messaging platform of choice opens up a world of possibility through the conversational AI. See who’s at home, seamlessly redirect calls across family member’s devices or let Homespace handle things when you need some downtime.

Small Things Matter

Maria Jäärats & Külliki Kesa

Great connectivity is no longer considered a business advantage, but a must. In order to remain visible for their customers and gain a competitive edge, the telecom companies should take a more informed approach to simplification, focus on growing long-term customer relationships and develop deeply personalised services.

The concept “Small things matter” uses the power of AI to put into focus the small, yet significant, and create meaningful, emotionally charged moments of interaction. At the core of the concept is expressing gratitude to long-term customers through highly personalised and attentive offerings, B2B partnerships for value-added exclusive experiences, and engaging customers by asking for their preferences and needs in a personalised way, connecting Elisa’s platforms such as TV, lifestyle app etc. into a holistic ecosystem.

No borders. No bureaucracy. No SIM.

Lidziya Piatrova & Kaspar Kuus

Modern world is truly becoming a place with no borders due to technological advances and changes in people’s lifestyles. We don’t need to be attached to the same place any more, and wherever we go we use the same familiar digital products for calling a taxi, booking a new apartment or having a work meeting. But telecom companies lag behind…

The concept EliSim is aimed at digital nomads, and offers a new approach to the way people get access to telecom services, stripping them down from bureaucracy. Instead of getting a Sim Card, a user can just install the app, sign in using Face Id, scan his credit card and start using the services of the local provider. He can also track data usage, get advice on the optimal package suitable for his lifestyle, and get instant help through the chat bot.

The Process

As their first industry collaboration project at IxD.ma, the class of 2018 followed the double diamond design process to build empathy with the target groups, define design challenges and develop concepts.

After initial desktop research, service safaris and interviews with Elisa employees, the students defined their target audiences and had conversations to discover their needs and core values.

All the research findings were synthesised into personas, which enabled the team to formulate clearly reasoned “How might we…” design challenges. After receiving feedback from Elisa, the students were now ready to start ideating for solutions.

To keep the ideas focused and tied to research, all groups had to develop their own design frameworks. These were based on their point of views on what kind of experiences and solutions would work for the persona, and what kind of trends and technology would be involved in 2023.

Liis Narusk from Garage48 Elevate joined in to refine the best ideas from the business perspective. Further refining and validation was done during the prototyping phase, where students developed their concepts from sketches to detailed mockups to be used in final storytelling videos.

Students were guided by Keit Ein (Flux) and Tanel Kärp (IxD.ma), with the help from Amid Moradganjeh (IxD.ma) and Liis Narusk (Garage48 Elevate).

Big thank you for Eva Laanemaa and Elisa for the learning opportunity!

IxD.ma

International MA program in Interaction Design at the Estonian Academy of Arts

Tanel Kärp

Written by

Designing for meaningful experiences, rooting for design thinking and sustainability, playing around with gamification and behaviour design.

IxD.ma

IxD.ma

International MA program in Interaction Design at the Estonian Academy of Arts