A Service Design journey from traditional bureaucracy to agile business

By using a service design approach, it is possible to create superior customer experiences with the ultimate goal of accelerating growth and sustainably improving business performance. In this article, we share two examples of how service design was used to improve agility in two traditional organisations, and the impact the changed approach had on their business. May we present: Cases Tekes and Bank of Ireland.

Different challenges, shared goal: customer centricity

In 2015-2016, Hellon was involved in a project with the objective of establishing a more customer centric culture and improving customer experience at Tekes (currently part of Business Finland). As a part of Business Finland, Tekes general mission is to support Finnish exports and offer expert advice, funding, and networking opportunities for entrepreneurial companies aiming to grow internationally.

The challenge Tekes was seeking solutions for, was that customers found most of their services confusing, difficult to understand and, above all, tailored to the needs of the organisation rather than its customers. Long-term clients had needed to learn to navigate the bureaucratic and perplexing nature of the services. New clients, on the other hand, became frustrated with the complexity right from the start, and some services even required external help (e.g. funding applications).


In Bank of Ireland’s case, the challenge was that their customer base had grown out of the bank’s traditional way of thinking and working. Customers perceived e.g. the booking, identification, and verification processes to be unnecessarily complex, and the 234-year old bank was becoming detached from their clients’ needs. Hellon was brought in to help involve management in the customer-centric service design process, and to guide them on the ways service design can affect their ability to achieve key business goals.

In the Spring of 2016, we launched the “Bank of Ireland Experience Design” service design programme, in which 36 management level employees participated for the duration of 8 months. As a result of the insightful programme, Bank of Ireland simplified their processes, changed their way of thinking, and evolved from a purely business-oriented financial institution, to a truly customer-centric modern bank.

From a drop in the ocean to organisation-wide implementation

Tekes recognised the need for service design through practical means. A year prior to commencing the service design journey with Hellon, Tekes had systematically began to productise their service offering. Through this process, Tekes was aiming to become more cost-effective, and to improve targeting of the services. There was also a need to make the services easier for customers to understand and adopt.

As the process progressed it became apparent, however, that a much larger organization-wide transformation was taking place, and Tekes needed help.  This way of recognising the need for service design is very typical: a concrete goal, which starts off as a drop in the ocean, can at its best lead to an innovative and collaborative way of working throughout the organisation.

The customer-centric way of thinking was brought into every level of Tekes’ operations. Together, Hellon and Tekes began to clarify the customer point of view, and what their expectations were with regards to Tekes’ customer experience and service offering. During 2015, multiple agile pilots, exercises and events were organised, in which employees from various parts of the organisation were involved in developing better services in a collaborative way. Simultaneously, the foundations of a customer-centric corporate culture were built.

Service Design considers the real needs of the customer

Bank of Ireland faced the challenge of having old-fashioned systems and complex processes, which did not fit the changing customer needs. These included customer identification and verification, as well as daily tasks related to transactions and meeting booking. In other words. In order to get with the times, the bank wanted to simplify their processes and become more customer centric.

Our approach to the challenge was launching a “Bank of Ireland Experience Design” service design program, in which 36 management level employees participated during an 8-month period. The programme consisted of workshops, mentoring, and group exercises, which delved deeper into the bank’s existing, real customer experience challenges.

Through the programme, Bank of Ireland began to understand their current state and their customers better, which is the starting point for using service design for long-term transformation. By introducing a systemic and customer-centric service design approach, Bank of Ireland management were given tools for setting customer-centric business goals and building an organizational structure supporting those goals.

A great example of how service design was implemented during the Bank of Ireland Experience Design programme relates to a very important customer group; people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, and sorting out their last will and testament. The customer journey for these customers was disjointed and required multiple points of contact, which in an already emotional situation resulted in a lot of frustration. Additionally, the loyalty and long-term commitment to the bank of the deceased person and their family was barely considered in this situation.

By means of design, a new process stripped off unnecessary and alienating elements such as superfluous identification was created, introducing an increasingly personal customer service concept. The end result was a more effective service which enabled a strong and positive emotional connection with the customers.

Improved customer experiences and results through simplified processes

Through the use of service design, both Tekes and Bank of Ireland re-assessed their operations, and streamlined processes which had become obsolete from a customer experience perspective. For both organisations, the business impact was a significantly improved customer satisfaction score and more efficient processes.

A new service/ customer experience vision and service promise was created for Tekes, along with the introduction of processes for more agile planning and implementation of their services. Results were to be achieved on all three organisational levels: service level, systems level, and strategic level.

The impact of the collaboration between Hellon and Tekes was measured by the following KPIs: impact on customer experience, organisation-wide employee experience, and customer loyalty.

Bank of Ireland, on the other hand, embraced service design as a strategic tool, and set up a new Design Thinking department which is mandated to work comprehensively across all departments. The bank succeeded in increasing their NPS score by 3 units within two months of the programme ending.

Read more about what to keep in mind when embarking on a service design journey and selecting a partner in our Service Design Procurement Guide.

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