Working with the Dutch national rail operator to find opportunities for innovation
2 minute read
NS International is a branch of Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the Dutch national rail company, operating international train connections from The Netherlands to more than 3000 destinations in Europe. Across three separate engagements over 2017 and 2018, I worked with design and innovation agency Nordkapp, looking for new ways to improve experiences for rail travellers.
We worked directly with NSI's internal teams, developing design thinking methodologies and working hands-on to find opportunities aligned with different parts of the business strategy. Our work involved customer research, ideation, persona creation, value proposition design, workshops and lean experiments to test the viability of different solutions.
The 'double diamond' formed the basis of our approach to each project wave. Starting with a single area of investigation, we expanded our knowledge and understanding of the problem area, then focused in on a particular opportunity.
We then explored ways of addressing the opportunity or problem. Through experimentation and testing of prototypes we settled on solutions and built proofs of concept.
Prioritisation of customer groups based on potential value, assumption mapping and reviewing existing research helped us to find our focus for the first investigations.
Talking to customers
Along with customer interviews, we designed a co-creation workshop with a group of travellers to help us draw out insights about their travel habits, motivations, pain points and suggestions for improvements.
Making sense of the data
We used affinity mapping to collate our insights, help build consensus across the team and to share our findings with others. Writing down and grouping related insights allowed the team to clearly see the most common patterns in behaviours and pain-points.
Re-tracing our steps
Following the research rounds, the team felt that a re-alignment exercise was necessary to review our progress and findings, and check that we were still focused on the problems we had initially identified. To do this we developed a 'story so far' journey mapping exercise wherein we re-traced our steps through the project during the solution fit phase.
Writing value propositions
Using value proposition canvases we focused on the best opportunities for our customer groups based on the insights we had found. This process helped us to link pain points to possible solutions.
Using the Crazy 8s technique, we were able to consider a lot of potential solutions very quickly.
Customer experience strategy
We used ideal customer journey mapping to identify the touchpoints our customers were likely customers to use, and to communicate to stakeholders where in the journey we expected the new ideas to feature. The output was then simplified, illustrated and used as an asset in our presentations to the business.
Experiment design, testing and iteration
Experimentation and rapid prototyping helped us to define proof of concept for the most promising ideas. In addition we used tools such as the Business Model Canvas helped us to estimate viability and to present the case for investment.
Two of the concepts we helped develop at NSI are now in pilot phase while they are tested and refined in readiness for full launch.
Alex Charlton is a digital product and service designer