Research group PREAGO from Aalto University and IT company Reaktor are looking for cooperation possibilities within the N4S program for processing in-depth customer data with the help of data science and qualitative research. Aalto University has conducted research into customer behaviour related to products and usability of services for 15 years. The group has been one of the first to examine how emotions affect customer loyalty, for example. According to the research, emotions, memories and long-term user experience has a significant impact on customer loyalty, in addition to the utility and usability of the product.
The PREAGO research group at Aalto University participates in the N4S program in order to support companies in the new digital economy through the research. The University and the companies that participate in the programme have several cooperation projects where value is modeled, customer feedback is collected and the companies’ practices in the software ecosystem are supported.
The aim of the cooperation with IT company Reaktor is to combine qualitative behavioural research and data science methods in collecting and processing in-depth customer data. Services based on processing and analysing large data pools have been a part of Reaktor’s supply since the start of the big data phenomenon, and currently the company has its own department for data science experts.
One of the research areas of Professor Marjo Kauppinen’s (right) PREAGO group is recognising customer and business value and supporting customer loyalty with the help of continuous feedback. Postdoctoral Researcher Sari Kujala (left) believes that product and service properties that appeal to emotions increase the user’s customer loyalty.
Postdoctoral Researcher Sari Kujala from the PREAGO research group believes that qualitative user research will expand on the results of data science regarding why customers use a particular product or service and what is good and worth keeping about it.
“Qualitative user research provides answers to questions of how and why. When we know that people behave in a contradictory way based on data analysis, and at which point in the user process there are problems, qualitative methods can be used to examine the reasons more carefully. With the help of data analysis, we can also identify critical moments – for example, at which point the customer loses their interest in the service. This is how we know that collecting qualitative feedback is worthwhile. When they are combined, these methods bring holistic, in-depth knowledge about customer behaviour,” says Kujala.
Product properties that appeal to emotions are the most important ones
The data behind the numbers has been examined with the support of qualitative methods only recently. So far, companies have invested mainly in useful products and services and their value have been traditionally examined from an economic point of view. According to research, however, the value is not created in product development, but when using the product.
Sari Kujala talks about her research on customer loyalty
“The majority of companies do not have information about their customers’ overall behaviour. It has been discovered that the customer’s behaviour is guided not only by utility and usability but also enjoyment. Since enjoyment factors may, in practice, become more important than usability in the long run, we have focused our research on long-term user experience and the factors that create enjoyment – such as rewards, attraction and fun,” Kujala says.
Curve-drawing method takes emotions and memories into consideration
Kujala, who examines product and service design from a human-centric viewpoint, conducts research into how the product or service feels for the customer and how product developers create products that can remain rewarding for a long time. Kujala’s group has developed a curve-drawing method (UX Curve) that takes into consideration the user’s memories, emotions and long-term user experience regarding the product or service.
“The method is based on the factors that the users themselves consider as important. The users look back on their feelings regarding how it felt like to start using the product, and how their relationship with the product has changed with time. They evaluate their experiences from different perspectives, such as attractiveness, ease of use, usability, utilisation rate. Finally, the user draws a curve about how the experience has changed. Changes in the curve bring up the meaningful things that should be examined and taken into consideration in product design,” Kujala says.
Kujala, with a background in psychology and cognitive science, explains that the method is based on the user’s experiences that were particularly positive or negative.
“In long-term use, only the top experiences will be remembered. These memories correspond with the overall user experience, and this evaluation makes the user continue using the product and recommend it to others.”
“With the help of data analysis, we can also identify critical moments—for example, at which point the customer loses their interest in the service”
Hidden needs are important
According to Kujala’s research, the hidden needs related to the use of the product are essential information for the designers of the product and service. ”In a study regarding the needs of mobile phone users, we discovered that it is important for the users to own a phone that reflects their personality and to personalise the phone’s services to feel like their own. For example, the fact that the phone does not have a place to hang jewellery may be a more important reason in selecting the phone than usability. The phone is shown to friends and the user wants it to look good in the eyes of others. The fact that one’s own phone is better than those of others is a cause for pride,” Kujala says.
“In a study regarding Facebook users it was discovered that, in the long term, users are motivated by social factors, such as communication with friends and stimulations, such as social information, photos, games and applications and functions that the user has not yet used. Expressing one’s own thoughts and personality for example through liking different groups also increases the enjoyment obtained from the service,” Kujala says.
The need for self-expression
Kujala’s research shows that in long-term use, the user’s interest is upheld by new properties and applications, and taking them into use and learning how to use them bring new possibilities for self-expression and social activities. The researcher believes that product design should focus on developing customer loyalty with new, interesting additional properties.
“A product or service, whose attractiveness grows with time, increases the users’ willingness to recommend the product to their friends. With services intended for consumers in particular, merely practical and useful properties are often not sufficient for forming an emotional bond,” Kujala states.
According to her, the product should have a positive effect on its user’s life and needs.
“Product designers should help people achieve their goals and support a positive self-image. If the product or service makes its user embarrassed or feel stupid, the initial excitement turns into disappointment, and the user will not necessarily be very interested in continuing its use,” adds Kujala.
“Our aim in the N4S project is to develop meters for collecting customer feedback, in order to predict how loyal customers remain when the novelty wears off. At the same time, we are collecting feedback about how loyalty can be better supported,” Kujala says.
- Kujala, S., et al. UX Curve: A method for evaluating long-term user experience. Interact. Comput. (2011), doi:10.1016/ j.intcom.2011.06.005
- Kujala, S. & Miron-Shatz, T. Emotions, experiences and usability in real-life mobile phone use. (2013)
- Kujala, S., et al. Identifying Hedonic Factors in Long-Term User Experience. (2011)
The SPRG research group supports accelerating product development
Aalto University’s SPRG research group, lead by Professor Casper Lassenius, also participates in the N4S program. The group’s research themes deal with especially the first work package of the N4S program, Delivering Product Value in Real-Time. The group has several cooperation projects with Ericsson and Nokia, for example. These projects examine the transfer of large companies towards agile and lean operational models and developing operations towards continuous deliveries.
The Project Manager, Dr. Tech. Maria Paasivaara, explains that the SPRG group examines changes within organisations and taking into use constant integration and continuous deliveries, with their challenges and solutions.
“We examine what kinds of changes have been done within companies and what are being done, and we provide feedback about what has worked well and where there is room for development,” Senior Researcher Paasivaara says.
According to Paasivaara, the challenge with change is how to organise the whole.
“We examine how good practices are scaled from one team to dozens of other, geographically dispersed teams, and how a large group of teams developing the same product could operate together efficiently. In addition to normal agile practices, scaling requires new practices. We examine which new working practices are functional and which are not,” Paasivaara says.
She says that, traditionally, there were new product versions every two years in the field of telecommunications just a little while ago.
”Instead of the previous waterfall model, we first collect customer requests, then analyse, code and then spend a long time testing the product. Now, the aim is a quick reaction time from the customer request to having the new property as a part of the product. For example, in terms of one product, new versions are published every eight weeks, and the aim is to move towards continuous deliveries,” Paasivaara explains.
Paasivaara says that the aim is to accelerate product development so that automation tests are conducted as the properties are developed, in which case the final testing period can be significantly reduced. In an optimal situation, the new property can be delivered immediately when the implementation is ready, without separate final testing.
“Small, agile and multi-skilled teams include both developers and testers. We also continuously aim to conduct a large number of tests automatically, so that when the developers have integrated their own products into the product package, they will receive testing feedback quickly and correct any errors immediately. The aim is to bring the product to customers immediately when the new functionality has been completed,” Paasivirta says.