In late 2019, Nokia engaged UXReactor to design a highly innovative system for one of the UK’s largest phone service providers.
The challenge: To bring to reality an unproven, untested concept with the potential to transform the customer experience of 32 million UK phone service subscribers.
The evolved Service Operations Center (eSOC), otherwise known as Nokia’s Experience Center, empowers phone carriers to dramatically improve the customer experience while growing profits.
Within one year, the Nokia eSOC directly contributed to a 100% increase in the growth rate of the phone carrier’s customer base.
Imagine you’re at Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco. You’re watching the game with a client, but at the same time, you’re watching your phone. The message you’re expecting is time-sensitive.
Ping. The message notification comes through. You need to sign and return the attachment, but your network fails when you click to download.
It’s enough to make you seriously consider switching carriers. No, not just switching your personal phone plan but moving your team to a more reliable network.
At the root of the issue is a user experience (UX) problem.
Let’s say that instead of running through the parking lot in search of a stronger signal, you call your carrier, and you reach the service operator.
Let’s call her Sophie. She’s at the frontline of service resolution, and Sophie really would love to help you. But Sophie is hampered in her goals because:
While you’re waiting, pacing, it takes Sophie up to 10 minutes to gather data from about five different tools. Only then can she begin to understand why you can’t get data. Meanwhile, you’re losing patience by the minute.
It’s not Sophie’s fault. And it’s not even the quality of your phone carrier’s network.
It’s just that troubleshooting at most network service centers is entirely reactive. They’re organized to take action when a tower goes down or when a customer calls.
But network carriers are not set up to predict potential disruptions and take action in advance. They just don’t have the tools.
Yet, many service issues are predictable. Case in point: When a game is on at Levi’s Stadium, tens of thousands of users are suddenly drawing from a single tower.
If Sophie could track and triangulate data on major sporting events, as just one example, she could predict your issue in advance. Your carrier could proactively redirect bandwidth, so you and other game-goers would experience service as usual.
Event data is just one source of intelligence relevant to network service. Weather, the distance of users from cell towers, and even the time of day impact the quality of your phone service.
Downtime and network slowdowns cause customer churn, and network providers are under constant pressure to deliver better service.
Nokia recognized that service and customer experience are competitive strategy issues. Because customers don’t buy the network. They buy the network services.
To deliver exceptional service experiences, Nokia’s customers — multinational phone carrier companies — need the right tools.
So, Nokia set out to create an all-new, radically transformed, experience-focused Service Operations Center (SOC).
Nokia would design an “evolved SOC” (eSOC) platform for a new service model in which operators could proactively monitor the network, individual customer experiences, and service performance in real-time.
No other network and no other phone carrier service had cracked this innovation challenge. By launching a successful eSOC, Nokia would break entirely new ground — miles ahead of the competition.
UXReactor wasn’t Nokia’s first design partner on this project. Nokia initially engaged one of the largest global management consulting firms. Yet, sixteen months into the project, it became clear that the other agency wasn’t able to deal with the complexity of the design problem.
On the back-end, the eSOC system would need to pipe in tower data, weather data, buzz from social media, and several other channels before triangulating that data across dimensions of location, time, and users.
On the front-end, the eSOC system would need to be simple and useful — despite the back-end complexity so that service operators could make effective recommendations fast.
When Nokia engaged UXReactor, we had just eight months to deliver a working eSOC platform to one of the United Kingdom’s largest phone carriers.
A platform no competitor had ever before designed.
Under tight timelines, too many agencies short-cut the steps in UX design. At UXReactor, even under time constraints, we lean into our proven process.
Here’s how we delivered a ground-breaking innovation for Nokia in eight months.
Our design starting place: To bring to reality a theoretical concept, not yet proven practical. After all, no one had done this before.
Our first task was to align the internal Nokia stakeholders around a user-centered approach to solving the problem. But historically, Nokia has been a technology and engineering-first organization.
What’s more, from R&D to engineering, product management, sales, and business development, different teams had different ideas of how the product should look.
Nokia’s teams are located across the US, UK, and Europe. So, the critical first step was to bring everyone together physically to kick off our collaboration and agree on how we would work across multiple domains and continents.
At the outset, UXReactor set the expectation. Before we’d even begin looking at the design, we needed to understand the users and the ecosystem.
Diving deep into the user research, we discovered that service operators experienced several challenges that ate into their time and caused frustration, especially when operators needed to identify root causes of customer issues.
The existing system presented customer and network data in silos, which meant operators had to painstakingly piece together different data sets to get the bigger picture of a customer’s problem. To do so, operators had to log in to many different tools, slowing their process.
We knew that to predict and resolve service issues, operators needed to see data in context, in a single tool. Yet, we were working with vast volumes of multidimensional data, which made it more difficult to streamline and simplify the operator’s experience.
It was this challenge that stymied our predecessors. They struggled with how to present so many different types of data in a way that would be useful for operators.
Drawing on our user research, the UXReactor team redesigned the framework to integrate operator workflows and tools into a single digital workspace — one that efficiently organizes data (no matter how complex) and presents operators with a cohesive, easy-to-understand picture of customer network experiences.
Next, we handed the designs to Nokia’s development team to create a working prototype.
Unfortunately, many product teams and design agencies check user validation off the list at the end of the development process or even after delivery.
The only way to develop a user-accepted product was to get the prototype in front of real users well before the delivery deadline. So, we installed the system prototype in the UK phone carrier’s environment. Then, we sat with their network operators over three days while they put it through its paces.
Operators said things like, “I would have to sign into five different applications just to get the amount of information I can now see on this one screen.”
That’s exactly what we wanted to hear.
User validation always surfaces opportunities to improve a product.
But by the end of that round of testing, we knew the new platform would radically transform the user experience of service operators — who, in turn, would deliver a measurably better customer experience.
Our next step was to make design updates based on feedback. Nokia’s dev team then took the product to the finish line.
As Vinay Draksharam, Sr. eXperience Design Strategist at UXReactor, explains:
In a construction project, we’re the architects.
UXReactor will plan how the building looks and is structured. We’ll give you a plumbing plan, an electrification plan. We'll tell you what permits you need.
The client still has to build it. And in this case, the project was successful not only because of the design architecture, but because Nokia built and delivered to such a high standard.
UXReactor delivered the designs on deadline, despite the tight timelines, and Nokia took the product to the finish line.
With the new eSOC — branded as the Nokia Experience Center — Sophie no longer has to log into five different tools to understand why you aren’t getting reception. She now has a real-time 360° view of your customer experience and service quality in a single workspace.
That means Sophie can get to the root cause of your issue far more efficiently.
You spend less time waiting on the phone, and Sophie gives you clear answers (which helps to dissipate your frustration). Better still, she can resolve your issue faster.
For the first time, Sophie and other service operators can also predict network service issues. She can let you know ahead of time if there’s likely to be a problem. That proactive communication makes you feel the phone carrier cares about your customer experience.
Nokia Experience allows us to proactively monitor our customers’ experiences and take the actions needed, based on measured trends, and done through automation.
Chief Technology Officer, Telefonica UK
Operators are now 15x more efficient at monitoring, identifying potential service issues, and resolving issues as they arise.
Sr. eXperience Design Strategist ux reactor
We consolidated five disparate solutions into one centralized platform for service operators to service their customers.
They are now able to process issues seamlessly and 15 times faster, thereby creating more happy customers.
Director, Solutions Management, Nokia Software Solutions Engineering
Naturally, Nokia’s customer, the phone carrier, also benefits. You’re less likely to switch carriers, so they profit from customer retention.
The carrier saves costs because a single operator can monitor about 30,000 customer experiences at once and serve callers in less time.
Those operators are not only more efficient — they now have more job satisfaction. The eSOC is intuitive, and it empowers people like Sophie to be truly effective at their work. She can make confident, data-driven decisions that ultimately improve customer happiness.
More ease, lower costs, more profitability...
All of this is possible only because Nokia had a radical vision of an evolved Service Operating Center. And they trusted in design to bring that innovation to life.
The Nokia Experience Center demonstrates how user experience design can drive product innovation and a customer experience advantage — even in multi-national, highly complex, B2B environments. And with results that are highly profitable.
Do you see an opportunity to grow by transforming the experience of your users and customers?
Talk to UXReactor about creating market-leading innovation.