Redesigning the Portuguese Postal Service

Hidde Burgmans
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Hidde Burgmans
Oct 01, 2017 . 9 mins read
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Flying back home as a Dutch guy isn’t always a pleasure. Especially when changing the climate, food and beer prices of Lisbon for the grey and rainy summer days of Amsterdam. But hey, let’s talk about some fun stuff. The last six weeks we had the honour of working with CTT, the oldest and biggest postal company of Portugal. The outline: a clear goal, a messy design process and great results. Here is our approach:

Kasper (Partner at Koos Lisbon) during a customer interview

The outline of the project.

Our mission at CTT was twofold. First, create a coherent experience for the ‘E managing platform.’ A platform initialised to bring together the currently scattered productportfolio of CTT’s private users. Thereby integrating several services of which some yet to be launched. Second, train a large part of the department in Service Design so that the results of the project can be continued internally. The deliverable: The User Experience of the platform. We had six weeks.

Double diamond Service Design process yo!

Even though the timeline was challenging, nothing excites us more than a project that goes through the full design cycle. A quick summary:

Week 1: Creating overview and focus through internal interviews and a customer journey eco-system.
Week 2: Empathise. A week with a lot of coffee-dates, Ubers through Lisbon and inspiring customer interviews.
Week 3: Define. Making sense of it all. We used the value proposition canvasto turn our insights into a focussed value proposition for CTT.
Week 4: Ideate. This is where the magic happens. Or at least a bit. We followed a structured approach resulting in the desired journey.
Week 5 & 6: Prototype. Turning our insights and ideas into the UX of the new ‘E managing platform.’

This approach allowed us to perfectly combine Service Design and UX throughout the projectAnd even though we are still in the mids of a discussion where the transition between the two disciplines precisely lie, (read my last article) the combination of the two paid off. The desired journey was jam-packed with insights, quotes and ideas on how to improve the receiving and sending experience of CTT. Together serving the purpose of the platform: Putting the user in control. Without giving away too much of the project, these are the three main steps we designed to transform a powerless user to one in control.

1. Building a relationship

The customer interviews showed a wide variety of user needs during the postal process. Both for the sender and the receiver of packages there is a constant shift between a more believing attitude, (someone who believes it’s all going to be fine) and a more controlling one (someone who’s quite convinced everything will go wrong). This shifting attitude and its underlying needs changes per person, mood, over the contents of the delivery, time or even address. Besides, as the following quote shows, users (in this case a definite believer) are fine with providing more information to create a service that better tailors their specific needs.

“I don’t mind giving away personal information if it means that I don’t have to oversee the process as much.”

Different needs require a different service. To meet these changing needs CTT has to get to know the customers and empower them to take control. In order to get to know one another, one only needs to do one simple thing: start a conversation.

The profile section and conversation starters throughout the app.

Therefore, the profile section was given a significant role in the ‘E manager platform.’ This section allows customers to set their preferred address, day of the week, time, stores, payment methods and lockers. It wil include what to do when something goes wrong, when to notify you, how these differ over packages, etc. To stimulate the usage of this section and to keep the conversation going, several questions are being asked throughout the entire UX of the app. Thereby, slowly but steadily getting to know the customer. Building a relationship that over time will tailor the delivery service to everyones unique needs.

2. Improving the store experience

The second major improvement concerned the store experience, thereby challenging our UX skills into the physical landscape. Historically CTT has been the only postal operator in Portugal and hence they have numerous postal offices throughout the country. Since the privatisation five years ago CTT aimed to make those offices more efficient by starting various other services such as Banco CTT. Due to this, sending and receiving became just one of the many offers. I will save you the quotes about the experiences in the stores, or the things they’d rather do than going there and having to wait in line. One thing was clear, the needs of the postal customers have been overruled by the new offers in the store.

Sketch of the redesigned CTT store

The E managing platform allowed us to rethink the entire CTT store. Functionalities that take up most of the time, like the preparation of sending or receiving a package, are transferred to the platform. Jobs like choosing an address, adding track & trace, identification and payment can all be done beforehand inside the app. This way customers are less dependent on the stores and free in doing these jobs whenever suits them, wherever suits them. The store’s new set-up allows customers to arrange the full pick up and drop off process independently, 24 hours a day.

3. Fighting failed deliveries

During the conversations we had internally at CTT as well as during the interviews with the customer we noticed one thing that frustrated both: the amount of failed deliveries. Moreover, the amount of unnecessary rides it has as a result. Improving the succes rate of deliveries will not only decrease the amount of time spent on a delivery, it will also lower CTT delivery costs. But there is more: improving the rate will significantly improve the sustainability of the postal industry. Both the customer and CTT realise that the current way of delivery -waiting for three drives and hoping for the best- is totally irresponsible. Therefore, as a third step the ongoing conversation is used to improve the succes rate of CTT’s deliveries.

First, awareness is created by addressing the amount of succesful deliveries and rewarding one-time-deliveries. Second, customers are stimulated to provide information that helps like adding addresses, turning on certain notifications and allowing CTT to pick a store or locker over a second attempt.

“I wouldn’t mind if my parcel arrives a few days later – I just want to make sure I’ll be there.’

Lastly, the customer is stimulated to bundle parcels. Whenever deliveries are planned within the same week, customers are asked if it is ok to bundle them. Saving time, money and off course a lot of unnecessary rides.

Creating a unified experience

The six week project led to a great amount of results varying from small improvements to steps that have major impact. The platform’s biggest potential is in the conversation it starts between CTT and the customer. Growing a relationship that will put the user in control.

As always, the challenge lies in the continuation of the project. Our holistic approach brought out solutions that can’t be realised by one department alone. A service is the total sum of every single touchpoint created by all the different departments. In order to create a unified experience, a company needs to be unified.

Due to a ruthless customer first approach a Service Design project is able to break through existing silos. Pointing out missing links in an organisation along the way. Thereafter, UX prototypes help unify by giving tangible solutions to pursue together. Next, implementation is strengthened by the handover to the key employees of CTT who actively participated in the project and followed our training. Leaving them with the right skills, methodologies and a long term goal to guide the different departments of CTT to work together in a customer centric way.

Combining Service Design with UX makes sure company conventions are replaced by in depth customer needs. Guarding us from designing the right thing, instead of designing the thing right.

Want to know more about the case, the process or us. Come visit Koos in Amsterdam or Lisbon for a cup of coffee.

Thanks to Kasper, Emilie & Serena for the awesome work on the project.

Hidde Burgmans
Written by
Hidde Burgmans
Oct 01, 2017 . 9 mins read
Share this article