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The future of telco

Discover options for strategic product offering extension to stay relevant in an ever commoditizing market

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The challenge

For this challenge, we collaborated with Columbia Business School and worked together with Columbia Design Studio experts located in New York City. We picked the most exciting problem from among many submissions from multiple companies.


This challenge was inspiring, as it was not necessarily company or even industry specific. Many struggle as various startups, technology giants pop up with more tailored and more appealing offerings that disrupt the telco market: How can incumbent telcos keep up in an era when everything is being simplified, technology is always readily available and differentiation between offerings is becoming increasingly more difficult?

The process

To explore the challenge, we set out to try and examine the future of telco.


Our research was focused on explorative future visions and future defining strategies. In order to achieve this, user interviews were conducted with minimal guidance and few pre-written questions. For the persona-segment we were interested in learning more about - the young parent with a technical aptitude - we posed guiding questions and asked them to speak about their lives, habits and topics that matter to them. Through their description of daily routines, experiences with daily tasks like banking, and visions of their futures we connected to specific life defining events they had experienced in order to shape the project to their underlying needs.


An interesting finding was that even when we asked if they had preferred companies and why (outside of telco) they cited a multitude of reasons: trust, simplicity, quality and brand among them. Nobody cited taking social responsibility as important, and even explicitly asking about it yielded indifference.


Through this methodology, we could identify added value and possible directions that go beyond industry boundaries. It allowed us to step away from purpose drivenness, which was something we had previously thought important.

Concurrently to interviews we conducted market research and synthesized our findings. Here it once again became clear that although new arenas are opening in telco, seamless customer experience continues to be above all else. Latest customer trends showed that people think differently of services and their expectations also vary based on the type of service, and telecommunication is quickly becoming a commodity, making the expectations clear and the importance of meeting them crucial. The main difference between an experience buy and a necessity purchase: enjoyment versus a desire for quick resolution.


Customers today base their functional purchase decisions on convenience. The more hassle-free and less time-consuming an experience is, the better they perceive it. This is especially true for affluent customers: they just want a seamless experience. Vodafone, like most other multinational companies, is aware of the importance of this, and continuously works on improvements. For this reason, we had to take the problem and our findings in a different direction.

The impact

How might we add value to relevant customer experiences that make users feel like they received something they actually wanted? How might we make the decision to pick Vodafone over something else matter to the user on a personal level, by leveraging their personal beliefs and what they consider important? How might we discover what customers find value in?


Questions like these serve as the basis for setting our direction and we put safety, family, parenting, cyber security, purpose and journeys in our focus. Our collaboration with Columbia Business school yielded many ideas, out of which 11 tangible prototypes resulted. These all aimed to solve a user problem by focusing on answering a deep customer need.


When presenting these ideas to Vodafone, they considered a few seriously, and are working on implementing one in the future. Vodafone Concierge - a personalized text based on-demand booking service, Voda Home - a smart home system designed for security and maximum control aimed to meet true user needs, were both among the top ideas.

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