4 Best Practices: Co-Creation with Customers

Change is happening much faster today than it did a few years ago. Digitalization and new technologies emerging are affecting not only our lives, but also our expectations and needs. This behavioral change has a particular impact on companies targeting consumers and end customers.


Therefore, companies must constantly adapt to the changing user needs by improving services and performances and introducing new products. The increasing speed of change means that companies also have to make ever faster adjustments to their product and service portfolios. For this to succeed, a regular exchange between companies and customers is necessary. After all, who knows best about the needs and expectations of users than the users themselves?


Our experience shows that collaboration and customer proximity are much more successful than classical market research. The latter is usually time-consuming and costly – and cannot replace a real dialogue between company and customer. After all, dialogue is not a one-way street, nor is collaboration. Rather, both sides must be prepared to work together on the products and services of the future.


Such cooperation can happen in small workshops with selected customers. Yet, with the help of digital tools, companies can involve significantly more people in their development – customer or not. Everyone can participate in collaborative idea generation and work on products or services together.


innosabi customers rely on collaboration with consumers and users. With the help of now established structures, customer proximity and focus can be accomplished throughout the entire company. Innovative ideas emerge with crowd innovation, while they are then checked for user-friendliness in prototype testing. In addition to companies’ own community, the Supercharger can be used to survey people worldwide about their opinions, expectations, and needs. In this way, customer-oriented products or services are created in a real dialogue – in co-creation with customers.


Postbank: Together into the future

What features should a banking app provide to meet the needs of its users? How do people imagine the bank of the future? What has to be improved on the new chatbot so it offers real added value?


Since 2014, Postbank has been discussing such questions together with its customers in the Postbank Ideenlabor (German for “idea lab”). There are collaborative innovation projects on the platform, in which customers are involved in every step of product development. It begins with the discussion and consolidation of the entire communities’ needs. Possible solutions are then developed in several steps. Depending on the project, this may also include testing a real prototype and continuous improvement up to a finished product. In this way, around 50 projects are launched on the platform each year. All have a direct influence on the development or improvement of a product or service.




In total, more than 8,000 suggestions and contributions from customers were collected in these cooperation projects.

From the very beginning, the Postbank Ideenlabor served as a holistic cooperation platform for customers, integrating them from the initial idea all the way to the implementation of the results. The platform forms the central interface for all areas of the company to reach the customers. As of now, the more than 12,000 members of the Postbank Community know that their ideas and feedback are taken seriously throughout the organisation. This way, a positive, constructive environment for feedback developed.


“If you are willing to ask your customers, you absolutely have to make sure that their answers will be heard. Something has to happen when users clearly voice their opinions. That’s why our goal is always to tackle questions holistically. Start with an idea, work on a concept together, and eventually come up with a minimum viable product. We want to take the participants with us on the whole journey. Because in large organizations like ours, the path from new insights to new products can be a little less direct than we would like it to be. And this also means that you have to be willing to let go of your own assumptions and plans if the community thinks differently.” – Martin Brings, Head and Strategic Lead of Ideenlabor


Martin Brings supports this statement with an example. Postbank planned a finance app for children and young people, which they could use to track their spendings and thus learn responsibility in dealing with money. Finding the right target group within the Postbank community — namely parents who wanted to work on such an app with their children — was a challenge. But it was worth it. Even in the early stages of the discussion about the needs of young users, it became clear that the ideas of the adult product managers were going in a completely different direction than the children’s expectations. On the basis of the children’s feedback, the project team took a step back and revised the entire concept from the scratch. With success! Regular feedback loops and prototype tests resulted in the finished app Young Money.


Telekom: Accelerating decisions and strengthening customer focus

A product portfolio that is always up-to-date means constant development and adjustments. Good customer service means constant adaptation to customer needs. Exactly this focus on the customers’ expectations is central for new ideas and innovations.


“Our customers have a clear idea of what they need and expect from us. So what could be better than asking our customers what is important to them and what they like” – Anke Courtial, Project Owner Telekom Ideenschmiede, Telekom


For this reason, Deutsche Telekom has decided to proactively ask its customers about their needs and expectations. With the Telekom Ideenschmiede platform (German for “forging ideas”), which was launched in January 2018, the company is giving its customers the opportunity to actively shape products and services. More than 6,000 members can be surveyed on a wide variety of topics, producing representative results in less than four days. The platform enables Deutsche Telekom to obtain both quantitative and qualitative feedback from customers and non-customers in an uncomplicated and timely manner. Classic market research is more time-consuming and protracted in a direct comparison. With the help of the Telekom Ideenschmiede, decisions that affect customers are accelerated.


The Ideenschmiede team is firmly anchored in the company and is the point of contact for all areas of Deutsche Telekom. Projects are implemented on the platform together with experts from the respective departments and the results are fed back into the departments. In this way, needs, expectations and opinions are continually incorporated into Telekom’s various projects – and ensure comprehensive customer orientation.


Deutsche Bank: Identifying needs early

In spring 2018, Deutsche Bank organized a hackathon together with the FinTech Incubator FinLeap. The challenge of this female hackathon was: “To develop a solution by women for women: It should support women to overview and plan their financial situation from starting a career, starting a family, re-entering the job up to their retirement”.


29 female hackers faced this challenge in seven teams. Within two days, ideas and prototypes were developed. In the end, the best three projects were rewarded. All this is quite characteristic for a hackathon. But what made this one so special was the opportunity for the participants to use the innosabi Supercharger to obtain immediate feedback on their ideas. The teams asked a total of 43 questions to the community and received answers from 180 people virtually overnight. This way, the participants could be sure that they were on the right track.


“We used the Supercharger to ensure that we were developing our idea in the right direction – to suit user needs,” says Team SpaceHamster. Another team even completely changed their original idea. The Supercharger survey showed that the needs of potential users went in a different direction than the participants thought.


With the innosabi Supercharger, it can be determined at an early stage of idea generation whether the product idea matches the needs of potential users. This ensures that resources are used purposefully.


Federal Agency: Developing target group-oriented services with prototypes

As a public administrative authority, the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (German Federal Employment Agency) does not face the challenges of competition on the market like a private enterprise. But state enterprises are also confronted with changing expectations and needs of their target group — especially with regard to digitalization. The special challenge for the Bundesagentur für Arbeit lies in the variety of topics: from the handling of unemployment benefits to advice on career choices, and the establishment of training programs together with companies. These topics are all rooted in very different customer groups.


In order to find out what the expectations and needs of its customers are, the Federal Agency has launched the platform Ideenwerkstatt (German for “Workshop for Ideas”). There, digital solutions and services are developed in direct cooperation with various target groups such as jobseekers or companies. With the help of the Ideenwerkstatt, the Bundesagentur für Arbeit is well-connected with both sides and can tailor its work to the respective needs.


“The danger is always that you do not know the needs on the customer or employer side. And then maybe develop something only in one direction but have not noticed important details. With the direct collaboration in the Ideenwerkstatt, we avoid such undesirable developments.”
– Christina Bulenda, requirements management online, Bundesagentur für Arbeit


Since November 2015, the Ideenwerkstatt platform has shown that the benefits of collaboration apply to both jobseekers and employers. For cooperation with companies, this means developing new solutions and services in the field of digital recruiting. New offers for jobseekers are also being created. A good example of this is the Federal Agency’s App for Young People looking for an apprenticeship. During the development process, the Bundeagentur für Arbeit implemented the first drafts of the functionalities in a digital prototype. This prototype was tested in iterative loops with young people in search of an apprenticeship. Thanks to the fast, qualitative feedback on the platform, the Federal Agency was able to ensure that the app meets the needs of the users optimally. In this way, the Ideenwerkstatt bundles the needs of employers and jobseekers for a digital, user-centered future of the public sector.


Our experience with companies such as Postbank, Telekom and Bundesagentur für Arbeit shows that collaboration with external stakeholders is a central component of innovation. In co-creation with customers, products and services can be created that are perfectly tailored to the needs of consumers. In this way, organisations as well as customers benefit from cooperation.