Customer role

“Our business customers are usually involved in the planning of the routes, accommodations and the program as a whole. Together we ponder how to put their customers to do some real work, I mean over there in the cabins…split the wood for the fire, prepare food and to do other things by themselves.”

“Well, we had positive experiences with an idea contest organised by our tourism association. It was more or less related to finding a suitable name for the village clubhouse, developing a historical cultural hiking track and getting feedback from the locals on tourism in the village.

All in all, it was interesting. We were not only able to get new ideas for product development but also to meet new people. I think that in the future we will have better possibilities for involving locals in the planning of both our company and the tourism association.” 


Finnair is after quality together with its passengers

Customers can be involved in a number of different ways. It is not always possible to have customers attending a product planning meeting, and defining customer profiles together with a consultant does not necessary lead to accurate and new information. Finnair attracted media attention in September 2010 by launching a programme called RethinkQuality. The programme served to examine quality and the different meanings given to it as well as to involve real customers in its product and business development. The result of the programme can be used widely when it comes to serving customers better.

The programme started with an unusual international job advertisement searching for Quality Hunters. 5200 applications from 89 countries were submitted over a one month period. Finnair finally appointed four persons – Quality Hunters – who travelled to Finnair destinations during a two-month period examining quality in the airplanes, airports and destinations. Christina, Warren, Ella and Wolfgang were thus involved in this sort of ongoing product development. In addition to reporting their experiences to their employer, they regularly shared them through blog posts and pictures on the internet and social media. Finnair’s RethinkQuality website also made it possible to vote for the best Quality Hunter. The website, indeed, served as a means to involve readers and other customers in the discussion and analytical work on quality.


Experiencing sociability: Porsche Camp4 and Villi Pohjola – Eräsetti Wild North

In Porsche’s Camp4, social media has been discovered as a means for involving customers in the development and production of the product. Each year with enough time in advance, before the few Porsche community representatives – Porsche owners – come to Lapland to learn more about the features and performance of their cars and new driving skills and to become more attached to the Porsche brand, a closed facebook group is opened to them. In this group they can meet each other, exchange ideas and prepare themselves for the up-coming experiences. In a similar way, during their stay in Lapland they can update their status and share their experiences with the other members of the camp. After the holidays, discussions and the exchange of experiences and memories continue in the same virtual environment now with more familiar peers and new friends.

In the facebook profile of Villi Pohjola – Eräsetti Wild North customers can send greetings and post pictures not only from Lapland but also from around the world. In contrast to other companies Eräsetti Wild North uses facebook as a joint experience and good mood moderator and not only as a simple tool for marketing communication.

Involving locals in product development: How is Christmas reflected around the year in the official town of Santa Claus?

Tourism spaces are not limited to the use of tourists, but they are part of the everyday life of local people. From this perspective, it makes sense to involve local people in the planning and design of their living environments. This allows developing tourism on a socially sustainable basis.

While Rovaniemi has received the status of being the official hometown of Santa Claus, Christmas is never seen year-round in the city centre. In the autumn of 2010, an open public discussion forum was created in order to gather ideas and suggestions that could help to make the city centre look and feel like Christmas. The ideas collected through the forum have been used in workshops attended by representatives of leading companies and organisations from different sectors who share the common interest of developing a Christmas brand for Rovaniemi.

Photo: Rovaniemen kaupunki

The Christmas appeal, image and competitiveness of Rovaniemi as a year-round Christmas town have been developed under the leadership of Teemu Moilanen, a place branding expert. According to Moilanen, it is important to define a common vision of how and where Christmas is seen, heard and felt. Branding cannot be outsourced; rather it has to be in one’s own hands. Every inhabitant of Rovaniemi has an influence on the image of Rovaniemi as the capital of Christmas.

What is this about?

Customers must be involved in product development and the creation of their own experiences. This allows customers to be not only consumers but also key players in product development.

The customer does not experience things in a vacuum. Indeed, though they bring their own practices with them, they experience things together with other stakeholders. Parallel to the individual experiences, there is also room for experiencing sociability. As a result, an experience is not only a personal feeling; it is also a socio-culturally learned way of experiencing the world. Product developers should consider customisation, personality, sense of community and the sharing of experiences when planning the generation of ideas, conceptualisation of products and the tourist encounters.

A story that is sufficiently appealing, evocative and emotional belongs to those to whom the product has something to offer. Companies, networks and entire destinations should create a kind of “buffet” (see mass customisation tool) that makes them seen as a seamless entity of easily accessible products. This allows room for the customer to decide what he/she can try this time and even to come again to try something else.

Tourists are not the only stakeholders who take part in implementing and experiencing the product. When tourism products are built together at the interplay of different stakeholders, the product developer needs to look at the product from the perspective of different producers and consumers and thus consider their interests in the product implementation. Therefore, other entrepreneurs, employees, regional developers, authorities, business partners, local inhabitants and cultural administrators play a significant role as product developers and co-creators. The prevailing idea of consumer-customer – as “king” – usually leads product developers to a narrow understanding of their work. In addition to tourists, the engagement of other key stakeholders in product development yields fruitful results.


Open the product developer’s workbook (link on the right). It will help you to apply the content of this page to your own case.

5.2. Customer role.doc (76.5 kB)
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