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Mikko Koivisto: Multidisciplinary studies give you a unique skill set

A forerunner in service design, Master of Arts and Design Mikko Koivisto moved on from consulting to the energy industry where he works with the social issues brought on by climate change. Now he has a chance to work on customer experience development at the energy company Helen and tackle challenges related to the transition of the energy industry.
Kuva: Mikko Koivisto

1. Mikko Koivisto, what do you do for a living?    

As of January 2020, I have been Head of Customer Experience and Service Design at Helen, where service design is used to develop customer service and other services, sales, new products and solutions. We at Helen believe that a good customer experience can only stem from good employee experience, which I also develop as part of my work.    

2. How did you become Head of Customer Experience and Service Design at Helen?  

I was working as a consultant, but then felt it was time to move on from project-based work. At Helen, I can put my skills to use and have an impact through my work, because I’m responsible for the customer experience as a whole, not just for individual projects. I am always keen to learn and develop myself, so taking up a position at Helen was a natural step for me, especially as I had done consulting for them before and was therefore interested in Helen as an employer.  

The fundamental reason for me being here is climate change. I believe that the energy industry is undergoing a transition: there are great expectations for this industry and a great deal is happening at the moment. The industry is much more attractive in the eyes of both prospective employees and customers than was ever anticipated, and people are increasingly conscious of their choices. I want to be able to have an impact on all this.  

3. What have been the highlights of your career?  

Even as a student at University of Art and Design, I wondered about why design should be limited only to objects or buildings. I think that discovering service design was a major highlight in my early career. I was the first person to write a master’s thesis on the topic in Finland, and it has defined my whole career so far.    

Gaining recognition in design competitions has always been an important highpoint for me. A particularly memorable recognition was the global Service Design Award I received in 2015. Another was being asked to join the board of International Design Foundation, the foundation that was in charge of organising the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 events. The position gave me a ringside view of the implementation of the year’s events. In 2017, I received the Ornamo Award for reforming design and doing pioneering work in service design, a recognition I value very highly. Most recently, another pinnacle has been Palvelumuotoilun bisneskirjaa book on service design that was published last spring.   

4. What are the key characteristics for someone working in service design?   

One of the key traits is the ability create an empathetic connection with the customer and service user. Other important tools are a knowledge of ethnographic methods, business competence, and the skills to combine customer values into profitable business solutions , without forgetting the technical implementation. This job requires skills in strategic thinking and the ability to carry out hands-on solutions and facilitate workshops. You could say that this job is a good fit for someone who likes social interaction.    

5. How did studying at Aalto prepare you for the world of work?  

Without Aalto’s opportunities for multidisciplinary studies, I might have never found my way to service design. I had two minors in my degree. The IDBM programme allowed me to better understand how business can be developed through design, as I took courses in strategic leadership, and other subjects. The Usability School (now USchool) taught me user-centred design methods. This all goes to show that multidisciplinary studies can lead to a unique skill set.   

6. What advice would you give yourself if you were a student now?   

I wish I had gone on another, longer exchange period abroad, because the world of work is so international now. On the other hand, I could give myself credit for making smart choices and studying things that interested me, as they led me to the path I’m on.   

7. What are your expectations for the future?   

I am looking to build up a strong design team and bring the user-centred model of service design to the very core of Helen’s customer experience. I also want to respect the environment in all I do. Great things are on the way and I look forward to the future! 

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