Apoteket DosPac — revising an existing service to a new market

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Last December I had the pleasure of holding a Savvy Design breakfast seminar together with a previous client of mine, Apoteket. Apotekets Product Development Manager Carola Edsman and I spoke about the launch of their new service Apoteket DosPac that provides pre-packaged medicine for people with chronic ailments who need to consume several pills per day.

Carola and her team contracted with us at the now defunct Transformator Design to help them figure out how to bring an existing service targeted toward institutional customer to a new consumer market. The service, Apodos, served large and local health care institutions. Apoteket assumed that the demand for this service would grow robustly due to the aging of the Swedish public, but demand had tabled off. They wondered what they could do to increase sales.

When we came in, Apoteket had a typical inside-out view of the challenge. Most players in this market view the biggest challenge as one of compliance. That is, health care professionals telling patients: “Take your medicine! On time!” A Pharmacy’s primary business is making sure patients have filled their prescriptions. As we started this project in the winter of 2017 there was a lot of discussion about creating apps to push on compliance and fulfillment.

Our assigned task was to create a “Design brief” to outline how Apoteket might move forward with a launch or pilot. The project was small with a minimal budget and timeline. We convinced the team that the biggest challenge was that no one really knew what people with chronic ailments had for needs, expectations and frustrations. With our service design approach, we went about recruiting 8 people to interview along with 3 pharmacists.

Carola and her team did a great job in recruiting customers through a Facebook post. We were able to choose people with an array of ages and geographical locations. We started interviewing people via mobile calls.

It took us about two or three calls to realize that people with chronic ailments who had to take several medicines per day experienced an enormous amount of stress. It’s fair to describe this, in certain instances, as a living hell. People shared with us with emotional stories full of frustrations and exasperations. Everyone was happy that they had received a diagnosis so that they could now live a more “normal” life. Taking or ordering medicine wasn’t the big deal; the big problem was organizing their medicines.

People shared pictures with us. They shared stories of having to stay home every other Sunday to organize their medicines, days when everyone else was having fun. They described how they relied on mothers, husbands and even former boyfriends to help them manage organizing their pills. They told us the challenges of traveling with meds; of the challenges of 20-somethings living spontaneously with their friends or partners.

We captured those stories into customer insights. And then we did something a little different.

Instead of creating a presentation simply stating the insights and sharing a Customer Journey Map, the typical tools of the Service Design trade, we created a storyboard and shared it with the Apodos team.

With the storyboard we could get deeper into the emotional distress and the power of the insight. We could also show the impact this new service would have on peoples’ day-to-day lives. In short, we could bring to life customer needs, expectations and frustrations and communicate them in a deep and personal way to the client team. And we could show the impact on peoples’ lives the new service could deliver.

And that’s what happened. We used the storyboard to engage Carola’s team to help us work out some of the details of how this new service would work. It became a co-creation platform. Carola then acted faster than I’ve ever seen with a client: she took the storyboard and started sharing it with her voice to her decisionmakers and internal team. With the storyboard she was able to cut through a lot of the hesitation and internal inertia to show that the new service delivered a high value to customers. It enabled her to get critical buy in.

We then used the storyboard to help prototype the service and test it with potential customers. The middle part of the story included a meeting between customer and pharmacist where we introduced the new service. We helped script an interaction at a fake pharmacy with a real pharmacist. We instructed customers to pretend they needed to fill a prescription. During the interaction the pharmacist would introduce them to the service. We sent a live stream of the interaction to a room full of the internal team and then we interviewed customers afterwards.

Almost every customer jumped at the opportunity to use the service. Apoteket had great worries about pricing but some customers spontaneously offered to pay 3–4 times the suggested price. By prototyping and testing we heard even more stories about what a difference this service would make in peoples’ lives. By live streaming, the internal team heard it firsthand.

After the prototype test we documented all of our test results, insights and content into a design brief. Carola and her team used the design brief to launch a small pilot. Throughout the next year they tested, learned and optimized. When it came time for the major launch with TV advertising and web outreach, they had honed the messaging and created a new name, Apoteket DosPac, for the service.

As we watched the videos and ads, we saw something amazing: the content and stories shared in the marketing communications was pretty much the same as in our storyboards and insights. Carola had done the amazing: she had acted as customer champion throughout the project through launch making sure that the insights and customer value weren’t diluted as the project passed through multiple project teams.

One of the biggest learnings of this project was the need for internal staff to overcome their biases and assumptions. People who become pharmacists are typically very organized people. They had a hard time understanding that someone would have a hard time doing something they saw as very easy! But when they saw and heard firsthand from people who went through huge struggles organizing their daily medicines they finally understood. Because it was personal, it forced them to empathize.

Looking back on the successful launch of Apoteket DosPac, Carola and I concluded in the breakfast seminar that the key learnings of project and launch were:

  1. Use service design to uncover and highlight customer value.
  2. Storytelling as a strategic tool.
  3. Never stop testing and learning .
  4. Empathy, empathy, empathy.

Design Director and co-founder of Savvy Design Collaborative, design-driven entrepreneurship at YALI Dartmouth, VPR commentator, now playing in Sweden.

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