How Fidelity Co-Creates Its Customer Experience Ecosystem

To get a grip on your customer experience ecosystem — the complex set of relationships among your company's employees, partners, and customers that determines the quality of all customer interactions — you need to map it, co-create it, and socialize it

When I say “co-create it,” you might think of websites like My Starbucks Idea or Dell’s IdeaStorm — and those sites are great, but they’re not exactly what I’m talking about. Focus groups might also come to mind — but they’re not what I’m talking about, either.  When I talk about co-creation, I’m talking about active participation from employees, partners, and customers throughout the experience design process — from upfront research to in-person ideation sessions and concept testing.

As I mentioned in my keynote at Forrester’s recent Customer Experience Forum, this is an approach that Fidelity Investments has taken to heart. It's been working with the Stanford — yup, that’s “d” as in “design” — to embed co-creation within Fidelity’s organization.

The picture below shows a workshop in which Fidelity employees have immersed themselves with pictures and notes from in-field research looking at how Gen Y consumers interact with money.

But it’s not just Fidelity employees who are involved in the company’s co-creation activities. This next image shows a Fidelity customer telling Fidelity employees what’s interesting — and what’s not — about a rough sketch for a pretty complex financial portfolio product.

What I love about this picture is that the customer and the employees aren’t separated by one-way glass. And there aren’t any beautiful Photoshopped mockups in the room — the prototype was created with dry-erase markers (arguably one of the lowest tech options out there).

And so when a customer jumps out of his seat and shows Fidelity employees what’s most important to him, those employees can engage him in direct conversation and change the designs on the fly.

They are truly co-creating.

Does your company embrace co-creation during the experience design process? If so, please share!


Experience Design and Innovation Facilitation Skills

There was an excellent class at CHI2011 in Vancouver about techniques for leading co-design workshops like Fidelity's. User experience professionals can and should add this type of facilitation skill to their UX toolbox. I haven't started seeing this in job descriptions for UX openings yet - when do you think that will happen? This takes "focus groups" to a whole new level.

Here's the title of the CHI2011 class. Jim Neithers of Yahoo and a couple of other folks lead the class. They did an excellent job and had plenty of real-world experience to share.

Leading Innovation Workshops: Driving the
Strategic Dialog to Align Stakeholders Around
Breakthrough Ideas
09:00 - 15:20 | 118
Jim Nieters, Yahoo!

thanks for the CHI info

hi Jenny,
I'm glad that folks are talking about this at CHI. You're right, co-creation facilitation is an excellent tool for any UX or CX professional.

I'm not sure when this type of customer involvement will really take off -- but as you can see, I'm trying to help move things along! I think people have just gotten so used to decades of surveys and focus groups, and it's hard for them to realize the benefit other methods. I also think the idea of interacting with customers face to face pushes people's personal comfort levels. (Although once they do it, they're often hooked!)

Qual and Quant data

Right. Comfort with talking to real people takes time and practice. I love having developers, product owners, and business analysts observing in the lab or listening in on phone interviews. There are many "ah ha" moments!

Another factor at play: we in the U.S. seem to be in an age of quantitative focus. In so many areas of life - education, medicine, psychiatry, and business - quantitative data is seen as factual and qualitative data is seen as fluff. I've seen it myself on my town's School Committee, for example. So when we recommend UCD and we talk about observations and one-on-one interviews, etc. it seems "unscientific" to some. In reality some of the deepest insights are often through these methods, including co-creation facilitation sessions.

Something of a breakthrough...

I keep saying this, in response to businesses who are struggling to figure out critical things about their customers:

"Have you asked them yet?"

We all seem so caught up in anticipating and predicting customer actions that we fail to actually ask them directly. (And, when we do, we often disregard what we're told...)

Great points

hi Chris,
Your comment leads directly back to Jenny's last one: qualitative data -- no matter how insightful -- just isn't valued the way quant data is today.

The fact is that we're caught up in a business world that is left-brain dominated.

Case in point: I was talking to execs from a major beauty company recently and they INSISTED that their goal was to get a complete 360-view of the customer, but they refused to even discuss qualitative research methods with me!

Preserving content

With all these sticky notes, paper on the wall, and white board drawings, how is this data captured and stored? How do they refer back to what they've learned after the session is over? How to they then compare what the experience journey looks like a year from now so that they can measure progress?

preserving content

I don't know how Fidelity did that but here's what I would do:

To preserve what went on in the co-design session, I would want detailed photos of the artifacts on the walls. I'd also have a junior team member or intern present to take notes and write minutes to share with all attendees, along with the photos.

Analysis and Representation:
As with all things UX, the goal of an activity is for the sake of better design. So I would analyze the artifacts from the session, along with my notes (as facilitator) and recordings if the session was recorded. I would interpret all this qualitative data into some kind of design artifact; for example, maybe personas and scenarios could be created or developed; an experience vision and strategy might be outcomes; an initial wireframe of a concept could be mocked up for early usability testing; and maybe an experience journey map could be refined. In other words, the qualitative data needs to be interpreted and represented in a way that makes it actionable, driving toward the end-product design.

In a project setting, all of the above should then be shared via a team collaboration site, maybe with social capabilities so participants could rate and comment if possible. Developers would also have access to this documentation, providing context to compliment traditional business requirements. If a couple of developers also participate in the co-design session, all the better.

preserving content


Thanks for your insight. This makes a lot of sense and you've clearly given this a lot of thought. I am sure this will be helpful to the group.