Co-creation 2: Real-time Self-service

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by: Matt Rhodes

Last time we looked at mass customisation as a type of co-creation. Allowing people some control over how the product they buy looks or is, often choosing variants from a list of options that let the customer and brand co-create during the final stages of manufacture. A related area of customer co-creation – real-time self-service.

Manufacturing and services industries that use e-commerce and / or online platforms for deliveries are able to offer customers a deeper level of involvement. Whereas mass customisation allows co-creation only prior to the final stage of production, real-time self-service allows the customer to be involved right up to the point that they receive the product.

A typical example of this level of co-creation would be a delivery firm, like FedEx, who allow their customers to select and change their delivery times right up to the point of delivery. Many airlines also allow real-time self-service for their customers, allowing you to choose and change your seat, meal and even your departure time right up to (and in the latter case sometimes after) departure.

This level of co-creation is still short of the deep co-creation where the customer changes the experience for others. It is still very much about working with the brand to refine and change my own experience. And like mass-customisation, it is often used as a differentiators or a value-add by brands. The airline industry is a prime example of this differentiation. If you fly on a low-cost airline, like Ryanair or Easyjet in Europe), you are unlikely to have any level of real-time self-service with your ticket (although you may find you can buy this right for an additional fee). And for full-cost airlines, even though many offer some level of real-time self-service with all tickets, the amount typically increases with the cost of the ticket – fully-flexible tickets being more expensive and offering the greatest opportunities for this type of co-creation.

Both of the cases of co-creation we have looked at so far have highlighted areas where the customer works with the brand to improve their own personal experience. Their co-creations have limited or no impact on the experiences of other customers and, critically, it has no lasting effect on the product itself. The next few examples in the co-creation series will show how customers can work with the brands on a deeper level of engagement.

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