Businesses have an intimacy problem with their consumers. Despite the ongoing social media conversations between customers and the brands they buy, comments on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are often limited to likes or dislikes, exchanges about whether an experience was good or bad, or other things that a buyer might want.

Social media can be helpful for keeping the lines of communication open, but when it comes to building real relationships, public interactions aren’t enough.

Orange co-created a product to give customers what they wanted.

Building relationships with consumers is about working in lockstep with customers to innovate, co-create, and meet their needs. Ultimately, you need to deliver products that consumers want.

The telecom industry has been famously slow to innovate. Customers tend too often to be at the mercy of their provider. But the European giant Everything Everywhere (EE) was on a quest to change this perception and to make good service a priority. They wanted to create an affinity for its Orange brand in the face of immense competition.

Orange needed inspirational mobile service ideas that people would love, while simultaneously positioning the company as an indispensable service brand that truly enhances customers’ lives.

The fear of losing your personal connections was a key insight.

A team of consumers and experts outside of their own fields worked together and revealed that as people become increasingly reliant on their smartphones, the prospect of losing it becomes increasingly more unbearable.

Everyone could relate to that sinking feeling when a phone is lost, stolen, or broken. But, the big ‘aha’ moment took place over the lost connections that consumers felt, about the people they care most about. It’s those funny text conversations with friends, photos of some special night, or that video of a child’s first big performance--that’s what people fear losing most.

With this consumer insight as a road map, Orange launched the Clone Phone last year and it continues to gain momentum. This service delivers an exact replica of a customer’s phone within 24 hours of losing it, and comes fully loaded with all personal photos, videos, contacts, and calendars.

Another in-store option allows same-day phone replacement--and the phone comes stocked with personal content. In the first six months, more than 250,000 consumers signed up. The service has “cloned” more than 30,000 phones, proving that Orange has not only created a new revenue stream, but that they’re also engaging with consumers on an emotional level.

Here’s what the co-creation process looked like.

Orange collaborated directly with their consumers and experts outside of their own field for more than six weeks to co-create this particular innovation. It was not a series of focus groups. Far from it. There were three essential ingredients to the process:

Upskilling. First, the group needed to be trained on how to participate. The process included a co-creation "toolkit," a briefing session with plenty of coaching, to help customers gain confidence and think laterally.

Outside-in thinking. The collaboration process needed to reach beyond the telecom sector to help Orange think differently about service, and so a cabin crew manager, a five-star hotel concierge, and a customer experience expert from John Lewis all brought their own expertise to bear.

Collaboration. Consumers, service experts, and the Orange team came together for six weeks to explore, co-create, and refine service ideas. The process was designed to foster large-group collaboration through participatory, highly creative interactive sessions. The approach draws on psychotherapy processes: clearing the past, re-evaluating the present, and building the future.

We’re often asked whether customers can genuinely be creative, and our answer is always the same: Under the right conditions, with the right support, yes, absolutely.