turn insights into innovations

Founder story for Essense

As a child, I remember spotting misunderstanding between grown-ups. ​It came natural to me. Growing up I learned that this was a skill called empathy. Who knew this skill would lead me to designing relevant service experiences. ​Nowadays, empathy is proving to be a crucial skill for designing relevant service experiences.

As a teenager, I was torn between studying computer science and psychology. An unusual dilemma at first sight but now a common dual-interest in our playing field of human technology and customer experience design.

After getting my master’s degree in Psychology with a specialism in Cognitive ergonomics I was blessed to have the opportunity to do a summer internship at Microsoft in Seattle. I ended up staying there for four years doing usability research in their mobile devices team, a first sign of smartphones emerging.

Despite the fact that Microsoft was still very much software-centric rather than customer centric, I learned a lot about the value of multi-disciplinary collaboration. Now, twenty years later, many companies are still struggling to master this. Ironically, I think that my interest in facilitating collaboration (central in service design) probably emerged right there and then. That said, I also experienced some frustration at Microsoft: design was considered nice-to-have at the time, and user experience was rarely a priority.

In 2004 Vodafone was developing mobile services in Europe and I moved ‘back’. At Vodafone I learned the success criteria and pitfalls of delivering digital (mobile) services in collaboration with partner companies. I also experienced a focus on large scale segmentation research and insufficient recognition for the value of qualitative customer insight. This, combined with reactive instead of directive leadership, frustrated me and made me decide to leave in 2010. I took a sabbatical and decided that in my next job I would either work for a company with a founder still in charge, or I would be the founder myself.

The name is a combination of the brand ​essence​ of a company and the sense​ for customer needs.

In 2011, inspired by IDEO and their insight-driven innovation approach, I founded this company focused on using qualitative research to design customer-relevant innovation, called Essense. The name is a combination of the brand ​essence​ of a company and the sense​ for customer needs. Aiming for a win-win of business value and customer value. We were soon with 4 key people: Sander, Arjen, Roy and myself. While adoption of our insight-led services started relatively slow in the first few years, it became soon clear that ‘service design​’ was gaining recognition. Fast forward a few years, and multi-disciplinary (agile) working and service design are now mainstream, and customer-centric innovation and customer experience are increasingly a priority.

Now in 2020, it is very rewarding to see our impact is reaching much further than creating great customer experiences, we facilitate collaboration between teams and even companies to drive customer centric innovation on a strategic level. Who knows where it goes from here? Our dream is to to unlock eco-system challenges and achieve a positive impact across sectors, making people’s lives more human, more convenient, more sustainable.