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Valopilkku: Rebuilding trust in the Finnish taxi business

How to help taxi operators and drivers succeed, and regain the trust of customers in the midst of a rapidly changed Finnish taxi business? It takes a completely new approach to win at a new game – which is why Futurice rebuilt the Valopilkku service from scratch. Today, it’s a highly rated nationwide taxi service in Finland with ca. 130,000 users in over 175 municipalities, and an ecosystem platform ready for expanding.

The challenge

In 2018, new transport services legislation quickly redefined the use of taxis in Finland, leading to deregulating fares and a huge increase in the number of permit applications, geographical freedom, and less stringent qualification requirements. The Act was passed with the long-term goal of responding to customers’ needs as well as supporting new service models and interoperational transportation systems.

However, the unfortunate impact was that the market went wild, and the entire industry lost the trust of its customers. Most people suddenly didn’t know where they could get a taxi – let alone a reliable one. To respond to the situation, and to outsmart the competition, it was time to completely overhaul the Valopilkku service.

Impact and outcomes

  • Helping the taxi industry regain the trust of customers in Finland.

  • Popular and nationwide taxi service in Finland, with approx. 130,000 users in over 175 municipalities.

  • Satisfied passengers and drivers: the tool for the trade, reliable and high-quality service from order to arrival.

  • A platform for innovating the industry with new services and business models.

Our approach

To stand out from the competition, Valopilkku needed to combine the best of both worlds – the traditional reliability of Finnish taxi business, and advanced customer-centric digital services. From the start, the overhaul was seen as far more than just an application update: it was all about creating a nationwide mobility ecosystem, a platform that would enable new business models in the industry. Most importantly, ordering a taxi had to be as reliable and smooth as possible, requiring just two taps of a finger. It’s a simple equation: the taxi service that is both the easiest to use and the most reliable at the same time would become the most popular.

What we did

We started by putting together a multidisciplinary team consisting of Valopilkku business representatives, Futurice designers and developers, as well as an advisor. As Valopilkku was in a transition both as a service and a company, it had no product owner or in-house development team. As a result, Futurice was given full responsibility for the service development, making the project a major demonstration of trust.

To comprehensively understand the real needs and challenges in the taxi field, we spent time with and interviewed everyone involved, from the drivers to the passengers and call centers. We also tested and benchmarked the different service providers on the market, and studied the features of the previous Valopilkku application and its current information systems. Based on this, we were able to outline the advantages, possibilities, and shortcomings from each point of view in detail.

The most important features for the service were defined as:

  • easy taxi ordering
  • following the arrival time and route in real time
  • clear pricing and an upfront payment option
  • inclusion of all car models and accessibility options
  • opportunity to inform about passengers’ special needs
  • compatibility with both Android and iOS
  • system scalability for different users, operators, and business models

We developed the new and improved service using our Lean Service Creation methodology, with the multidisciplinary team proceeding step by step into the right direction in agile sprints. Our guiding principle for the service development was understanding all the parties involved: not just making decisions from one point of view, but always aiming for the best outcome for everyone.

We quickly proceeded from blueprints to the service prototype, paying careful attention to all needs and ideas of the taxi operators, drivers, and passengers, feature after feature. The design and development were considered equally important: design thinking helps meet the expectations of Valopilkku users, and functionality stems from quality code. We adopted Valopilkku’s new brand identity for the application, and created the visual guidelines. In addition, we modified the brand colors and fonts to ensure accessibility.

Valopilkku is genuinely scalable as it is built in a modular fashion, consisting of independent applications, and uses open APIs. This enables features such as readiness for the variety of UX designs for the different user groups and building new business models. In addition, there are already plans to add machine learning capabilities for dynamic pricing and future-proof the platform for various AI use cases.

For customers, Valopilkku offers a smooth user experience with native iOS and Android applications. The app's backend is a set of microservices running on serverless AWS architecture. We developed the backend with Spring Boot in Kotlin, and it integrates to the core Taxi dispatching systems, as well as to various payment, billing, and mapping service providers. In addition, there are self-service portals for taxi drivers and enterprise customers. For the web front end, we used Typescript and React framework.

Why it matters

The state-of-the-art Valopilkku app quickly gained traction and the popularity it deserved. Currently, it’s a nationwide taxi service in Finland with ca. 130, 000 users in over 175 municipalities, and an ecosystem platform ready for expanding. The results and feedback have been excellent:

  • 58% of users have ordered a taxi at least once
  • The average customer rating of taxi rides is 4.8 out of 5
  • Valopilkku’s brand recognition has grown from 22% to 41% in less than a year
  • The app’s ratings have increased from 1.8 to 4.8 on Android and from 2.8 to 4.4 on iOS

Valopilkku enables inclusive, reliable, and smooth taxi journeys around Finland. The passenger experience is nothing short of excellent from the start: customers can order a car in just two finger taps, know the estimated arrival time all along, can pay the fare in advance, and can rest assured a trusted and responsible taxi operator will provide the service.

The drivers, on the other hand, now have the best tool for the job at their disposal, and the brand presence of the taxi companies involved is strengthened through their Valopilkku cooperation. The company, Valopilkku Oy, can also flexibly expand into new business models and cooperate with the likes of hotels and logistics companies – which translates to new work opportunities for the drivers, too.

The all-new Valopilkku platform and application were completed ahead of schedule, in only approximately six months. The service is still actively developed in close cooperation between Futurice and Valopilkku, with the team actively listening to the needs and ideas of the users and the market.

The application can be found in Google Play and App Store.

I am extremely satisfied with the outcomes. The new app is simple and easy-to-use, we’ve regained a large number of users, and on top of that, they’ve been active in ordering taxis through the application. We’ll continue rebuilding trust in the Finnish taxi business with Futurice.
Tytti Stranding
Head of Marketing, Valopilkku Oy

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