City of Helsinki, Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall

The service model of Yrjönkatu swimming hall is the epitome of customer experience

Designed by Väinö Vähäkallio, the Yrjönkatu swimming hall is a historical and architectural treasure. People come from a distance to experience the unique atmosphere of the oldest swimming hall in Finland. While most indoor swimming pools focus on athletic performance, Yrjönkatu focuses on unhurried moments of well-being that span several generations.

Functional solutions through service design

The Yrjönkatu swimming hall was opened in 1928, and it is a traditional leisure venue that is managed by the Culture and Leisure Division of the City of Helsinki. The aim of the project was to develop the customer experience and service environment as part of the renovation and renewal project. “A major goal was to improve the service and involve each employee in the development of the work environment and atmosphere. Our personnel has immense professional skills and expertise, and using these was one of the starting points for the project,” says Kara Koskinen, Team Leader at the Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall. “This is a historical venue, so it was also important to cherish and strengthen the qualities that make the experience unique,” says Elina Järvinen, Service Designer at Rune & Berg Design.

The design drivers for the customer experience and service environment of the future were summarised as follows:

  • unique experience of urban culture
  • bathing and swimming for everyone
  • unhurried moment of well-being
  • permanence in the changing world

Rune & Berg Design was responsible for the service design project that resulted in the service model guide, spatial description and wayfinding concept. These guides will be used in the induction training of new employees into the new concept, as well as for the design of the spaces, in particular, the lobby, the service point and the lounge area.

The project was carried out in cooperation with the swimming hall staff, users, service providers and other stakeholders who were involved in the project planning, such as the real estate developer, main designer and accessibility consultant.  “We made sure that the voice of customers and employees was heard in the design and that the facilities would be functional both technically and from the point of view of users. In particular, the genuine participation of employees was an important and valuable asset for the client throughout the process. For the client, this served as a benchmark for how other swimming halls and the city’s services in general should develop their services,” Elina says.

“The project is a wonderful example of our core expertise. We know how to design spaces, the customer experience, graphics and signs. For the client, it is convenient to have one design partner that can create the full concept,” Elina continues. “The project’s plans and everything else R&B provided to us were extremely clear and well-organised. Holding workshops and check-up meetings for the steering group was easy. Even I was able to keep track of what was going on alongside my other duties,” Kara says, praising the cooperation.

Equal and unhurried moment of well-being

The Yrjönkatu swimming hall offers an unhurried moment of well-being in unique surroundings. While most swimming halls focus on athletic performance, Yrjönkatu specialises in leisure and relaxation. The functions of the entrance hall, in particular, were re-examined on the basis of customer feedback and the goal of unhurried customer experience. “We allocated clear sections of the lobby to waiting and ensured that people do not have to queue and take their shoes off in a pass-through area. We also brought stories to the lobby and enhanced the atmosphere. While people are waiting in the lobby, they can look at historic photographs instead of their smartphones. This way, the unhurried experience starts immediately at the doorstep,” Elina describes.

The project also addressed the service model and employee experience. The aim was to facilitate work, harmonise the customer experience and make the employees proud of the work they do. “The materials we produced during the project are extremely valuable. In particular, I am impressed by how we made the team participate and produced a concrete outcome together. The tacit knowledge about the service is now codified in black and white,” Kara says. “All in all, my experience with service design has been extremely positive, and it has proven really useful for us. I do not regret a single day of our project,” Kara concludes.