August 13, 2018

Step aside CX. Service design brings new meaning to being customer-centric.

3 min read

Improving the customer journey and providing a positive customer experience (CX) is the top strategic priority among global banking leaders.

Digital Banking Report survey 2017 Retail Banking Trends and Predictions


Over the past few years within the financial services industry, investment in CX is definitely on the rise. But many firms still struggle with how to effectively implement a customer-centric approach enterprise-wide. To remain competitive firms are putting more of a focus on delivering an excellent and consistent customer experience at every touchpoint.

Financial services firms that are winning the digital transformation race demonstrate an unrelenting focus on customers.

Forrester Consulting study for Ernst & Young LLP (EY), June 2018


Clearly, it’s not enough to merely say you’re customer-centric. You have to adopt it throughout your organization and show it on an ongoing basis.


Elevating the customer experience

If your customer has an awkward handoff from one interaction to another, that can be an issue. It’s important for firms to smooth out the rough spots in the CX … and therein lies the opportunity for firms that adopt a broader view of the entire experience. That’s what we refer to as service design.


What is service design?

Customers measure their overall experience of a service by their most extreme interaction, be it thrilling or frustrating, and by their last interaction. Service design highlights all these interactions to ensure that we craft an overall experience that is positive.

Service design is a human-centered design approach that places equal value on the customer experience and the business process, aiming to create quality customer experiences, and seamless service delivery.

For financial firms, service design is a new way of thinking about all the different ways you deliver your services. It’s not just about building a new website or launching a streamlined app. Service design requires analyzing your service offering and ensuring that it truly meets your customer’s need for that service. It also has to be within your firm’s competencies and capabilities to deliver. Done right, the service will be easy to use and relevant to customers, while being sustainable and competitive for your firm.


General principles of service design:

Services offered should:

  • Be based on customer needs, not just the internal needs of the business
  • Create value for customers
  • Be as efficient as possible
  • Deliver a unified experience across all channels and touchpoints


Getting around service design roadblocks

Well before service design was recognized as an approach with merit, I worked with one of the major Canadian banks in the early 2000s. They recognized that customers were getting very different experiences in each channel. Service quality differed in-branch, on the phone and online. Even the advice and product recommendations differed. An effort to unify the disparate experiences was undertaken as a strategic corporate objective. But as the team began exploring how they could deliver, it soon become clear that this was just too big a challenge to take on and they stepped back.

Service design is now recognized as well worth the investment. Banks, insurance companies, and investment firms are all starting to pay attention and are attempting to implement service design approaches. But it’s not easy.

An insurance company, for example, trying to unify the message that its customers hear from affiliated brokers, customer service reps and through digital channels faces a big challenge. Add to that all the advertising, brand messages and direct communications and the scale of the effort, and its value, becomes apparent. Making aspects of the business work well together that have never previously had to work together requires executive drive and broad participation.


Three ways to effectively implement service design

1. Get the right people in the room at the right time.
Someone has to own it. There needs to be an executive champion with a mandate to bring disparate groups together; to take people out of their silos and get them to work as a single unit. You have to build the process to support it and consistently drive it enterprise-wide.

2. Always put the customer first.
Think of all the ways your customer interacts with your firm across all your channels. Identify any pain points and bad handoffs that exist now and develop solutions to smooth them out and deliver real value. Start thinking about the bigger picture of customer experience. Measure success across all areas and touchpoints, not just based on individual silos.

3. Deliver the right service the right way.
Firms need to change their focus away from the traditional product and performance model to delivering service. Don’t merely try to find another way to sell more or different investment instruments for example. Try to find a way to deliver the service customers want and deliver it better. Finding a way to achieve that is a bit of a Holy Grail effort in the financial industry right now. But it’s also how clients are choosing one institution over another. They’re choosing based on the quality of the service rather than the products.


Some final thoughts on adopting service design

Accept that it’s not going to be a smooth process. Implementing a service design approach involves a lot of organizational change. While it may be onerous to develop and implement, the rewards in terms of customer satisfaction, retention and profitability will more than justify the effort.

Want to find out more about the benefits of service design thinking for your firm? Please contact us at info@purefacts.com  and we'll be happy to discuss how we can help you create a winning strategy.