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CIBC on Using Service Design to Optimize the Customer Journey

Interview with Patrick Bach, director of service design at CIBC

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Kindra Cooper

CIBC customer experience

As the financial sector engages in a digital arms race to provide the most sophisticated mobile banking tools, many are using service design to take a human-centered approach to the omnichannel customer experience.

For CIBC, Canada’s fifth-largest bank, this encompasses all touchpoints, including the digital and physical experience, the contact center and more. Currently, the bank is building an enterprise-wide service design team to tackle important organizational challenges. 

Ahead of CX Week Canada, we caught up with speaker Patrick Bach, director of service design at CIBC, to learn more about what service design is, how to frame business problems and the ways it can help organizations become more innovative. 

Kindra: Tell me about your role as director of service design at CIBC. 

Patrick Bach CIBCPatrick: Our team is typically involved in two to three service design projects at a time. A typical day involves managing various tasks related to those projects, such as planning and/or executing user research with our clients, frontline staff or our call centers. Sometimes we’re in more of a prototyping and testing phase, where we build and refine prototypes.

You’re also in the process of building an enterprise wide service design team. Why did you decide service design should be an organization-wide effort? 

Patrick: We sit within an enterprise-wide horizontal, which is called Client Experience and Operations. It’s a very broad mandate, which spans everything from customer experience to internal processes and journey design all the way down to back-office and middle-office operations. 

Because our team is horizontal and touches on every part of the enterprise, I think that’s where the logic of making an enterprise-wide service design team came in. 

Here’s a chicken-and-egg question for you: When it comes to solving business problems for the organization, do the various departments come to you with their business problems, or do you identify the business problem and then approach the relevant department? 

Patrick: I think early on there was definitely a little bit of begging – hey, can we work on this project with you? We definitely spent some time trying to sell the value proposition of service design and how we could collaborate to create a different outcome for everyone. But then I think the work started to speak for itself.

We’re definitely a bit picky in terms of who we work with, mostly because we know what conditions make for a good service design-style project, and sometimes teams are not in the right position to do so.

Read more: TD Bank Designed an Omnichannel Strategy from Scratch - Here's How 

For example, in every service design project we actively talk to customers and bring them into different workshops and sessions, and sometimes the timelines our partners have don’t allow for that.

CIBC has undergone a digital transformation over the last few years, but it has also walked the talk internally by implementing an organizational culture designed to feel like a tech startup. What does this look like from the inside?

Patrick: In my broader experience over the last seven years of doing this type of work, everyone everywhere is trying to figure out the same thing – how do we become more client-focused, how do we make better decisions for our clients, how do we become more iterative by embracing agile, lean or design thinking? 

Service design doesn’t provide a panacea for all of this, but certainly the methodology and core principles of service design align really well with these big strategic goals which I think every company in North America today is wrestling with.

As you said, service design is often concerned with some very big-picture goals. How do you keep yourselves grounded in the business problem you’re trying to solve? 

Patrick: A lot of the work we do on a weekly, daily, and monthly basis is very grounded in the immediate problems that our clients have – whether it’s trying to redesign or rethink our product suite to cash management experiences to mortgage experiences to savings. 

A lot of the projects we work on tend to be 1-3 years [in scope] and focused on immediate change rather than, what does the future of banking look like 10 years from now?

There are teams that do that, but we’re more about understanding the current state and trying to create one, two or three horizon processes to get there. A lot of the work we do is very grounded in the immediate current reality of our clients and our frontline [staff]. 

In service design, the key is to frame the business problem from the perspective of the user. How do you go about framing the business problem accurately? 

Patrick: I don’t think we always understand what the root causes are and why [the problem] is happening, but certainly at a high-level we understand the general heat map of where there is opportunity for improvement.

Can you give examples of some business problems you’ve tackled recently?

Patrick: I can’t go into specifics, but we’ve done both internal-facing and client-facing projects. The client-facing ones are concerned with client onboarding. I think onboarding is such a critical moment of truth and there are very few companies in the world that have legitimately wonderful onboarding experiences. 

Internally, we’ve been doing a lot of product work but from a strategic perspective. There’s been a desire to take a client-centered view, take a step back and interrogate our credit card or deposit account products – are they doing the right things and solving the right problems? 

Read more: 5 Most Common Customer Complaints and How to FIX Them 

Also, every year we have an inclusivity and diversity strategy that we put together. Traditionally, executives get together and discuss amongst themselves what they should do, but this year we’re taking a more employee-centered view. We’re interviewing a bunch of employees, running a few workshops and trying to apply service design to these internal projects.

CIBC also has an innovation hub called LiveLabs. How would you differentiate between what the service design team does and what the innovation team does? 

Patrick: The LiveLabs team is one part of a bigger digital design team. LiveLabs is more exploratory; probing future trends and seeing what sticks. Meanwhile, there’s another part of that team focused on day-to-day UX research and strategy for the digital experience, so they own the app and the website. 

We [service design] focus on an omnichannel experience. So if you think about getting a mortgage with a bank, yes there’s a digital component, but there’s also an entire banking component, a branch component and a call center component.

What are you working on right now that you’re most excited about? 

Patrick: Right now there’s a renewed interest to look at certain products that typically haven’t gotten the most attention for whatever reason.

Credit cards traditionally get a lot of love and attention because they’re big drivers of acquisition but there are other products that don’t. Right now, those products are getting their turn in the spotlight.

Read more: Apple Former Product Engineer on Building the iPhone

I’m excited that our team is taking a service design approach to driving new experiences for those products that I think are underappreciated and underinvested in the bank. 

Can you give a sneak peek of what you’ll be discussing at CX Week Canada? 

Patrick: It’s going to be all about failing – not failing fast or failing forward, just failing. I’ll be talking about three different stories of CX-oriented projects that just didn’t go the way I thought they would. We didn’t make the right decision or there were factors that came into play that affected our ability to do certain things. I find that we don’t talk enough about [failure].