Why customer experience is everything in branding

Want to know where the most interesting work in design is? According to Clive Grinyer, customer experience director at Barclays Bank, it's inside the financial services - where a strong focus on brand values and customer experiences is the only way to rebuild public confidence.

Customer-focused thinking is Grinyer's speciality. Before taking up his most recent position at Barclays, he served as customer experience strategic advisor at Cisco, and has headed up design teams at Samsung and Orange, as well as founding London-based design consultancy Tangerine with Jonathan Ive and Martin Darbyshire.

He'll be discussing the role of collaboration in global communication at Computer Arts' inaugural Impact Conference, on 6 March – full info here. We're offering Creative Bloq readers a massive 20 per cent off the ticket price – simply head to the website and add this promotional code when prompted: FRIENDS20.

We sat down with Grinyer ahead of the event to find out exactly how Barclays is building its brand through innovative design and tangible experiences – and what's so exciting about the financial services…

What does your role at Barclays involve, and what aspects of customer experience do you touch on within the organisation?

The role of customer experience is relatively new to many, and at Barclays too. I work on projects that are about redefining things we often take for granted, or expect to have, as well as projects that have a high level of innovation. They are extremely customer-focused and the design thinking ethos that underpins the way the Barclays team works means that I've been able to plug in very quickly, and drive the development of services and technology from a very customer-centric perspective.

The other important role is in retaining the view of the woods from the trees - it's very easy on a complex project to get involved in siloed activity where detail is required. But it's vital to join experiences up, understand how customers will navigate, explore and discover, and receive the emotional as well as functional security and satisfaction they need when using a service.

Was the move from Cisco to Barclays relatively seamless, in terms of skillset and experience?

What's at Barclays is what I've been asking for, for years! Cross-discipline teams working in the same space, with design used not just as the production resource but as a tool to create new solutions, think about the customers and offer alternative concepts. This is accompanied by a great research and insight resource that is completely integrated into the design process. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting it to be here but it's exciting to find it here, in a UK bank, producing successful innovations.

To what extent can an excellent customer experience build and strengthen a brand in the modern marketplace?

I've seen so many brands create great promise, proposition and messaging, but stumble in the real world of customer experience. Customer experience has historically been seen as hygiene – something to do with the call centre, or something you did well when things went wrong for a customer.

But we now live in a world where customers expect every brand to walk the talk, to experience brand values at every touchpoint and every interaction. And if they don't feel that, they'll let you know on social media! Design is the tool by which you turn the brand promise into a tangible experience. It feeds into and responds to the brand vision and makes it real and consistent.

Does the mantra 'good design is invisible' ring true in your field of work?

Sometimes. Often, just making something actually work is differentiating. In financial services, and even in mobile, actually doing what you say you will do can be breathtaking! First Direct was the first example of this: you really could speak to your bank at three in the morning.

Sometimes you want 'wow' to be more surprising or delightful. The Virgin safety videos make you laugh or delight you in other ways, because their brand is about making the functional interesting. For a banking app, you want security, ease of transition, confirmations. The point is that design must work within the brand to deliver the values you want, in an appropriate context to the customer. It's always a balance and a call on what levers to pull at what time.

You famously set up Tangerine with Jonathan Ive. Do you share a design philosophy at all, or have you peeled off in different directions?

Jony was always rude about me moving away from product to user interface and beyond – but I see he's done the same thing now so he's just following me….

We did strongly share the philosophy of working from the inside, changing organisations to come from a design point of view rather than a technology or organizational-centred one.

You've made the transition from product design to UI and customer experience. What are the key similarities and differences between these fields?

A lot of product designers move to UI, UX, service design and customer experience. I think it's because product designers are taught to think about the flow of use, how things are used at different times and how that should affect form.

They also start with the user as the source of creative innovation to drive form and interface. It's a very transferrable way of thinking: how do you navigate, what do you expect, how do you look at the flow rather than just the page? The craft of each is surprisingly similar; the combination of strategy and extreme detail working together.

The main difference is the time to production - nothing less than a year for a mass-produced product compared to a few months for even a large web platform or almost immediate in the digital world.

As well as Barclays, you've also headed up design teams at Samsung and Orange – how much of that involved working with external agencies as well as in-house creatives?

I'm a big believer of in-house design and at Barclays we have an extraordinary design team - but that is watered and inspired by external consultancies. In the past I've preferred consultancies to help with big stuff, vision, strategy, foresight. It's important to have a long-term relationship though so they understand the context and get smarter at understanding business or organisational reality.

One of the Impact sessions will discuss the challenges that the financial services sector faces after the banking crisis. What can branding (and customer experience) do to respond to that?

Branding, customer experience and design is vital to the new face of banking. All we are is customer-centred and empathetic to emotional and functional needs, but that is what is required now. It's a great time to be working in the financial sector as we can't waste this crisis, we have to respond and design the customer experiences that deliver better services, differentiated by strong brand values at the heart of everything we do.

We can't fail at this. I think everyone realises this is the way forward and it's why the most interesting work in design is currently inside financial services: it's where the need is and companies understand this.

Exclusive offer: 20 per cent off tickets for new brand conference

Impact is an event you can't afford to miss – and we're offering Creative Bloq readers a massive 20 per cent off the ticket price. Simply:

  • Visit the website
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  • Add this Promotional Code when prompted: FRIENDS20

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