Expert Interview with Cindy Chastain, SVP of Customer Experience, Mastercard

By: Cindy Chastain

Tell us a little bit more about your role at MasterCard.

I joined Mastercard four years ago, a time in which senior leadership decided that the company needed to close the gap between product, services we were creating and the expectations of our customers and their end-users.  We had products in the market that were essentially designed by engineers.  The disciplines of CX, UX and all aspects of design were left to third-parties and were little understood inside the organization.  We were at the beginning of a large-scale digital transformation and many of our product teams didn’t have experience working in digital product development.  There was also a clear need to evolve our brand identity, and our CMO, Raja Rajamannar, believed in design excellence as key to differentiating our brand.  So, on my first day at Mastercard, I was a team of one with a relatively blank slate and a single question: How do we build organizational capabilities for driving exceptional product, service and brand experiences that will drive value for the business?

Four years later, we have finally reached a tipping point in our journey.  We led the relaunch of the brand identity in 2016, which included a comprehensive design system meant to reflect a more modern, human-centered technology company.  This past year, we kicked off a CX acceleration program for driving customer-centered cultural change and new ways of working within product teams.  We are now talking about models for scaling design more broadly.  On a day-to-day level, my team is focused on three priorities:  cultivating best practices in product development and innovation, managing the quality and consistency of our brand identity system, and working on cultural change initiatives.  I also partner with other teams who are focused on related initiatives such as our VOC program and CX measurement framework.  We still have a way to go, but I’m extremely excited about the step change we’re going to see in 2019.               


What does experience design mean to you?

Experience design is an approach to defining an end-to-end experience that unfolds across physical or digital touch points and aims to drive engagement and human value.  Think of the Disney magic band, your stay at a favorite hotel, an interactive museum exhibit, or your experience getting home with an Uber.  I don’t think of it as a single design discipline as much as a way of orchestrating the delivery of great experiences through multiple design disciplines and capabilities in service of a clear vision and intended outcome from having created an enjoyable, useful and memorable experience.   


How does experience design drive value for business?

At Mastercard, we talk a lot about customer experience (CX) as a critical pillar in our journey to modernize the company.  Our ability to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage lies in becoming more digital, more customer-centered, and more responsive as a company.  Being able to deliver great product and service experiences requires a number of capabilities, and one of those is design.  The ability to leverage design in the right ways will drive innovation and differentiation.  Research has shown that people choose to buy and use products with a better experience, they stick with brands who consistently deliver better experiences, and they talk about companies who have created memorable experiences.  All of these things are the product of great experience design. 


How does MasterCard seek to deliver exceptional end-to-end experiences?

As a B2B2C company the nature of our business is fundamentally complex.  At our core, we develop products and services that are distributed through partner banks, merchants, governments and others who can benefit from our offerings.  When we think of the end-user of those products, from all manner of payments, to the value-added benefits and services that come with a card product issued by a bank (as one example), we need to look at every aspect of go to market (from product development, sales, onboarding, implementation, and servicing) to ensure that the best possible experience is delivered to our partners.  Tackling this kind of complexity requires understanding how the contributing elements of the product experience are orchestrated and delivered across the end-to-end journey.  This requires expertise in multiple design disciplines: service design, UX design, prototyping, content design, communication design.  It requires design thinking on the part of product teams for driving customer-centricity and innovation in product development.  It requires customer research, insights, and evaluative data to ensure that we are focusing our efforts on the right things.  It requires an evolution of our technology capabilities and infrastructure.  And it requires a big shift in our culture and ways of working. We have some success stories, but we are still at the early stages of our journey towards delivering exception end-to-end experiences at scale.


Why is it important to tie user experience, experience design, design thinking, and service design together? 

I would say that It’s important to tie “all” design disciplines together along with design thinking, a way for non-designers to solve problems through a design-led approach, under a single design function.  But it’s not easy, from a practical sense.  In most companies where in-house design exists, communication design and branding typically sit within marketing, UX design sits within product, and an agency might be hired for the experience design of events or marketing experiences.  To my mind, there’s an opportunity cost to this kind of separation.  Design needs to be strategic, integrated with business, but led by people with design and design management experience.  The model that we are hoping to pursue, is best demonstrated by IBM, and its studio model.  The studio model consists of distributed studios of multi-disciplinary designers as well as design researchers, focused on key areas of the business, and governed by a centralized COE.  This kind of model assures that designers are positioned to succeed and grow professionally, in an environment where design talent is highly sought after, while maximizing the value of these teams for the business.