Our New Head of Service Design

On the state of the industry, its value, and why Capital One

Kendra Shimmell, photo by Cooper, All Rights Reserved

Hey, there’s someone we’d like you to meet. It’s Kendra Shimmell, who we’re excited to introduce as the new head of the Service Design practice for Adaptive Path at Capital One.

Kendra comes to us via the venerable Cooper design team, but prior to that was a part of Adaptive Path, which makes for a good kind of déjà vu. Beyond being a service design leader, she’s a speaker, an educator, and a dancer. She’s also a stellar explainer, which is why we’ll help you to get to know her by asking her four questions:

Q: You’ve led service design at Cooper and are now joining one of the largest internal service design teams around. How might you characterize the state of service design? Where is the industry headed?

Good question. A lot of companies are currently in the “dating” phase with service design. They are intrigued, and they are getting to know it, because they want more cohesive and meaningful experiences.

Keep in mind that service design is not an isolated practice. Rather, it is a social practice that supports and weaves through just about everything a business does: from that first moment of truth with a customer, where they engage, keep engaging, and ultimately become an advocate; to the thoughtful design of the systems, technology, culture and practices of the teams that enable all of this.

The industry is enthusiastically heading toward creating the right conditions to deliver experiences that are co-created with customers, communities, and diverse, multi-disciplinary teams. A focus on customer and community is a move from just dating to committing, making service design a core practice.

Q: Okay, so why Adaptive Path at Capital One?

More than anything, the existence of Adaptive Path — along with the bigger team of design managers, design strategists, UX designers and researchers, content strategists, and industrial designers — is, in my eyes, a testament to Capital One “getting it.” It’s the recognition that in order to create something that reimagines banking for people, you need a variety of skills, work styles, and areas of exploration. The magic only happens when these practices come together to solve for the needs of people.

At Capital One, like Cooper, service design seems to be baked into its DNA: from a focus on humanity, ingenuity, and simplicity, to steps like reimagining brick and mortar banks as cafés — which is brilliant — communities need places to gather and share ideas and make things happen. The 360 Cafes are way more than banks, they are community centers. And that is service design. I love that associates at the cafés are encouraged to build relationships and emotionally invest in the well-being of their community. Capital One gets that banking at the core is not simply transactional. It is relational.

I was also impressed with Capital One’s commitment to challenging the status quo — taking on ideas that reimagine banking and change people’s relationship to their money and improve their financial health. It’s a bank. It’s a tech company. Culturally, there is that magical blend of the entrepreneurial mindset, “let’s try that” and pragmatic follow-through, “let’s build it, try it, make it better.” The energy and optimism here is contagious.

Q: You’ve introduced service design to tons of organizations. How do you explain the value of service design? Why do the companies of the future need it?

I try not to sell the value of service design, but rather to encourage teams to demonstrate the value. Be valuable by being in-service of the goals of our customers, our partners, and the community we are part of.

I have found that the in-road to demonstrating this value is often a face-to-face conversation with a business partner who is going through a challenge. They probably won’t use the words service design, but they have a challenge that service design could help with.

Like that time when they attempted to answer a crucial question about the health of their business, only to find that the systems across the business didn’t talk. Service design can help with that.

Or, the customer who felt like they were interacting with different companies when they moved from a company’s website, to app, to meeting with an associate face-to-face. Service design can help with that.

Or, the team that wants to help their customer develop healthier habits and behaviors, whether it’s eating better, reaching savings goals, or quitting smoking. Service design can help with that behavior change by creating the conditions for people to be more aware of their behavior, to focus on their goals and reinforce the desired behavior to achieve those goals — oh, and the design of the systems, practices, and tools to support and sustain it.

In short: Be in service. Be valuable.

Q: I understand you are dancer, improv actor, and singer. How do these talents impact your work?

Who have you been talking to?!! My Mom? Hahaha.

Yes, I love to sing, dance, play. Which means I love improv. This is who I am, and that has a huge impact on my work. I have an outlet for stress, which gives me mental and emotional space to deal with challenges that come up.

Improv is group play. It doesn’t work without collaboration, and neither does design. Bringing the dynamic of play into my work helps me to respond to surprises with curiosity, and it helps me get to get into creative flow with others while getting out of my own head and ego.

These practices make me more nimble, and they make work and life more fun. ☀︎



Stories from Capital One's designers on how using humanity, simplicity, and ingenuity can empower people to have better control over their money.

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Adaptive Path

Adaptive Path

A team of designers focused on the capabilities of human-centered approaches to improve products, services, and systems.