Saturday, September 09, 2006

Banking on Customer Experience: David McQuillen and Credit Swisse

Like GEL in New York, two of Eurogel's most salient results are new perspectives on old problems and as a result, inspiration and a palpable sense that even the most daunting problems can be solved with a new approach.

No airy fairy promises, either. Mark Hurst offers concrete examples.

Seeing Possibilities

Sometime during his tenure as a banker at Credit Suisse in Switzerland, David McQuillen noticed that both his workplace and the country itself were practically inaccessible to anyone with special needs. This bothered him.

To give his team a new perspective on the organization's physical space, David made his team spend a week in a wheel chair. Each member, including David, was asked to use the wheel chair for every task throughout the day.

Expectations and A Starting Point

David was focused on logistical challenges -- of how hard the copy machine would be to reach or the restroom would be to use. However, he found he could use the copier, make presentations, and reach the cafeteria table without too much trouble. The real problem was that no one would look at him.

David went into the project believing he would change the way bankers built buildings. He came out of it understanding that he would have to change the way think about people.

Implications Far Beyond Special Needs

It's no secret that most high level business people feel perfectly comfortable with graphs and numbers, but they feel much less on solid ground with emotions. This, David found, extended to avoiding consideration of all kinds of experience AS experience.

So David took the executive board through an immersion experience of what customers do every day -- applying for credit cards, using the website, and changing money in the teller line. David said the experience was for these men "like going to the moon" because it had been decades since any of them had been in these situations.

The Biggest Challenge

David put the executives through quite a lot -- wearing a suit that constrained their sight and movement to mimic the experience of a 70-year-old, blindfolding them to give an inkling of what the blind must do, and so on.

However, the most painful experience for every board member was to speak to customers directly. The only requirement was that the executive asked the customer a series of questions, but David had more cancellations for this phase than any other. However, when they finally were forced to do it, they were almost like children in their excitement about what they learned. More than anything else, a direct relationship with customers and their experience had an enormous impact on these decision-makers.

The result? The bank's customer service improved dramatically, and it was made accessible to those with special needs.

A Fairy Tale?

This might sound like an unusual story from a far away land. After all, everyone isn't a banker, Switzerland is only one country, and cultural norms differ elsewhere.

However, here's a question:

In your organization, how many decisions are made about customer experience by those who never interact with customers at all? How many are made from charts, graphs, and information delivered by consultants or marketing departments?

And how much do you think you could learn by doing things differently?

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