Keynote Preview: The “Voice of the Customer” Speaks

Do you know what it’s like to be in your customer’s shoes? As vice president of customer experience and the “voice of the customer” at financial services firm Credit Suisse, David McQuillen does, and he’s going to share his notion of customer experience immersion with ACCM attendees in his keynote Wednesday morning. MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT’s Jim Tierney caught up with him for a preview of his session.

MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT: For starters, what is a customer experience immersion program, and how does it work?

McQuillen: Experience immersion is simply the process of taking employees through the customer experience they provide. At Credit Suisse, we have structured immersion programs where we take senior executives though all the main customer touch points. We also apply the technique on specific projects, taking, for example, Web programmers through the Websites they’ve built or architects through buildings they’ve built.

MCM: How do these programs affect a true customer culture?

McQuillen: Above all, experience immersions create empathy for the customer. And I know of no greater way to get people focused on the customer than to create empathy for customers and their needs.

MCM: Can you describe your job at Credit Suisse?

McQuillen: I head up a diverse team of designers, architects, ethnographers, and researchers. We are an internal consultancy serving the rest of Credit Suisse. We are customer advocates–we see ourselves a bit as “missionaries” preaching the importance of positive customer experiences–and help other teams improve their current customer experience or develop new ones. Using our internally developed methodology, we can work on any customer touch point, from Websites to buildings to contracts to statements.

MCM: What is most rewarding about your job?

McQuillen: Helping other teams see things from the customer’s point of view. Sometimes people come to us so bogged down and weary of politics, policy, and internal navel-gazing that they just aren’t thinking very well. Helping them get out of that–helping them see differently, generate real insights into what will be best for the customer and best for the business…that’s powerfully satisfying for me and my team.

MCM: How did you become involved in this type of career?

McQuillen: By accident, really. I used to work in strategy consulting for [management consulting and technology services provider] Accenture. While all the other consultants were analyzing competitive forces, pricing, distribution, and the like, I was curiously looking at the quality of the customer experience and saying, “You know, if they just made it easier to buy from them, I bet they would be a lot more successful.” From there, my natural interests in customer service, design, architecture, and people led me to setting up the customer experience team at Credit Suisse.

MCM: What was your reaction to being named by “Fast Company” magazine as one of the “top 10 creative minds of 2006”?

McQuillen: I was pretty embarrassed– to be in that list with individuals who I really admire…well, that was really something. At first I was afraid they made a mistake, but I certainly wasn’t going to call them and draw their attention to it in case they actually did!

MCM: If you could, how would you embellish the concept that “the customer is always right”?

McQuillen: Well, I’d rather say, “Why does your customer think they are right?” I’d say, “Go out and find out who your customer is, what they expect from you, and what you are actually giving them.” Once you’ve got that, and the empathy that comes with it, you’ll know where your customer is coming from and what to do about it. And by the way, I’m a firm believer that you must first deliver a great employee if you want to deliver a great customer experience.

MCM: How do you quantify an “easy, useful, and enjoyable” customer experience?

McQuillen: One that gets the basics right for customers. Every interaction with a business adds value for the customer, every interaction is simple and easy to complete and, if possible, the experience is an emotionally enjoyable one for the customer.

MCM: Can you describe the function of the “voice of the customer” team?

McQuillen: Our VoC team is a special team of researchers, data miners, and customer experience professionals who serve the needs of our more than 200 Lean Sigma Black Belt project managers. For a Black Belt’s project, we help them figure out who their customer is and what the best research methods are to determine the customer needs, satisfaction, behavior, etc. We recently won one of Credit Suisse’s most prestigious awards for the innovative VoC Process, which we’ve created to serve these Black Belts.

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