South-Western - Management  
Talk to Our Customers? Are You Crazy?
Topic Managing Service and Manufacturing Operations
Key Words Customer focus, customer satisfaction, experience immersion
News Story

David McQuillen is an American who is challenging the top executives at Credit Suisse Bank in Switzerland to get out of their offices and meet customers to find out what their needs are. McQuillen calls his unorthodox approach the “experience immersion.” His theory is that although a lot of companies say how important customer focus is in their mission statements, in reality, they do little to make it their true mission. The larger the organization, the more isolated the executives tend to be. Many rely on customer surveys for information, or assume that their customers are just like them, which can be disastrous when it comes to developing new products and services.

McQuillen’s “experience immersion” begins with a visit to three local bank branches. At the first branch, the executives learn to watch customers. At the second, they complete a typical customer task and at the third, they are given a few questions to ask actual customers. Executives are also required to visit the bank’s Web site to attempt to use services and fill out forms.

Each session, so far, has yielded results. Two branches are now being redesigned and one executive who had to wait in line is spearheading a project to help reduce waiting times at bank branches. Executives say they learned how important things like friendly employees and clear signage can be.

The bank is also doing more to help customers with disabilities, as a direct result of McQuillens’ unorthodox training methods, which called for senior managers to spend a day in a wheelchair, wear a weighted suit, and eat lunch in the dark to simulate being visually impaired.

To McQuillen, the methods are simple. Observing customers does not take millions of dollars in research funds, but it works.


Define customer focus.


What is an “experience immersion” at Credit Suisse? Why is it having a positive impact on customer focus at the bank?


Research continuous improvement in your textbook. How does continuous improvement relate to the type of intervention that McQuillen is doing with the executives at Credit Suisse?

Source “Talk to Our Customers? Are You Crazy?” Fast Company, July, 2006, page 70.
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