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Customer Experience Conversations: Maxwell Luthy

Today, the customer experience (CX) landscape is drastically changing with the explosion of new and emerging technologies affecting the customer journey. With all of this change, it is now more important than ever to understand what it takes to create a strategic customer experience program.
That’s why we recently sat down with Maxwell Luthy, director of Trends & Insights at Trendwatching.com, to discuss the state of CX today and what’s in store for the future. Luthy is speaking at the upcoming Total CX Leaders Conference 2015 this spring in Miami.

This year, the two-day conference brings together thought-leadership to focus on higher level thinking around the strategic alignment of customer strategy, technology and business aspirations. Linking data driven behavior to business results, designing next generation customer experiences and measuring the impact of your customer programs is the difference between great and greater.
Here is what Luthy had to say:
IIR: What is the best customer experience you’ve had?
Luthy: Like many people, I clearly remember my first Uber. Beyond the convenience, value for money and seamless payment, the highlight for me was when I stepped out of the vehicle at my destination and saw the app’s prompt to rate the driver. It was easy to do and the journey was fresh in my mind. I particularly love how the drivers are also able to rate passengers. There are legitimate concerns about discrimination as a result of the ratings, but putting the responsibility back on to the customer to be a pleasant and punctual passenger is genius.
So much today shows how consumers are increasingly empowered in the brand-customer relationship. It’s nice to see a little power back in the providers’ hands! The customer experience benefits from both parties’ involvement in the two-way rating system. Without sounding too idealistic, drivers and passengers may become more courteous to each other around the world.
IIR: What is top of mind for you regarding customer experience in 2015?
Luthy: One of the major themes we’ve witnessed at Trendwatching.com, is how consumers are taking expectations that were cultivated online, offline. Customers who’ve grown accustomed to the personalization, customized experiences, dynamic pricing, and transparency of the online world increasingly demand those perks in the real world. Many of the trends that we track reflect this shift.
Brands must use customer data (with permission), new technologies, and old-fashioned, people-powered customer service to make sure the 2015 customer experience is personal, painless and contextualized across all channels.
IIR: What is your prediction for where customer experience is going this year and beyond?
Luthy: One way that many of the fastest growing startups around the world are providing superior customer experiences is by employing ‘peer armies.’ By utilizing a network of peers who aren’t traditional employees, businesses are able to provide local, personalized services at a national or even global level. That’s how Instacart affordably delivers products from its customers’ favorite stores in one hour. Peers can even be utilized to provide authentic product reviews, Made, a UK-based furniture e-tailer allows shoppers to view photos of products in the homes of customers who’ve already bought them. The shoppers who’ve uploaded the photos are proud of their homes and happy to improve the customer experience for others.
Another trend we will see more of is ‘honest flexilibity.’ This is where brands are honest about the limits of their product or service (they communicate it clearly to customers), yet they are as flexible as possible with their efforts to find a solution.
A great example is from BMW, who knew people hesitate to purchase an electric car when they suffer from ‘range anxiety’. In other words, what if I need to do a long journey and the battery runs out? Rather than skirt around the issue or use marketing to allay the concern, they created the ‘Add-on Mobility’ program, where those who purchase the all-electric BMW i3 can register to access other, gas-powered BMWs should they need one. This trend is exciting because firstly, it taps into the new reality that brands must be honest and open about their limits, because in the digital era consumers find out everything. Secondly, it reflects how flexible they have to be to meet consumers every increasing expectations.

Want to hear more from Luthy? Don’t miss his keynote session, ‘Key Consumer Trends to Kick Ass With’Now!’ at Total CX Leaders Conference 2015 this June in Miami. For more information about the event or to register, click here: http://bit.ly/1wDWAqv

Live from #TMRE13 Keynote: The Pragmatic Brain

Stereotyping is a natural human tendency. Brands are stereotypes. When you think of Disney, what comes to mind? Nike? BMW?

Brand stereotypes create reality. For example, Coors – cold activated cans, Rocky Mountains in the background, frosted bottles. You’ve seen all the commercials. They create the idea in your mind that Coors’ beer is actually colder and more refreshing than other brands. They are tapping into your unconscious and making you believe it.

Stereotypes resist change, but CAN change. In research studies, most people won’t change their minds, even after contact itself. Those ideas are so deeply embedded in their minds, that actual proof which negates it, doesn’t affect them. However, a few of those who came in contact, actually did change. In order to change your brand’s stereotype, you must first make small, significant changes to tap into your consumer’s unconscious.
The interactions must feel cooperative. If consumers feel you have the same ideals/goals they do, you will see positive change. For example – Guiness. Not a beer you normally associate with sports. If you saw a commercial of a bunch of guys sitting around watching sports, eating chips and drinking Guiness, nobody would believe it. In this commercial, they associate themselves with loyalty, friendship and having the same values you do, which sets the context for their desired change.

You must drive change with the right type of contact – it must feel authentic. Stereotypes are part of who we are. Find out how people see themselves and how they see your brand. You will then be able to align the two and position your brand the way YOU want people to see it. 
Bottom line for market research professionals. Think of your brand as a stereotype and strive to understand the full stereotype. Then you will be able to affect change.

Talia Short is Chief Wrangler at April Bell Research Group, a boutique, full-service marketing research firm, committed to delivering fresh insights you can act on! Learn more at aprilbellresearch.com.

Who’s winning the culture wars?

Brands are beginning to question whether knowing their consumer is enough. In a world of constant change, being culturally relevant and future-focussed is increasingly important. Culturally-connected brands can be nimble and operate in real time. When your brand is part of culture, not sitting on the surface, you stand a better chance of being noticed and loved.

But how exactly do you connect with something as amorphous as ‘culture’? And how do you know when you’re doing it right?
 For the last four years we’ve been measuring how successfully brands are connecting with the zeitgeist.
We asked 62,950 people in 10 countries in our Cultural Traction’ 2013 Report. We measured each brand’s VIBE ‘ that’s how Visionary, Inspiring, Bold and Exciting they are ‘ to see how well they’re tapping into cultural trends.

The change in a brand’s VIBE over time is its Cultural Traction’. If traction is decreasing, the brand is falling out of step and faces trouble, if it’s increasing the brand has its finger on the right pulse and may be destined for greater things.

In this year’s Top 10 ‘ somewhat unsurprisingly ‘ tech titans Google and Apple dominate.  Google seems more Inspiring and Exciting, Apple more Visionary and Bold. They’re joined by other industry innovators, Samsung, Microsoft and eBay, as well as BMW and Audi. Surprise entries are IKEA and Coca-Cola, proving you don’t have to make machines to join the cultural conversation.

So what makes a winner? At the heart of our top 10 brands is the belief and opportunity to drive the human race forward. Google gives us access to endless potential and innovates constantly. Apple is the original brand to give us access to the future (although its traction has been slowing over the last two years). Ikea opens our minds to possibilities and approaches the future with real optimism and Coke, well they’re all about optimism. It seems that in tricky times we’re looking for direction, vision, confidence and hope.

And the losers? Lurking at the bottom are booze brands who, despite their size, are losing cultural relevance. How we connect with people has fundamentally changed over the last decade, and alcohol brands need to work harder to keep up.  At the bottom are mainly FMCG brands, but Twitter and Yahoo are also languishing, failing to join other tech brands on the podium.

So, what do brands that are out-of-step with culture have in common?

Brands in the bottom 10 encourage us to live life to the full, but exist only in the moment. They want us to have fun, but are without direction ‘ hedonists with nowhere to go after the party. Brands that connect with culture are visionary, opinionated, give direction and create change. Brands in the bottom are fun without substance.

One thing seems certain ‘ brands who ignore the world around them do so at their peril.


Izzy Pugh, Cultural Insight Director, Added Value UK. This blog was originally published in Contagious Magazine. You can learn more about Cultural Insights from Added Value’s North American CEO, Maggie Taylor, as she presents ‘Refresh.  Or perish.  Why Cultural Vibrancy Counts’ at The Market Research Event in Nashville October 21-23