Over the years, I’ve talked a lot about customer loyalty — the type of behavior that results from great customer experiences and drives additional revenue through repeat purchases and word of mouth. What I haven’t talked about so much are loyalty programs — initiatives that are specifically created to encourage repeat business.

Loyalty programs and customer experience initiatives have the same common objective: to encourage customer behaviors that benefit the business. And yet, the two types of initiatives take very different approaches to that end. Customer experience teams seek to drive loyalty by making the company useful, easy, and enjoyable to do business with: “Be loyal to us because you love us.” In contrast, loyalty programs seek to drive loyalty through a system of perks and rewards: “Be loyal to us because you’ll get something in return.”

It’s very possible that a company with a compelling loyalty program can get away with having a subpar customer experience, and yet still have what appear to be loyal customers. Here’s an example...

Read the full post on underlinecom.com.



I’m often asked about customer experience conferences: What’s out there? Where am I speaking? Which conferences would I recommend?

I’ve compiled the following list of conferences spanning a variety of topics — like CEM, service design, customer loyalty, customer success, and contact centers — that should be of interest to a wide range of customer experience professionals. I've organized the events based on the types of organizations hosting them: professional associations, event producers, service providersmedia companiesanalyst firms, and tech vendors. And, as the title of this post implies, I'll be keeping this list up to date on a rolling basis.

Am I missing an upcoming event? Please let me know!

Professional Organizations

DMI: Design Leadership Conference
September 30 – October 1, 2014

Service Design Global Conference
October 7 – 8, 2014

Event Producers

America's Customer Festival
September 15 – 16, 2014
Las Vegas

Next Generation Customer Experience Canada
September 15 – 17, 2014


Earlier this summer I flew from San Francisco to Tokyo with an upgrade from economy to business class. I was excited about my flat-bed seat and the nice snooze I’d be able to take as we crossed the Pacific. But I was even more excited about the opportunity to order the Japanese in-flight dinner, which I’d had on my last trip to Tokyo back in 2008.

The “Special meals” page on United’s website describes this option as “Traditional multi-course Japanese meals, served with steamed rice and Japanese tea.” That bland description makes United’s Japanese in-flight meal sound just like any other airline food — but my meal was so much more.

The visuals struck me first: Blue and yellow dishes popped off a bright red placemat, and six small bites sat perfectly positioned a semi-circular plate. The food itself came in hues of black, green, orange and took the shapes of circles, cubes, squiggles, and swirls. The food lived up to my eyes’ expectations: The crunch of one dish offset the softness of another, and the tastes spanned salty, sweet, and sour.

When I took my connecting flight on ANA to Hong Kong, I also ordered the Japanese dinner. This time it came with a little card explaining how ANA’s chefs sought to appeal to all five of their passengers’ senses. Of course, this philosophy and the resulting meals stem from the deep and rich culture surrounding Japanese food. But the meals also recognized one of our most basic pleasures — enjoying a fantastic meal — and acknowledged that this desire doesn’t turn off just because we’re flying on an airplane.


I’ve submitted two really fun sessions for SXSW 2015. The first, It’s Time To Design Better Smartwatch Interfaces, will share the results of a wearables research study that I’m collaborating on with the talented folks at AnswerLab. The second, How Kids Changed The Way We Design For Adults, is based on the amazing design work done by my friends at Doberman.

Sound good? I hope so. Because we need your help! Please be a lamb and take two minutes to vote for these sessions. It’s quick and easy:

  1. Sign up for the SXSW PanelPicker if you haven’t already.
  2. Visit the two session proposal pages: It’s Time To Design Better Smartwatch Interfaces and How Kids Changed The Way We Design For Adults.
  3. Click the “thumbs up” icon to cast your vote.

That’s it! Thanks a million for you vote. And if you’d like to know more about what we’ll cover in these two sessions, please read on…

It’s Time to Design Better Smartwatch Interfaces

Established electronics players like Samsung, Sony, LG, and Motorola have already introduced smartwatches. Upstarts like Pebble, Martian, and many others are nipping at their heels. And of course, the long anticipated Apple iWatch will make its debut (we hope) in late 2014.

With broader penetration right around the corner, it’s time for businesses to develop strategies that embrace the smartwatch market. In this session, we’ll discuss the design considerations that will support those strategies — and help brands develop content and functionality that’s appropriate for this soon-to-be-standard form factor.


In a recent post, I presented the first of three core pillars of great customer experiences: usefulness. In short, customers spend money because they’re trying to get something done — a job, a task, a goal — and companies must focus on providing that utility. But while being useful is essential, it’s not sufficient.

In order to reap the business benefits of customer experience, companies must also be easy to work with.

The concept of “easy” is, well, easy for just about anyone to grasp. We’ve all had some issue with an airline, a retailer, a bank, or a credit card company that’s been far more difficult to resolve than seemed necessary. Just last week, a recording of a Comcast customer trying to cancel his service went viral — no doubt because so many of us could relate to the pain that this customer felt. Our frustration lingers and causes us to harbor negative feelings not just about the specific employee involved — but also about the brand in general.

Ease of use is important for B2B companies as well. During a recent ethnographic research study, research firm Storyline interviewed a vice president in the healthcare industry who said, “There will come a time when I have to upgrade [a particular B2B product]. And if historically I’ve had far too much difficulty dealing with a certain brand, then I would no longer consider that brand.”

In fact, easiness is so important — and also so relatively rare...

Read the full post at underlinecom.com