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The good news: companies of all shapes and sizes are implementing Voice of the Customer programs.  The bad news: customers are being inundated with feedback surveys. Just this week, I’ve received survey requests from United Airlines, my veterinarian, my gym, and Airbnb. Airbnb’s was the only one I filled out. Here’s what Airbnb’s email invitation did right:

It addressed me in a friendly tone. Airbnb’s email opened up with “Hi Kerry,” which immediately set it apart from typical survey invites with more formal (and emotionally distant) language — like the “Dear Kerry Bodine:” salutation used by United (a company that should actually know me much more intimately than Airbnb does). Not only was this greeting effective at drawing me in, it subtly reinforced the new Airbnb brand value of belonging. (I wouldn’t expect anyone to say, “Hi Kerry,” to me in a place where I didn’t belong.)

It told me exactly how long the survey would take. “It’ll only take 3 minutes.” How long did the survey actually take? 4:08 from the time that I clicked the link in the email until I got to the “And you’re done!” page. Sure, this was a tad longer than promised three minutes, but I doubt that any customer without a stopwatch would notice the difference. (I also took screenshots as I went along, which probably added 30+ seconds to a normal person’s completion time.) Compare this to an email I got from Omni Hotels & Resorts several months ago that asked me to “take a few minutes to tell us what you think.” Five minutes into the survey I looked up at the status bar to find that I was only 20% through the survey — and promptly closed my browser tab.

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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!

Event Producers

Brasil's Customer Festival
October 20 – 21, 2014
Sao Paulo

Middle East's Customer Festival
November 18 – 19, 2014
Dubai

Next Generation Patient Experience
December 2 – 4, 2014
Dallas, Texas

IQPC CX Impact
December 8 – 10, 2014
New Orleans

Customer Experience World
December 8 – 9,  2014
Dubai

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In a recent post, I talked about the increasing complexity of loyalty programs — and how the earning schemes that marketers employ can influence customers’ perceptions of not only the program, but of the brand itself. However, it’s not just loyalty program inputs that have gotten complex. Program outputs — the rewards that customers get for their continued business — have become just as, if not more, diverse and convoluted.

The most typical (and simple) output is something free or discounted from the company who’s providing the program: a free sandwich, an upgraded hotel room for the price of a standard one, or $25 off the next purchase. Such exchanges make the value proposition of continued patronage quite clear to customers. (“I give X, I get Y.”)

But in recent years, marketers have turned loyalty earnings into virtual currencies that can be exchanged for just about anything imaginable. After amassing a ridiculous excess of United Airlines miles several years ago, I redeemed them — not for flights, but for a DSLR camera, a Samsung TV, and a wine fridge. Starwood Preferred Guest members have point redemption options as diverse as a donation to The American Red Cross or an opportunity to meet singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow at an upcoming concert. By aligning their loyalty programs with other products, services, experiences, and causes that are important to their customers, marketers can create a halo effect for their own brands.

Recognition — via status tiers or exclusivity — is another common output of loyalty programs. It is perhaps the most seductive of rewards, but also the most insidious...

Read the full post on underlinecom.com.

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Who in your company talks about your corporate brand? My guess is that it’s only the marketing folks. In far too many organizations, I see people in roles like customer service, operations, and finance who view the brand as an elusive concept — one seemingly (and thankfully) controlled by the CMO and ad agency execs.

But a brand is not solely a logo or the image portrayed on an advertisement, Facebook page, or product packaging. Brands live in the hearts and minds of customers, and they’re shaped in large part by the perceptions, thoughts, and emotions that customers have about their direct relationships with companies. In other words, a company’s brand is shaped by its customer experience — by the nature and qualities of every single customer interaction.

The customer experience is, in turn, shaped by the corporate culture. The way that people within an organization think, talk, and behave every day directly impacts how behind-the-scenes employees make decisions and how frontline staff members treat customers.

And so as brand emerges from the customer experience, the customer experience emerges from culture. None of these three can be isolated from the other two. Customers’ perceptions of what the company stands for are, simply, a reflection of what the company really stands for.

And yet so many companies miss this basic truth. They spend millions of dollars cooking up new brand positioning in Madison Avenue conference rooms, when they should be looking for inspiration deep inside their own organizations.

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It’s not often I hear news that makes me scratch my head for hours on end. But Adaptive Path’s announcement last week that they’ve sold to Capital One really got my wheels turning. Even Jesse James Garrett, Adaptive Path’s Chief Creative Officer, admits that the match is a weird one.

Here’s what’s rolling around in my head…

First and foremost, congratulations to my AP friends, both former and current, on this exciting news. You’ve all worked hard to get AP to where it is today, and no matter what your current position or path, I hope you’re sharing in some of the excitement.

Capital One competitors should be sweating. Design-driven business strategies offer a sharp competitive edge, and Capital One has snapped up some of the US’s best design talent. I can only imagine what the financial behemoth will do with AP… Perhaps it wants to take the reins in an industry that’s started to see significant digital disruption. Perhaps it wants to create new B2B or B2C service-based revenue models in the face of tighter government regulation. Whatever its plans, Capital One is well armed to position itself as an innovator and undisputed market leader.

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