Stop Shifting the Burden to Your Customers: Patricia Houston

Stop Shifting the Burden to Your Customers: Patricia Houston


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About Patricia Houston

Patricia (Tricia) Houston is an award-winning marketing research expert, experiential marketing aficionado, and visionary entrepreneur. She founded MMR LIVE Experience Design to help brands and agencies create better emotional connections with their audiences. Under Tricia’s leadership, the team at MMR LIVE blends experiential marketing, research, and operational know-how into one integrated ethos. This next-gen approach is transforming innovation and organizational change to create #ExperienceBuilt brands.

A UGA Master of Marketing Research grad (’09), Tricia serves on the executive committee of the Family Promise North Fulton/Dekalb board, is the 2020 President of the SE Chapter of the Insights Association, and an avid support of WIRe (Women in Research).

Follow Patricia on LinkedIn:
Follow Patricia on Twitter: @TriciaBHouston

Follow MMR Live on Twitter: @MMRLIVECX

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Follow Worthix on Twitter: @worthix

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Follow Mary Drumond on Twitter@drumondmary


Introduction (00:04): Patricia Houston is an award winning marketing research expert, experiential marketing aficionado and visionary entrepreneur. She founded MMR Live Experience, designed to help brands and agencies create better emotional connections with their audiences. Under Tricia’s leadership, the team at MMR Live blends experiential marketing, research and operational knowhow into one integrated ethos. This next gen approach is transforming innovation and organizational change to create experience-built brands. A UGA master of marketing research grad, Tricia serves on the executive community of the Family Promise North Fulton Dekalb board, is the 2020 president of the SE chapter of the insights association and an avid supporter of women in research.

Mary Drumond (01:28): So I’m happy to welcome Patricia Houston from MMR live here to join us for season five of voices of customer experience. Tricia, thanks for coming on.

Patricia Houston (01:38): Thanks for having me, Mary. Very excited to be here.

MD (01:41): I’ve been wanting to get you on here for a while just because I’ve got so much respect for all your knowledge and what you do in the market research community. So this is a great moment for me here.

PH (01:50): Really appreciate it. Thank you for that.

MD (01:52): For the sake of our listeners who unlike me, don’t know who you are, don’t know what you work towards, what your passion is in this business. Can you give us a little, a little rundown, a short bio on yourself, what you do and why you’re so passionate about customers?

PH (02:07): Yes, so my world kind of revolves all around anything that has to do with what people think, what they feel and what they actually do. So my background is across multiple disciplines. So I’ve worked in experiential marketing doing very large scale global activations for Coke and the Olympics and things like that was our company’s focus. Then I have an academic background in market research. So very much so the other side of that coin and kind of putting those things together has led me to where I am today, which is leading an experience design group, as you mentioned, called the MMR Live, who we work with folks to really just make sure that they are holistically putting good experiences out into the universe that improve people’s lives and effectively shift the burden away from their customers, from their audiences, and back to the company in a way that’s sustainable.

MD (03:00): That’s awesome. But you’re also a very active member of the marketing research and customer experience communities. I see you all over the place. You’re in all the conferences, all the events and summits. Tell us a little bit about your extra curriculars.

PH (03:13): Oh my goodness. I do think we run into each other more, you know, outside of the office. So yes, definitely that’s a passion of mine. I’ve always been, you know, that that’s my thing. Right. You know, when there’s a position to be filled I joke with my husband that, you know, I join things and leave better websites and communication plans in my wake. But um, yeah, so in the market research world in particular, I’m very involved in insights association. They are kind of the signature association for advocacy and education for the market research industry. So I’m the president of the Southeast chapter currently this year. So we put on local programming as well as participate in some of the national events. I work pretty closely with the UGA Masters of Marketing Research program, which I know you’ve had Marcus, the program director on the program previously and you guys are a big supporter of that program as well. And location-wise, it’s great. They’re right down the road from me, but mentor, teach, I did a seminar a couple of weeks ago about how design research and user research are really kind of blending and infiltrating market research. So I enjoy doing that. And WIRe of course, I think you and I have been chatting about WIRe, which is Women In Research, which is something I think we’re both pretty passionate about.

MD (04:35): Yeah. For our listeners who didn’t take part of our pre podcast conversation that happened prior to this, Patricia and I were talking about a really interesting aspect of the field of marketing research and customer experience, which is the fact that there are so many women involved, but not at an executive or decision maker position there. There are few, and that’s a really important thing for us to not only be mindful of, but shine the spotlight on women who are in a position of leadership and who are taking active strides towards kind of closing that gap by providing women with tools and knowledge on how to do better at their jobs. I don’t think that nor myself or you or anybody wants to fill some sort of gender quota. We want to just be really good at our jobs and accomplish enough so that we’re recognized for being great and leaders, right?

PH (05:29): That’s absolutely it WIRe was started just a little bit over 10 years ago by Kristin Luck. And she’s obviously a strong figures speaking out about this as well. It’s just about having a comfortable environment, right? To have supportive services and there’s plenty of men involved in WIRe. It’s, it’s not women exclusive, but they provide both a nationwide mentorship program that you can sign up for and any levels of mentorship, like it’s not just early career people signing up to have a late career mentor. It’s all stages. They provide startup advisory services. They also have an executive group that you can join once you’ve reached a certain level of your career to where you kind of have that network of folks who have been there, especially if you’re a new founder or you know, starting a new department within like the client side of say a market researcher or CX organization. It’s all about resources, right? It’s all about access and kind of letting your guard down. What’s really cool about, I like about some of their networking events because I think a lot of times we go to these networking events, you feel like you’re just going to get pitched, right? You feel like you’re just gonna get business cards thrown at you. And this kind of goes hand in hand with the stuff we do with MMR live. It’s all about what do we really want to get out of this engagement? And they kind of set the rules in advance. This is about helping each other succeed. This isn’t about two hours to go hand out as many business cards as you can. It’s let’s help each other just as a human.

MD (06:57): Yeah, absolutely. I feel like you actually addressed something that’s very true. And you know, I’m a vendor. You’re a vendor too in that sense, but it doesn’t mean that, that every single time we participate in an event that we’re there shoving business cards down people’s throats. Because there is a huge portion, and I speak about this all the time about this community that we’re a part of the customer experience community, the market research community. And one thing that’s really interesting and I’m creating kind of a theory around it, I’m going to pitch it to you right now, is that when I started working with customer experience, I was surprised at how collaborative this community was and with time and kind of thinking it through. One thing I realized is that customer experience is all about empathy. So I believe that people that are drawn to this industry are naturally empathetic. So what you have is a community of people who are constantly thinking of the other, of their neighbor, of their coworkers, of their peers. And that makes for a really beautiful community of people that are not only thinking of each other, but are compassionate as well and are going out of their way to help others. Do you agree?

PH (08:07): I do agree. And it’s interesting you bring that up because as you mentioned earlier, since I’m, you know, kind of the person who raises her hand, now with my multi-discipline kind of view, I sit in groups or whatever with three different communities, so the market research community, the CX community, and now even the design community, and you could almost put them in a line that way, 100% agree that CX, because of what your day to day is, you operate everything you do with a different level of empathy, a different level of consideration. It’s almost even more extreme in the design community. I have been almost floored, but the amount of sharing and resources available just online, publicly, you know, the portfolios that people will share, how they share their work. Nothing is really held very close to the vest. They’re very proud of what they do. They’re very proud of how they can impact others and a lot of free training and free courses, not that we don’t have that level of collaboration in market research, I think it’s just a different personality in that community. Right?

MD (09:15): It’s just a little bit more scientific, maybe.

PH (09:16): Yeah, a little more academic. I mean, you have people who definitely crossed the line. I mean, you know, everybody’s not the same. It’s just too that it’s a more linear thinking sometimes right, of a process, right? As a discipline. It’s input a produces output B, right? Versus you know, really trying to deal with an ongoing relationship like in CX or a, you know, a design that’s going to have a three 60 impact across multiple, multiple stakeholders. Right. And is always changing and always in the gray zone.

MD (09:47): Yeah. So let’s step out of that for a second and shine the spotlight on your work and what you’re doing at the moment. So there are a couple of projects that you’re extremely passionate about, but at the moment, what is your passion project?

PH (10:00): Well, MMR Live at a whole is the coming to life of my passion project. So the reason it even exists is kind of to put the filter of how I believe business and audience interactions can be elevated through applying experience design. And we actually have a blog that covers like all the eight principles on our website. So we use them as the basis to kind of help guide workshops and folks, anybody, whoever wants to brainstorm about how to improve their operations or experience. But the eighth one is almost a wrap up. So it’s the whole idea of make it easier for them, not you. I sometimes shorthand that as shift the burden. So when you’re designing experiences, oftentimes a filter becomes, okay, well what will our current systems do now? What’s possible now? Which might or might not be a good experience for the person who actually interacts, you know, working from the customer back, versus from inside out. So if we really focus on shifting the burden, and I first applied this one in market research, so this is why it’s kind of cool. I get to bring all my worlds together. In market research, a lot of what we do is very closed-end surveys, right? So we go through and we of course define our objectives and our business objectives and we write these surveys that have multiple choice or single choice answers and we call that closed-end right. So think about it from a respondent standpoint. So in theory, you’ve taken a whole lot of time, you’ve taken a whole lot of care and you’ve got every answer that could come up, right? But is that, who are you shifting the burden to or from there what you’re really doing is making it easier for you as an analyst, as a researcher. Because it’s a whole lot easier for me to go through a clean data file that’s basically got 70% of the people said this one and 60% said that. But what if you didn’t even think to ask or give the person the opportunity to tell you something that really is a problem. So you’re not, by shifting the burden, you’re losing the opportunity to kind of get that information. So if you focus on making it a good respondent experience and just let them talk, just let them talk to you, let them give you the answers that they want to tell you, and then you take the burden on the backend, then there’s so many good tools out there. I mean the text analytics tools for unstructured data we have nowadays are light years ahead of what they were even just a couple of years ago. So use the technology, your disposal to make it better for the respondent, not necessarily just to make it better for you.

MD (12:32): I couldn’t agree more, for real, because you know, this is what I do. One of the things that we’re most proud of in the company that I work at is that we try to offer 100% voice of customer. And we do this by, you know, even taking that power away from the company to a certain degree to remove biases and say, Hey, you know what? Company back off, because we know that you have an agenda. We know that you’ve got things that you need to accomplish and we know that you need answers. But right now our tool is to listen to the customer. So we have these open ended responses that then are automatically processed by a machine learning algorithm for the part of understanding the open-ended text and then on the back end being able to process the impact of those responses. So whatever it is that the customer is saying, you know, we’ve got the technology to automatically process that so that you don’t need a researcher on the other end looking through every single response. The platform does it all for you. So there’s a lot, I mean at UGA, I’ve seen pretty amazing technology. I saw Romesh is another company that’s doing great things when it comes to artificial intelligence and technology, bringing technology into market research. And the truth is that, I know a lot of people are hesitant and there’s that whole concern. Like there isn’t a lot of industries, you know where technology is going to take away our jobs.

PH (13:50): You know, people are hesitant. Totally agree with you on that. I think part of it is though that part of how a lot of the tech companies have come in and talked about, you know, well this is going to, surveys are dead. You know, it’s like, well, nothing is dead, right? Everything has a purpose. Right? All these tools are only as good as what you use them to decide or actually inform, like to drive action. So when I talk about the fact that you need to shift the burden with your surveys, that’s because what I’m trying to elicit is like user experience feedback. All the work that my team does, we’re focused on direct audience feedback so that that doesn’t have to be, sometimes it’s in person, sometimes it’s digital, it doesn’t really matter based on the mode, but it’s not traditional market research in the sense of like trying to project the opinions of the marketplace. Say this is not to replace your brand tracker. This is not to replace your discreet choice study, to build your product line, to do a pricing model. Those are very different strategic asks and those will still happen. But you need to save the [inaudible] attention that you ask for research participants for those things that matter. Cause yeah, you’re an airline, you need to make a pricing model. You probably should get some feedback but you know, pay the people for their time and don’t do it like six times a year. Right? But then throughout the year, just leave this channel open, right? Enable them to talk to you, meet them where they are, enable them to talk to you. So the people who are apprehensive, if we sit down and actually talk through, okay, well what are you using this data for? Can this help you get there? This is a very different way to use data then what you use some of your traditional market research for. And I would even argue Mary, and I’m curious your opinion here, like in the CX world, you have a lot of competing goals in the CX world as well. You have the building of the customer feedback loop to actually build that lifetime value, which is one use, which is more of this always-on, open-ended, don’t know what to ask. Then you have that idea of kind of monitoring progress, right? Which is where we see most of our problems when the NPS debate comes up, the, you know, transactional things. But when you’re using them basically to police your organization, for one that’s totally separate, we could probably do a whole podcast about why it’s all a bad idea anyway, but I don’t know if we need to go down that road, but it’s separating out use case. Right? It’s not all created equal. I mean heck, in your house, do you use the same tool to do every DIY project? No.

MD (16:26): You’re absolutely right. And you know, I agree with you a lot in everything you just said. And when it comes to the market researchers, the scientists, the people who are looking at the data, that’s such amazing work and you have to be so qualified and so skilled at that one thing, you know, and the interesting thing is I don’t think technology is here to subtract any of that. On the contrary, we want to enhance that, at least in my line of work. We’ve got market researchers building our questionnaires. You know, we’ve got scientists that are helping us create solutions on our backend. And most importantly, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to take away the process that will take hours and hours of like just mundane copy, pasting, you know, worksheet, basic stuff. Making that all easy to give researchers a time to actually shine, doing what they do best, which is processing that data, understanding what that data means and how companies can make strategic decisions based on that data. From where I stand, it’s such an amazing community and such an amazing science as well. Let’s make the very best of it. It’s almost like having a chef washing dishes. I want the chef to be there preparing, you know, putting the final details on each dish and not in the back scrubbing up and, and washing glasses. Right? So that, that’s kinda how I see it. I want to give market researchers and the scientists and the people who do such amazing work, a chance to focus their energy and their talent on the things that actually matter, you know, and let the machines do the boring stuff. What do you think?

PH (18:07): Totally agree. And um, there’s a lady by the name of Melanie Cartwright. She is now as of this year, she is the new CEO of the insights association, but about, goodness, four or five years ago, I want to say it was 2016 so there’s a conference called IIeX, which is the insights and innovation exchange held every year. She actually spoke, this was kind of when I feel like tech and automation was really the, that was the buzz word that year, right? In market research. And her quote was, you know, automation is for taking things out of what doing hands can do, right? That’s where automation is going to help in that it frees us up to do, allow us to tackle tasks that thinking minds should handle. So it’s exactly what you’re saying. It’s like, use automation to take the stuff that is repetitive. And anything that doesn’t require as much strategic thought and I think that will absolutely benefit in the market research industry and we’ve already seen it happen, right? So market research in anything in CX, right, I mean, just any kind of research where you’re doing ask, answer, research, think about it back before dot com. Everything was so manual. I mean the internet coming online and making surveys online is kind of the same parallel. What that did was shift away the expertise in market research from you have to be a very good data collector, right? Because it was hard to find people. It was hard to locate them. It was a very manual task. It made the task of finding people not manual and now we have, we’re making the task of some of the day to day analysis, not manual.

Break (19:49): In the past weeks we’ve seen drastic fluctuations in customer buying patterns and sentiment. Now more than ever, in this time of need, it’s important to monitor and track how your customers perceive your processes and experiences. If you’d like to know more about how Worthix can help your company stay ahead of customer expectations, reach out for a demo at

MD (20:14): So let’s move into current events really quick. As Patricia and I are recording this podcast and we have no idea what the world is going to be like when this podcast airs. As we’re recording it, we are in the midst of a widespread of COVID-19. And it’s really wreaking havoc at this moment and every single company, every single organization, every single person on this planet is being directly impacted. We understand that this kind of Black Swan in the market will make and break a lot of companies. And the playing field as we know it is going to change drastically in the next couple of months. A lot of companies are shutting down a lot of their projects. A lot of vendors are not being able to sell. A lot of restaurants, hotels, airlines are closing their doors and are going to require some sort of government assistance in order to stay open, if even. This is a very troublesome time for everyone and I wanted to hear Patricia, I wanted to hear your views on what you think will come of this for customer experience and what companies need to stay mindful of regardless of the circumstances and what’s going on around us.

PH (21:34): Definitely in these quite strange and unprecedented times, I mean we certainly don’t know how things are going to go from here or shape up. Only hopeful that things are more short term versus long. I’m definitely thinking of anyone who’s affected. But from a business standpoint, it’s definitely interesting to think about who’s going to come out of the other side of this stronger, because I do think that’s a possibility. While we certainly will see, which is so unfortunate, you know, some businesses not necessarily make it through. I think the ones that will come out of this with a bit of an upside are ones that either already have been prepared or have already been operating essentially through whichever channel the customer demands. So this could be, if you think of a B2C example in the restaurant space. So businesses who have already had the foresight to set up both, of course you might have dine-in, you have a direct, deliberate carry out process, a online omni-channel order process that you’ve actually spent time in developing. And maybe the sales aren’t that high. You know, maybe you set it up, maybe, I mean obviously the Chick-fil-A is, or McDonald’s of the world, they have the volume, right? They have these channels and they’ve tested them. But even the ones who haven’t tested them as well, they have the protocol in place. What worries me is the smaller local businesses who, and I completely understand why they would, are basically like, let me figure out how to still produce some revenue by going into channels that I haven’t even prepared for before the pandemic. So kudos to them if they can go into those and execute them well, I do think people will be a little bit more forgiving, right? I mean there’s a lot kind of going on right now, but it could be a liability, right? So I would think kind of hard, you know, if I was a business owner as to whether I want to go into a new channel that I have not tested, I have not prepared for, my advice would be don’t rush, you know, don’t necessarily just try to do it kind of Willy nilly or just assume it’s all going to be okay because the companies who do those things well, they spend a lot of time innovating and testing and researching and getting feedback on those services.

MD (23:53): It’s interesting because driving on the streets yesterday, a restaurant near my house, they pulled a green egg out to the sidewalk and they were grilling meat really outside, outside on the street. And you know, the smoke with all the smells and all the amazingness is just kind of permeating everything around it. And they had people on the street with a green egg and one of those makeshift tables and they’re like, Hey, come buy some barbecue. And I mean, I was like, huh. I don’t know if it’s gonna work, but I respect them for trying. I have no idea if it’s going to work. I really don’t. But man, people who are hustling and trying to make it work during this time, I’ve got so much respect for them.

PH (24:46): That’s true. And I mean we’re seeing it with some of the bigger brands too. So I just saw a commercial actually earlier today. I know like in so auto manufacturer or more of the car dealership. Right? So car sales, I think we’d probably all agree is one industry that is ripe for disruption, right?

MD (25:03): Yes.

PH (25:03): I think society has less tolerance for any sort of broker transaction as it is, why do I need a middle man? And so that industry as a whole, it’s been interesting to see their spots. So I love that Ford, they pulled all their national advertising around like, you know, typical sales advertising and are focusing it on a debt relief program, which is great. Then this morning I saw that the GM family, all those brands that fall under that, they’re just going to go ahead and make their direct to home sales model, essentially trying to copy Carvana, like available now so you don’t have to come in the dealership. You can buy 100% online. Basically just saying, okay, well let’s not wait for Carvana ate our lunch. Let’s just go do it now.

MD (25:48): Yeah, definitely. You know, one thing that we’ve been saying, I’ve been saying this for a while, and this week this message just seemed so much stronger. You know, we talk a lot about how the speed of change is unprecedented at this time in the experience economy and how companies are being made or broken within a matter of years. All of a sudden that’s on fast forward. We’re like, I don’t know, a million times faster than we’ve been in the last 10 years, and we’re going to see very, very quickly customers pushing companies towards innovation, towards changing and adapting to new realities as they come. You know? So this is not a market where you’re going to, or this is not a time where you’re going to have a couple of a years, much less decades to make any changes. Your changes are gonna have to be made from one day to the next and changing along the ridiculously fast market that’s going through something it’s never been through before. It’s extremely volatile. It’s uncharted territory for almost everyone on the planet at this point. And keeping up with that change or the change in expectations of the market is going to be a make or break, I think, for companies out there, for big companies out there. You know, like you said, the small companies, I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but for the big companies that we expect to survive, I think that they only will survive if they’re able to keep up with the change of the market.

PH (27:23): Yeah. I think the tolerance for waiting, cause I mean our expectations are set by the leaders in commerce, right? Like my expectations for going to buy a car are not set by the leaders in selling cars, it’s by the leaders in commerce. So why don’t you act like Amazon, car dealer? You know what I mean? And if it’s possible with some company it should be possible with all companies, is almost like the expectation. And I think we will see some kind of either sink or swim from the big companies here. I do think what we’re also seeing is a great peek behind the curtain of what the employee experience is like for a lot of these bigger companies, based on the response they put out publicly for the policies they’re putting in place for their employees, for work at home and all that sort of stuff. That has been incredibly, incredibly interesting to watch.

MD (28:14): Yeah. I’m going to read a headline that I pulled up here because I think that this goes very much along with what we’re talking about right here and it says, Airbnb said it would give full refunds for Coronavirus cancellations, where VRVO or VRBO told renters to take a hike. Customers will remember.

PH (28:36): 100% and we just actually, you know, we absolutely had no idea this was gonna happen, but we did a self-funded study back in February right before everything kind of took off in the U.S. certainly, around this idea of experience-built brands. Because that’s kind of our focus here at Live is, you know, helping brands and organizations become experience-built, which is kind of, you know, following the principles that we talked about earlier. So we did a survey to kind of rack and stack across five industries, 60 brands, and then we’re going to repeat it in April to kind of get a sense of, you know, how did some of these brands respond. And one that I’m very interested to see. So for example, a little preview, we haven’t put these results out publicly yet, but telecom as an industry, probably not too much of a surprise to folks, but fell lower when you put the industries next to each other of restaurants, grocery, telecom, financial, you know that telecom would be near at the bottom. But on one hand you have Charter, who’s very famously been in the headlines over the past few days about not allowing folks to work from home, and that the CEO saying it was not going to happen. They did kind of walk that back today. And then you’ve got Comcast on the other hand, who pretty quickly came out and said, we will have no data caps for any customers for two months and we’re making our wifi free.

MD (29:58): Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I was watching that on the news today. And you know, Comcast has this reputation of having horrible customer experience. And this is an opportunity for them to change that perspective entirely from customer’s standpoint.

PH (30:12): Absolutely. So we’re going to be very interested to see how that changes with a pre-post.

MD (30:17): Yeah. This was probably the first time in my life that I was proud to be an Xnfinity customer. You know? It’s interesting because it really affects brand identification. Not only are customers being affected by what’s impacting them directly, but as they are watching how companies are taking a stance in their market. So, you know, in this case with VRBO, I don’t even know, is it VRVO or is it “verbo”?

PH (30:44): I think they changed a new camp–. I think their new campaign is they want it to be “verbo.” I still call it VRBO

MD (30:49): So VRBO, just, you know, a personal story. My family had rented a cabin in the mountains for my nephew’s graduation, and they refused to give the money back, even though people were coming from all around the world and we knew the international travel isn’t going to happen. There is only like, none of us actually live in the state in which we rented this cabin. And we can’t go. We just, we can’t go. We will not be able to use the property. They refused to cancel and they refused to give a refund. So it’s really unfortunate at the moment because here we are all scratching her head saying, why the hell didn’t we just do this with Airbnb? You know? And, and I think that Expedia is going to pay a really high price for this decision. You know, they’re standing by it and they’re not waiving those fees. And not only is it affecting the people who were directly impacted by this, but for the entire market who is empathizing with those people as they come out in the news, as they get word of mouth feedback. You know, how, how do you even recover from a fail like this?

PH (32:01): It’s going to be really tough. I mean, the businesses who, I’m a big Simon Sinek fan and you know, his whole infinite mindset, there’s always enough work to go around and it’s really about partnership and his advice, um, he, you know, has been posting videos on LinkedIn about, we all suffer a little so that a few don’t have to suffer a lot. I think the businesses who are taking the other approach where they’re not looking at the longterm partnership, they’re basically letting their customers know that you’re a transaction to me. You’re a commodity to me. I do not want your business in the future. That’s what I take away from that. Versus the businesses, like my son, he turned seven on Monday, so we’re going to have a great Pokemon party here at home. But we had a party scheduled at the Main Event here in Atlanta, which I don’t know if those are nationwide. But it’s kind of like a Dave and Busters place. And I called to cancel, and I was expecting that they would keep the deposit. I didn’t even ask for it back, but she did the extreme soft sell. She’s like, well, we’re happy to rebook you. You don’t even have to know your date. We’ll just put you down for a date. And you can always change it later, but we could process a refund. I’m like, I’m okay with the soft sell. You’re still a business. You still need to make revenue. And if I intended to do the party again, I probably would have given you another date. But I was very grateful that they did my cancellation. And guess what? I’ll be very happy to book a party with you in the future because of how you treated me.

MD (33:31): Yeah. And the truth is that none of us really know what’s going to happen next. We don’t even know if a lot of these companies are going to be around in the upcoming months anymore. If they’re going to, you know, very sadly have to close their doors. But one way or another, at some point, I believe that the market is going to recover. I believe that we’re going to bounce back. I believe that the need, I talk about this a lot, not only in my keynote, but here on the podcast and on the blog as well. The need doesn’t change. Expectations change, but the need is always there. So the need of transportation came way before the vehicle even existed. And we’ll move into the future, whether it’s going to be with flying cars or telekinetic transportation. So you know that that need is still gonna exist. The need to get around. What’s going to change is the offering and the expectations that the market is imprinting upon customers. So the need is still going to be there, people. And the companies that are going to succeed in the new market, that will emerge, are the ones that have their fingers on the pulse of customer expectations and are able to come through with that expectation.

PH (34:42): Yup. I think that’s spot on Mary. Absolutely. And it’s definitely going to be, I mean, I know the term’s going to be so overused, the new normal, but it will be a new normal and the rules will be different. You know, I am a big fan of brand purpose, I certainly am. I do think sometimes it’s kind of convoluted with cause, I don’t necessarily believe that your purpose has to be related to a cause or, or social, uh, you know, equality or anything like that. You know, you just need to have a North star, right? So companies who have a North star and if that North star is pointed toward, do the right thing, they’re going to come out okay on the other side of this, assuming the environment allows for that and just general things go their way. But totally agree.

MD (35:24): Yeah. And, and how do you think that our industry needs to change or modify at this time to keep up with the speed of change?

PH (35:32): That’s a good question. We’ve been talking about that a lot internally. So MMR Live, we sit within a full-service market research, boutique size called the MMR Research Associates. So we’ve been thinking about it from both angles. So the online work, so far we’ve seen mostly be less affected. In fact, you know, with people having a little bit more time on their hands, we might see some participation increased. Now what effect that might have on say trended data or things like that is yet to be seen. So certainly anything we’re doing in the digital space at this point, it’s more about being mindful of knowing any analysis you’re going to do, what impact is happening while this data is being collected. And also making sure that if you’re sending, say invites out to your customer list. So this would definitely apply in the CX space, acknowledge what’s going on. Don’t just ignore it. I mean business still has to happen, but acknowledge what’s going on. And then make your ask for whatever your survey is. So it doesn’t mean those sorts of things need to stop on the digital side. Now the in-person side, I mean, as you can imagine, I mean we’re worried about the safety of our employees and also anybody we would have to interact with. We do a lot of work onsite in retail and restaurants. All that’s halted. We’re gonna reassess, you know, kind of week by week, based on what the social distancing protocols are in a given city or location we’re going to, or nationwide for that matter. So I don’t know how quickly that’ll get up and running, but employee safety, client safety, participant safety is the number one concern there. So that’s just more about timing, unsure what the impact might be about participation in in-person research once it is possible. Again, I don’t know.

MD (37:14): Well, let’s all remember to try to keep our eyes and ears open to where the market is going and try to shift accordingly. And you know, I always tell my team that our team motto is “adapt, improvise, overcome.” Because it’s the one thing that we have to do. So I’m going to leave our listeners with that same motto to carry into the days ahead. Adapt, improvise, overcome. We’re all in this together. Tricia. I know that you’re really active, um, in the community and everything. And once this weird stage in everybody’s lives has sort of either become the new normal or somehow we’ve overcome it and moved back into our previously normal lives. Where can our listeners find you? Where can they interact with you if they’ve got questions, if they just want to hear more?

PH (38:07): Sure. You can find me. I’m on Twitter at @TriciaBHouston. And you can find me on LinkedIn as well. Patricia Houston. Those are probably the best ways. Our website is That’s where you’ll see most of our blog posts. And we’re in the process of getting some medium channels up and running, and possibly by the time this airs, I’m not sure what the schedule is. But yeah, those would be great places to, to connect with us.

MD (38:36): Wonderful. Tricia, once again, thank you so much for coming on. It’s always great to talk to you, whether it’s for a podcast or just for a chit chat. And so I’m so glad that you could come on.

PH (38:45): Absolutely. Great to talk with you as well. Mary, thanks so much for having me on.

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Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix, the world's first cognitive dialogue technology, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.



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