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How much does culture really matter?


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A friend mentioned recently that he was in the midst of developing an “Understanding Dutch culture” program to sensitize and train his fellow team of engineers of Indian origin for working successfully with his Dutch customers. This got us thinking about the importance of incorporating cultural relevance into the design of an experience.

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How much does culture really matter?

  1. 1. How Much Does Culture Really Matter?A friend mentioned recently that he was in the midst of developing an “Understanding Dutchculture” program to sensitize and train his fellow team of engineers of Indian origin for workingsuccessfully with his Dutch customers. This got us thinking about the importance ofincorporating cultural relevance into the design of an experience.We chanced upon the Lego Experience Wheel recently and started to wonder if there needs tobe a layer of cultural relevance while designing an experience. While the tool itself is a powerfulway to analyze the customer journey by looking at every touch point, isn’t it also important toavoid generalizing the experience across geographies and demographics? For instance, if westart to decode a coffee drinking experience in the US versus that in Italy versus one in India,the view of the customer journey would be greatly different.For example, coffee drinking in Europe includes daily long visits to local coffee bars—considered by many to be the cornerstone of social life. In the US, coffee is something that onlyadults drink in the morning because of the caffeine. Giving coffee to a child in the US is notaccepted. Coming to Europe—It is well-known that the Turks brought coffee to Europe and hasbeen an important part of Turkish culture. Turkish coffee is taken at extremely hottemperatures and is usually served with a glass of cold water to freshen the mouth to bettertaste the coffee. In Italy, coffee is enjoyed after a family meal and in China and India, tea stillremains the drink of choice, although we see a huge growth in the coffee-bar culture amongGen X and Y consumers.© Rupa
  2. 2. That is because customer expectations are culturally-bound and stem from deep-rooted valueand belief systems which have evolved over centuries. Hence, while designing an experience itis important to closely note and assimilate various cultural differences. For example someEuropean nations, including Italy, Spain and Romania prefer highly personalized service and toengage with a ‘real person’. By contrast, other nations including the UK and Denmark valueefficiency and speed more highly. Some nations are less comfortable in disclosing personaldata, even if the aim is to deliver a better service. Even simple things like whether customersprefer a formal or informal form of address are culturally-bound. ‘Have a nice day’ will beacceptable in one culture yet will grate in another.While advertising grabs people’s minds, a great customer experience has the power to grabpeople’s hearts. In conclusion, while coffee has now become the world’s second mostimportant commodity after crude oil (about 800 billion portions of coffee are consumed aroundthe globe every year), it is important to know that customer expectations and consumptionexperiences differ vastly from one culture to another. So it does not matter whether yourbrand is the longstanding category leader, a new entrant or a trendsetter; maintaining culturalrelevance makes the difference in customers’ lives and on the balance sheet!© Rupa
  3. 3. About CXP DesignCXP Design (, founded by Rupa Shankar, is a platform for marketers,technologists, designers and leaders to discuss and gain a deeper understanding of cross-channelcustomer experience design, develop empathy for customer needs and learn how to createproducts and services that deliver "wow" experiences for customers.When we check into a hotel. When we shop on-line. When we buy a pair of shoes. When we get ona flight. These are experiences by which we measure brands every day. However, most companiesare without the tools to purposefully design those experiences for maximum value. That’s whereCXP Design comes in.Day in, day out, we live, sleep, eat, breathe and unravel the riddle that is human experience, leadingto more loyal and committed customers for our is an Associate Director at Happiest Minds Technologies (, a next-generation IT Services & Solutions company at the forefront of Providing Advisory, Implementation andManaged Services on Social computing, Mobility, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Cloud computing,Security and Unified Communications. At Happiest Minds, Rupa is responsible for uncovering andactivating innovative digital and social engagement strategies for its clients, spearheading thedevelopment of frameworks and solutions for different industry verticals and enhancing the global go-to-market strategy. She taps into her past work as both a design practitioner and marketer to help HappiestMinds clients envision and define broad, end-to-end customer experiences.© Rupa