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Like a Pot of Gumbo: Four Lessons on Great Customer Experience

Sandra Mathis

Do you have a go-to recipe, one you’ve perfected with trial and input over time? My gumbo recipe is, in fact, based on three recipes combined with my own flavors. I’ve tweaked this recipe over the course of a few years, and now have a gumbo with which I’m quite pleased (and so are my guests).

Here’s my Customer Experience (CX) segue — isn’t our greatest objective to have a customer experience that pleases customers and stakeholders alike? Like a dialed-in recipe, CX success comes from having a solid foundation, a CX trinity, personal flavor, and the presence of mind to go slow.

Let’s make some CX gumbo, shall we?

1. START WITH A FOUNDATION

Every good gumbo recipe starts with a roux. Roux is a rich base that thickens the sauce and brings the various components of the dish together. Without it, you have nothing more than a soup. To bring together your CX foundation, you need a few essentials.

First, leadership — a chief customer experience officer (CCXO, CXO) or other appointed CX leader— who rallies the organization around the importance of the program and its adoption. Next, understand where you are with your CX maturity. There are plenty of assessments out there in the public sphere. With a good indication of where you are, you can set a course for where you wish to be. This is accomplished through a CX Charter and CX Strategy that is established with leadership and key stakeholders throughout the organization.

With these pieces in place, the CX foundation is set. Moreover, you will have established and prioritized what matters most to improving the experiences your customers have with your organization, as well as what feedback should be captured.

2. KNOW YOUR CX TRINITY

Gumbo uses a trinity of celery, onions, and bell pepper to create a familiar aromatic flavor. When it comes to CX, it’s not quite as simple as collecting the pieces of information and feedback around the organization related to the customer and “voila!” you’re done! Rather, your “CX trinity” (as I call it), which is made up of consistency, effort, and feedback, must be added to the mix. Let’s explore each.

  • Consistency across the end-to-end experience. This is best enabled by using a Customer Journey Map to identify where the organization is delivering both consistent and inconsistent experiences. Once you’ve created your journey map, stop and take inventory. Does it demonstrate how the customer enters into your funnel and exits back out with touch points mapped? If so, consider revisiting the map now. There are other key components that you will need to add, starting with employee engagement. What are the connections between internal teams that enable the customer to do business with you? The ability to improve the experience is made possible by employee teams, and in turn demands the right people, processes, and tools (including technology) be in place.
  • Effort. According to the Harvard Business Review, reduction in customer effort is the number one factor in acheiving customer loyalty. Are you making it easy or are you making it difficult for your customers to do business and interact with you? When things seem to be ticking along smoothly, this is an even more challenging question to answer. For instance, if it is already easy, could it be easier? Are there ways you could simplify steps, encourage new interactions, or otherwise delight your customers? Consider, too, what isn’t working as well as it could, or simply isn’t working at all, and decide how to improve the situation. Take cues from other businesses, look around at what is going on inside and outside your company and/or industry, and put yourself in the shoes of the customer to see what could be done to improve.
  • Feedback. Keep the customer front and center at all times. Listen (and truly hear) what your customers are telling you. In an age when feedback mechanisms are readily available, customer expectations have clearly transformed. People expect that if you ask them for their feedback, you will do something with it. In fact, in a survey by Zendesk, 95 percent of people who reported a bad experience with a company claim they have taken action as a result, with 24 percent of those action-takers simply waiting to see if the company would do something to resolve their issue. So, take the feedback you receive seriously— identify improvement and innovation opportunities, and prioritize the ideas as opportunities on your CX Roadmap.

3. ADD YOUR OWN FLAVOR

When preparing gumbo, it is recommended that, instead than water, stock or broth is used for added depth of flavor. Likewise, in a Customer Experience program, an organization must determine what KPIs and measures will be used to provide depth and understanding in their programs. When first starting out, there is no need to track every single customer touch point. Instead, pick a few moments that matter most— such as those you have identified in Customer Journey Mapping— and the key metrics to attach to those moments, which are trackable.

In terms of broader measurement tools for your CX program, while the Net Promoter Score (NPS) has been touted as the magic number for organizations to track, the biggest criticism of this measure is the ease of understanding how to make it actionable, particularly in comparison to other measures that matter equally to CX. There are a number of other useful and important measures, including the Customer Effort Score (CES) for transactional experiences, the overall Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), as well tracking drivers to satisfaction via as any number of customer feedback tools. The right “flavor” of your CX Program measures comes down to what works best for your company.

Regardless of the unique approach you may take to create your personal “flavor,” there are a few key considerations that are important for virtually every CX program (and, are used to create your personalized approach):

  • The data points you focus on to identify customer wants and needs
  • The metrics or Voice of Customer (VOC) methods that are used to understand customers, and
  • How customers’ wants and needs are acted upon to improve the experience

4. GO SLOW

Like any good gumbo recipe, developing a solid and successful CX program for your organization takes time. There is a prepping and testing process to ensure every step is in place, working as expected, and yielding the result you expect. Know this: it is okay to start slow— with smaller initiatives that ensure you have the right strategy and measurement tools in place. Once things are running, it is expected that you will make adjustments as the program grows.

To recap, these are the key ingredients for creating a great CX:

  • Elect a CX leader
  • Assess where your org is at with CX maturity
  • Develop a CX Charter & Strategy to share with leadership
  • Map the end-to-end customer experience journey
  • Reduce customer effort
  • Gather meaningful customer insights (VoC)
  • Identify key CX metrics and measurements
  • Launch experience improvement initiatives

My gumbo recipe was good but needed modification to make it my own, and so will your CX program. In fact, Customer Experience excellence is something that evolves constantly to meet the demands of the customer and the changing landscape of the marketplace. Relish the process as much as the intended outcome, because every bit of it counts.

Happy gumbo making, everyone! And be sure to check out the article that inspired this post!