An old man sits in a Spanish cafe. It’s late and warm, and he drinks brandy by the light of the cafe’s gas lights. While sitting within that light, the old man feels content, safe, and happy.
Ernest Hemingway wrote this short story in 1933, called A Clean Well-Lighted Place, and it has been my favorite story since reading it as an undergraduate more than 20 years ago. I have always strongly identified with the idea of finding one’s own “clean well-lighted place” — a place that is a productive and an inspiring place for one to do one’s work (or live one’s life). Mihály Csíkszentmihályi talks about a similar concept in positive psychology terms as being in “flow” in his book Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning.
But this is a blog post about customer experience. How is my love of a Hemingway short story and the concept of “flow” relevant? It occurs to me that the most successful CX programs I have witnessed unconsciously include these two ideas. Using the title of Hemingway’s story as a guiding metaphor, I think it nicely summarizes some of the best practices customer-centric companies imbue into their work.
Customer experience programs should have the following characteristics.
They should be clean:
  • They rely on human processes that are documented and clear.
  • Their processes, goals, and vision are transparent.
  • Programs are disciplined and well run.
  • Messy problems are not left to get worse — they are dealt with, resolved, and measured.
They should be well lighted:
  • Customer understanding is collected in a disciplined way.
  • Information is available and flows freely.
  • All aspects of the situation are illuminated — there are no dark corners where issues affecting customers lurk unaddressed.
  • People know what’s happening and can see what’s going on at all times.
They should have place:
  • There is a place or virtual place where people come together to make decisions and plans about how they will continue to improve their ability to meet their customers needs (in an upcoming article, I cite the example of Commonwealth Bank in Australia and how its customer experience efforts were dramatically advanced by purposefully colocating with the technology teams).
  • This place is a true community that includes people from all areas of the business — not just customer experience professionals.
  • The place is also about time: Regular governance sessions and cross-discipline groups have to make the time to meet regularly, and ideally in person (some truly customer-centric companies build physical areas within their offices to house highly visible customer insights like live customer metrics or customer journey maps).
While I have just covered a few aspects of good CX practices, my main point is that good CX extends from good human connections and processes. To learn more about good CX practices, have a look at: the customer experience maturity playbook.