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My superb “Go-To-Gemba” customer experience

Published: Sep 29, 2017
Author: By Maria E. Fernandez-Riddick

Recently, I had the most unexpected yet excellent customer experience with an agent of my bank. It was a Saturday and I needed cash so I could tip my stylist later that day. After two unsuccessful attempts of entering my PIN in a cash machine near my bank, I realized I’d completely forgotten my password. Too many contactless payments can do that to you. I pulled over on my drive home and called my bank’s customer service number.

After identifying myself, I explained I’d forgotten my PIN and needed a replacement. The representative told me this couldn’t be done over the phone. She then proceeded to tell me “your closest bank offices are already closed and won’t be open until Monday.” I was about to hang up, when she said, “Let me talk to my supervisor, I think we can do something to help you as a one-time courtesy exception.” I was speechless and impressed.

Little did I know, the best part was yet to come. She returned and told me she’d been authorized to help me request my new pin. They wanted to make sure I had the cash I needed for the weekend. The representative stayed on the phone throughout the process of me driving back to the ATM, configuring my PIN and successfully withdrawing cash. It was one of the best customer experiences I’d had in a very long time. I felt important. It was personal. And I was completely blown away. I told her this had been one of the greatest customer experiences I ever had and thanked her kindly for caring about me and my situation. I made sure to recommend her in the survey with top scores and kudos. This was a great Go-To-Gemba experience—she was with me every step of my journey from start to finish.

What’s Go-To-Gemba?

“Gemba” is a Japanese term meaning "the real place." In business, gemba refers to the place where value is created. And in design thinking, gemba is often used to describe personal observation of work—where the work is happening. When we relate Go-To-Gemba to customer experience disciplines, it means we want to live and observe—exactly as our customers do—every step of the journey for a specific product or service interaction. By doing this, we put ourselves in the customers’ shoes and enables us to validate that the experience is right the first time, and that the product or service will perform as designed. Go-To-Gemba was a technique frequently used by Lean Six Sigma, especially in the manufacturing areas. Nowadays, it’s a very important practice of the design thinking methodology that leads into a great customer experience.

A recipe for great CX

There are several reasons my experience with the bank was so good—but it’s the combination of all of them that made it truly exceptional. The personal elements of the service made me feel special and cared about. The bank representatives’ effort in supporting me until the very end of my journey was a pleasant surprise. And the adaptive nature of her service meant it went above and beyond expectations. This should be the way every organization approaches their customer experience strategy—but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.

We should design products and services by seating the customer at the table with us. We need to think as the customer, feel as the customer and live the experience as the customer. Only then will we be able to assess whether we’re truly meeting our customers’ expectations and needs. Go-to-Gemba!

Maria Fernandez-Riddick is a Customer Experience Transformation Evangelist at Verizon Enterprise Solutions. She is one of the creators of the Enterprise Customer Experience team and has been instrumental in the creation and adoption of CX Disciplines. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional from Rutgers University, holds a MBA, a Master Certificate in Project Management and is a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black belt.