What Does Cake Have to Do with Customer Experience?


Share on LinkedIn

Customer Experience can be a voyage through a fog for many companies today.

It’s unclear who is in charge of it.

Is it Marketing? Is it Customer Service? Should it come from the top? Should there be a department that is dedicated to it?

It’s unclear what technology serves it.

Is it part of my CRM? Do I need a web survey? What about telephony and web engagement? Emails?

It’s unclear how it relates to the product.

Is the product the most important part of Customer Experience? What about the UX if our company has a digital product? What’s the difference between CX and UX?

It’s unclear where it gets measured.

Is it within customer promotion (ie NPS)? Is within Customer Effort (CES)? Do we focus on individual touchpoints or the holistic journey?

The only thing that is clear is why Customer Experience is important.

A great customer experience attracts and keeps customers. And customers keep us in business. Not to mention that it is the most important differentiator we can put in place to win over the competition.

I won’t attempt to answer all the questions above in this post. However, I would like to propose a framework that “bakes” some of the concepts of Customer Experience together and that is based in part on CEB’s great book The Effortless Experience.

Introducing the CX Layer Cake, a tasty treat made with 6 distinct ingredients:

  • Company Vision
  • Company Leadership
  • Company Departments
  • Customer Promotion
  • Customer Effort
  • Customer Touchpoints

CX Layer Cake

CX Layer Cake
You’ll notice that the base of the CX Cake (the first 3 layers) is all related to the Company. Without these strong internal components, the 3 external (ie Customer) components would collapse onto themselves. Let’s examine each of the layers in more depth.

Company Vision: The foundation of the Cake is a strong vision that is customer-centric in some way. I’ve always felt that the best company visions are “broadly specific” (and that is purposely an oxymoron). In other words, the vision provides the flexibility to course correct while still serving as a compass towards an objective. Google’s is probably my favorite in this regard “To organize all of the data in the world and make it accessible for everyone in a useful way”. As it pertains to Customer Experience, it is pivotal for the vision to encapsulate an ongoing benefit that we want to deliver to the customer. Nordstrom actually does an excellent job here: “In-store or online, wherever new opportunities arise, Nordstrom works relentlessly to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.” These guiding principles provide the foundation for all the other layers that follow.

Company Leadership: The next layer that rests on the company vision are the leaders that put strategy into execution. Disney uses a great framework called the Compass Model for defining the customer journey. Understanding the journey in terms of North (needs), West (wants), South (stereotypes) and East (emotions) is the first step to creating strategy that reinforces the company vision. Once CX has been established as a priority and the journey is understood, customer-centric planning must take place. When considering leadership objectives, crafting these with the customer in mind. When meeting with their teams, encouraging them to tell their customer stories. When making decisions, considering the impact on the customer. The vision is thus manifested by these individuals

Company Departments: The last of the internal layers, this is where it becomes clear that Customer Experience should be a priority for every single team within the company. This is where Product teams must consider everything from the unboxing to the user interface. Marketing should examine the customer journey and curate to the individual. Every single team should make CX a crucial part of their goals and tactics. Furthermore, this layer includes the individuals that interact with the customer on a day to day basis. In my opinion, these individuals are a direct reflection of the layers that precede them in the cake (Leadership and Vision). And of special note, if a company wants the front line teams to deliver an excellent customer experience, then they must provide an excellent employee experience first.

Customer Promotion: This is a very important layer of the Cake because it’s where the internal components meet the external components (we may need some extra frosting for this one). Net promoter score is the long-run unit of customer measurement that every department should be using to gauge the quality of their experiences. Not only is the “recommend” question directly correlate to loyalty/repurchasing, it is a cross-industry benchmark. By asking customers how likely they are to recommend a product or service, the score encourages a business to conform to consumer preferences, adhere to ethical practices, and maintain organizational tenets. This is the layer that quantifies long-term customer loyalty.

Customer Effort: This layer is the short-run measurement of CX. The aggregate effort for each discrete customer event dictates the overall loyalty that becomes the NPS layer below. In other words, by ensuring that our Customer Effort Score remains low every time we interact with a customer, we are positively impacting NPS/loyalty. CEB provides some excellent ways of lowering customer effort including avoiding more than one contact to resolve an issue, providing a non-generic experience, decreasing the need to repeat information and others. The other important concept to remember is that too much effort has a tremendous impact on disloyalty (rather than loyalty). Customers will actively be negative advocates of a business if the experience it provides is filled with friction.

Customer Touchpoints: This is the final layer of the cake and it represents the discrete instances when we connect with a customer. As we know, Customer Experience is thought of as the entire collection of interactions (live and non-live) between a business and its customers. Examples of live interactions include in-person, Video or Phone and some examples of non-live such are Web or Email. So this final layer is where the “Experience” finally manifests itself and where the customer-facing technology of CX functions.

So when we look at the surface of Customer Experience, we see customer touchpoints at the top of the Cake. But as we cut ourselves a slice, we notice that there are several layers holding up these touchpoints. In effect, CX is a collection of Customer Touchpoints supported by:

  • Tactics (Customer Effort)
  • Measurement (Customer Promotion)
  • Execution (Company Departments)
  • Strategy (Company Leadership)

All atop a strong Company Vision.

Now, all we are missing are some candles and we have ourselves a party. Grab a slice and enjoy!

Jeffrey Mack
Jeffrey Mack is currently the Head of Marketing at SaleMove, an enterprise SaaS company redefining how companies communicate with their customers online. An ardent champion of the Customer Experience, Jeff thrives at the intersection of business, technology, and design. Prior to SaleMove, he held various senior digital marketing roles at companies like LinkedIn, Softcard (Google), and HSBC.


  1. Though I’d agree that the basic ingredients for effective enterprise CX design begin with vision and leadership, after that it often feels more like a well-crafted stew than a layer cake. In building the experience, chefs have a French term for this – mise en place (French pronunciation: ​[mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]) – which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” That way, there’s an orderly, if not linear, way of producing the perfect stew.

    And, once the CX stew comes off the stove top or out of the oven, how do you gauge if it tastes good? Like just about any customer experience, it is more an emotional and sensory response than a questionable metric for evaluating a recipe like NPS or CES.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here