What the ants in your kitchen can tell you about #CX

One single ant crawls across my kitchen counter.

That one ant has many friends somewhere in a deep cranny of my old flat, just waiting to get the green light from their brave friend that something tasty awaits.

Ants are amazingly intelligent creatures – they can lift 20 times their own body weight! Without ears, they “hear” by feeling vibrations in the ground through their feet. When foraging, ants leave a pheromone trail so that they know where they’ve been.

An important role in our environment, they clean up debris, aerate soil and even fertilize plants. Needless to say, ants are necessary!

Having them in your kitchen is another story.

The next morning, my cat woke me up at 4am with very loud meowing. Unusual for him at this hour, I suspected something was wrong.

I was right.

It was a big mistake leaving the cat food in the kitchen after seeing the one ant on the counter. Swarms of ants now covered the white dish, gobbling down my cat’s breakfast.

What happens next is a very sleepy Jenny dropping a dish full of ants into the sink, turning on the water and washing them away. Through my mind at that exact moment, I hear the ant reviews of my flat:

“It enticed our family in with the smell of delicious food, however, the dining experience ended early as we were washed down the sink. Never going back here!” ~Albert Antstein


“We found this little hole in the wall from the review of a local Queen ant. She’s quite the influencer, so we always take her advice. We were not welcomed in with kindness – instead, the manager, a giant cat, glared at us the whole time we were eating. Will not recommend.” ~Carlos Antana

Clearly, I was not fulfilling the ant experience!

This all got me thinking about CX from different angles – even things that I may be doing in my day to day role, that can make an impact.

It’s the things you don’t see

The one ant arrived into my flat through a crack in the wall that I didn’t know existed. There must have been something to lure it in – an satisfying crumb I unnoticeably dropped while biting into a snack, a sprinkle of sugar that spilled into the cracks of the tiles while baking, the spill that ended up with dark chocolate chips falling into a crevice I cannot reach on the side of the fridge.

Last winter, new in a CX role for a specialty produce company, I didn’t realize that I need a warning and FAQ for customers to not eat the skin of a lime. I learned this very quickly when customers wrote in saying the limes tasted horrible. Inquiring with follow up questions to understand, I found customers were popping the limes into their mouths, skin and all. No wonder they tasted horrible! Citrus skin isn’t recommended for eating nor does it taste very good. Born out of this was an educational email series for all the different produce offerings to ensure that produce is enjoyed safely and deliciously.

That one tiny mistake

I speak often about the importance of taking a lunch break. The reason I blab on and on about it is because I totally suck at doing it! I figured, the more I talk about it, the more it helps me stay accountable.

Working remotely, any attempt to make food during the day ends up being made quickly, without much awareness of crumb spillage. I figure I’ll just clean it up after the work day ends. Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely a tidy person! During workdays, however, anything that happens outside of work waits until later.

This mistake of focus cost my cat his breakfast!

Just recently, I was helping a customer with a replacement order for Hawaiian turmeric. Due to a shipping error, they didn’t receive their initial package and it was up to me to make the replacement order for the farm to ship out the following week. In that moment, I was making that order, talking to a coworker on Slack and writing out a customer email, despite knowing that multitasking hurts customer service. Of course, I made the order for the wrong date!

The customer received an email for their upcoming order and that’s when it hit me – oops! I immediately explain to the customer what happened and apologize for the confusion. They were not angry, thank goodness. I canceled the wrong order and created a new one for the right dates.

Despite how much we have on our to-do list, it’s important to slow down and focus, either on the crumbs we’re dropping or the orders we’re creating incorrectly.

How you clean it all up

Leaving the cat’s dish on the ground, covered in ants, was not an option. I cleaned everything up then made improvements to the food location in my home. I informed my landlord about the ant issue in case anyone else nearby was having trouble. I deep cleaned my kitchen to wipe away any hidden crumbs.

Sometimes, no matter how clean your kitchen, ants will still show up. No matter how much you plan for customer experience, surprises may be shared with you via feedback. And, no matter how focused you are, mistakes happen.

When it comes to the customer experience, listening to feedback, owning up to our mistakes, taking responsibility for what happened and cleaning up a mess will make a big impact in the long run.

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