Shelly Chandler, Vice President, Customer Experience Consulting – Americas at Confirmit, and a 2017 CXPA Impact Award winner, shares her thoughts on how to make a career in CX.
As a member of the global Customer Experience (CX) community, I’m glad to say that CX has gained remarkable recognition as a discipline in its own right. More than simply focusing on process improvement or inward-looking initiatives as was often the case in the past, CX can help organisations to look outwards and take a customer-centric approach to business success. It can also provide individuals with a long lasting career path.
The issue for many however is where does one start? Many of us entered the profession as marketing or product managers. Others found their way in through market research, advertising, sales or customer service. Some believe that a background in data or business analytics is essential but it’s fair to say that softer skills are needed to drive change and encourage new ways of working.
The reality is that in order to initiate and sustain a career in CX you need knowledge of more than one discipline and a variety of skills. Further education in the form of general CX certifications offered by CX industry providers (and of course the CXPA) are a useful starting block, but as yet there are no undergraduate degrees dedicated in their entirety to CX, to my knowledge, though I’d be happy to hear about them!
As a result, those considering careers in CX may still need to look at degrees in marketing, research and analysis, design, process improvement, customer service or business and then grow into CX from those fields.
That said, aside from education, there is no denying the benefit of getting your hands dirty, so to speak. Entry- level positions should enable you to work alongside more experienced professionals to create a CX programme. Small businesses and charities often welcome pro bono consultancy and can be a useful place to put CX essentials into practice.
Further down the line, as you seek a more senior role, you will need to be able to demonstrate your ability to collect insight through a variety of methods to identify and change customer experiences that connect to business goals.
In this respect, it’s worth remembering that CX is never a one-off programme or a short term initiative. In order to increase your chances of career success, you need to seek out employers where the importance of CX is shared by everyone in the company, not just the CEO. Establish from the outset who the CX cheerleaders are within different business units and make sure they understand that your role is to influence and help them to adapt and improve the current experience. Even if that means disrupting ‘business as usual’.
Every CX job that you commit to should be about making a difference so it’s imperative that you work hard to show tangible results, even if you aren’t producing them directly. The art of storytelling – sharing other successes – can drive change and is a reward and affirmation in itself. Find out how to connect your programmes to revenue, retention or cost reduction and you will soon deliver impact and move up the career ladder at the same time.
This is where keeping abreast of technology can really help you demonstrate the benefits to the business of a strategic CX programme and your skills as a CX professional at the same time.
It’s critical that you have an understanding of what it takes to create a mature CX programme that listens to all stakeholders, customers and employees and that integrates data from all business systems (CRM, operational, financial, contact centre, for example.) But it’s also imperative that you leverage both quantitative and qualitative data sources and embrace emerging forms of communication, such as online chat rooms and social media, in order to incorporate new ways of capturing customer comment and opinion.
The volume of data that can now be harnessed will undoubtedly benefit from platforms that can streamline data collection and analysis. But looking ahead, CX professionals will need to make sure they know what text and predictive analytics can bring to the Voice of the Customer and Voice of the Employee in order to make the most of insight from structured and unstructured, solicited and unsolicited data.
This could mean leveraging technologies such as geolocation to help create a truly personalised, ‘in the moment’ experience. And as society continues to place ever more focus on the visual, it’s possible that CX professionals will benefit from incorporating facial recognition and emotion detection software into programmes too. They will also need to keep abreast of developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning, though certainly technology isn’t the only driver to improved experience. More than anything it’s jumping in and acting in meaningful ways, and these are areas where CX professionals would not only benefit from training, but from stakeholder and partner support as well.
It’s pretty obvious that a career in CX offers a multi-faceted opportunity for multi-talented individuals who are prepared to learn, adapt and grow. Anyone who wants to thrive in this industry would be wise to remember the following:
- Fill in the most important gaps in your knowledge first, or surround yourself with people who can, particularly in change management and experience design. A career in CX requires constant learning and self-improvement.
- Don’t settle for delivering plain vanilla programmes; ensure that they are customised to meet specific business issues that are unique to each company, and that they evolve and change over time. It’s not enough to keep your executives interested and won’t keep you in your seat past a few years.
- Embrace the value of data in supporting CX, don’t focus on the numbers but use analytics to help you tell stories, based upon the customer insights you gather. Use technology to help you gather and analyse data so that it can be acted upon immediately to provide a more personal, interactive experience.