Customer experience is more critical than ever. So, it follows that for CX professionals, the future should be even brighter.
But is it?
Jeannie Walters, CEO, and founder of Experience Investigators™, has spent twenty years investigating the best and worst in customer experience. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with her to discuss the career trajectory for customer experience professionals in 2022––are there currently more hurdles than opportunities? Or is this actually the best time to pursue a career in CX?
We covered this and more in the following interview.
Sara Staffaroni: Momentive’s 2022 State of CX report found that a third of all companies now have a dedicated CX leader that focuses on the end-to-end customer experience. What’s your take on this growing demand for CX leaders?
Jeannie Walters: It’s true that there is a higher demand now. However, the CX leader role is still defined differently from one organization to the next. And many of these professionals aren’t set up for success.
Often they’re given a very vague task, like “make our customer experience better.” But nobody in the organization has defined what success looks like. And they’re not given the investment or the teams they need.
So it’s really important for customer experience leaders to understand what the role is, where they fit in the organization, and what success looks like in one year, in three years, and in 10 years.
Staffaroni: Why do you think companies are hiring CX leaders if there’s this lack of clarity about the role and the resources needed for success?
Walters: I think there are two things driving them. The first is that many organizations have been gathering customer feedback for a while and are now realizing that they want to do more with it, like analyzing it to take strategic action; having a CX leader can help them get there.
The second reason is that companies are starting to recognize that great customer experiences can drive the business forward. But what is often overlooked is that achieving these outcomes takes real effort and real business discipline.
Staffaroni: It sounds like leadership in organizations understand that customer experience is important, but they don’t quite get how to measure and show return on investment for CX.
Walters: Yes. For some reason, it’s easy for organizations to focus on customer experience tactics rather than outcomes. I hear many leaders say things like, “We need a journey map,” or “We need to collect feedback.” But collecting feedback is not an outcome.
Granted, CX is still a new field, but often it seems executives expect it to work like magic: “Just treat your customers better” or “Just collect the feedback,” and the return on investment (ROI) will just appear. But customer experience is a whole mosaic of things you have to do, and measuring the outcomes is more complex than that.
Staffaroni: Given all of this, I want to get into the specifics of finding a good job in customer experience. What are some key things that one should pay attention to when interviewing for a CX role?
Walters: Any potential employee wants to make sure they’re aligned with the mission and values of the organization. But this is especially important for CX leaders, because they have to model the aspirational customer experience both inside and outside the company. And the only way you can do that is if you’re authentically aligned with its mission and values.
Also, ask leadership what CX success looks like, now and in the future. If you don’t get a clear answer, then be bold––tell them how you define success for this role, along with the key performance indicators (KPIs) for it.
Staffaroni: Should a candidate ask for metric-specific KPIs?
Walters: That would be ideal, but the organization’s CX program may not be mature enough for that. A candidate could also ask something like, “How do we know if we’ve been successful in a year?”
And if the organization can’t answer that, then they should say, “I would love for my first project to focus on defining success and how we’ll measure it.”
Success will take time, and you’ll want to think about how you’ll continue to improve the customer experience, including the partnerships you’ll need. It’s not just about collecting feedback; you have to apply the insights, and for that you’ll need tools and resources.
Staffaroni: It seems that there are a lot of expectations for CX professionals but there’s not enough resources available. How can someone evaluate a new position to make sure they’d be sufficiently supported?
Walters: It’s really important for a candidate to remember that customer experience is more than just words; they need to ask themselves, “How do I know that it’s actually a priority here?”
Pursue a line of questioning like, “Given this is a priority for the organization, how is it funded?”; “Who’s working on this program?”; “What tools are available and what investments have already been made?”; and “Are you happy with those investments?”
How an organization answers those questions will tell you if the business has truly prioritized the program and is investing in it.
Staffaroni: Based on the results of our CX maturity quiz, most organizations are at level 2 of maturity. Which means they’re just beginning their CX journey. This could present a lot of great opportunities for the holistic CX leader, but also roadblocks. What are some major red flags?
Walters: If an organization says they want to bring you in as a holistic CX leader but then gives you just one tiny piece of it to manage––say, for example, the Net Promoter Score® (NPS) report––then that’s a problem.
A lot of organizations use the term “holistic CX” when really what they’re focusing on is just a small portion of a full program.
However, if you run into such a situation, and see it as an opportunity where you could be a change agent and lead the organization into the next phase, then that’s great too! You just need to go into it with open eyes.
Staffaroni: It seems like there’s a lot for CX professionals to consider in their career pursuits. What are some of the funniest or strangest things you’ve run across in terms of job descriptions or interviews?
Walters: This happens more often than you’d think, where you’ll find yourself interviewing for a CX position and someone at the company says to you, “I get CX; it’s just that nobody else gets it.” Often people think they get it, but they really don’t.
Or they say, “Our customers love us!” Of course there are customers who love their brand, and it’s fun to focus on those customers. But one of the things I tell organizations is that in order to do CX right, you need to think of your worst customer on their worst day. So if an interviewee puts the brakes on when you share this idea, that signals that the company culture isn’t ready to do the work.
Staffaroni: We’ve discussed at length organizations and their culture. Now I’d like to talk about the qualities of the CX professionals. What can they do to distinguish themselves?
Walters: Often CX leaders are focused on dashboards and reporting on metrics that represent customers. But it’s really important to connect the story of customer experience to what that actually means for your customers.
I suggest you do things like including customer quotes––or even videos or contact center recordings––in these dashboard reports. Bringing these customer moments to life, I think can really help a CX leader to stand out.
Staffaroni: Is there anything customer experience leaders should demonstrate during an interview?
Walters: Yes. A big thing for any CX professional is going to be coalition building––working well cross-functionally with leaders across an organization. You’ll want to demonstrate that you understand the need for CX and HR to work together, for instance. Or how the Customer Experience team can support Sales and Marketing. Present a mindset that says, “We not only have to do this thing, but we also have to build all of these bridges.”
Beyond that, does your organization have a CX charter? Do you have a cross-functional leadership team? Do you have regular ways in which teams are collecting and gathering feedback, analyzing it and taking action?
For CX to work, your entire organization must be aligned.
Staffaroni: To your point, the results from our 2022 State of the CX Report show that organizations with the most CX collaboration do enjoy greater ROI.
Walters: Exactly! CX leaders who are interviewing can walk in with that report to help demonstrate that they’ve done their research.
Staffaroni: What do you think CX professionals should be excited about in 2022 and beyond?
Walters: I think there’s lots to be excited about! One of the positive outcomes of the last two years of disruption is that we have a greater sense of empathy for one another. All of a sudden, we had front-row seats into everyone’s homes and a sense of everybody’s day-to-day lives.
There’s also something to be said about all the discussions on wellness and mental health––especially when it comes to customer care agents. We need to practice more wellness with them, and we need to make sure they’re taken care of. I’m seeing more of that, and I’m really excited about it, because those agents are the face of the company at that moment.
I’m also excited about some of the data that turned up in your 2022 State of the CX Report, especially that there’s a movement to bring on more CX leaders and focus on the holistic customer experience.
All of these are very exciting developments, and I can’t wait to see where this takes us a year from now and beyond.