Last week I had the honour of being a judge at the 8th annual UK Customer Experience Awards. The fact that I have now been a part of this yearly celebration for all 8 of those years (as a finalist, winner and judge), makes me feel rather old. As per my preference, I was fortunate enough to be on the panel of judges determining who the UK Customer Experience Professional of the Year should be. As someone who has championed Customer Experience (CX) as a profession for quite some time, it always feels apt that this is the category I should be overseeing.
I cannot describe how much I look forward to being part of something I see as being an essential element of the Customer Experience calendar AND an important way for CX professionals to gain authority and recognition for the work they do. Arriving in the designated judging room at the iconic Wembley stadium in London (overlooking the hallowed turf), I was quite literally buzzing with excitement. I was full of hope, anticipation and expectation – that I would be inspired by 5 hardworking, passionate finalists who had done remarkable things to genuinely and sustainably put people (customers and colleagues) at the heart of their respective organisations.
Warning: what you are about to read, may be considered controversial…
I was sadly, almost bitterly, disappointed. Please do not take what I am saying as being rude and disrespectful towards the finalists. They were without question, hardworking, passionate and very capable individuals. They all had made a significant impact on their businesses and the people who work within them. The reason I was so disappointed, is that I do not believe that any of them were actually, genuinely, Customer Experience Professionals. Not one of them even had the words Customer Experience in their job title.
You may feel I am being disrespectful at this point. You may also feel I am being a pedant. I want to assure you that I am being neither. One of my fellow judges asked some of the finalists, ‘What does it mean to you to be a Customer Experience Professional?’ – every finalist who was asked the question, struggled to answer it. The question I want to ask anyone reading this is:
How would you have answered that question?
Would you have paused? Would you have started sweating? Would you have looked to the heavens for inspiration? Or would you have immediately smiled and opened your heart? I believe that a genuine Customer Experience Professional would have done the last of those options. I have always said that I can tell within 5 minutes if I have met a genuine, bona fide CX Professional. Apart from fellow judges, in that particular room, I did not meet any. I must reiterate – they were good, capable, competent and passionate professionals. Just not CX Professionals.
On the 3rd October, many people around the world will be celebrating another annual event – one that is even younger than the UK Customer Experience Awards. CX Day is a global celebration of the discipline and profession that CX has become. Thousands of professionals from New Zealand to Alaska and everywhere in between, will meet, share stories, write blog posts, encourage each other, and generally celebrate the fact, that the management of the Customer Experience has become as significant as it has. Once again, I have hope, anticipation and expectation that I will be inspired. I know I will not be disappointed.
I am not saying that every individual who participates on CX Day, wherever they happen to be in the world, will be a genuine CX Professional. Yet I do know that there will be many genuine CX Professionals, like me, who will be holding their heads up in pride, at everything that has been achieved over the years. I am actually writing this article on a flight to Dubai – a part of the world where CX is evolving rapidly and that will be celebrating CX Day officially for the very first time. It is rather ironic that I have just watched a movie (called the Circle with Tom Hanks), where I was amazed to see and hear a character being recruited into a CX role – who would have thought that our profession would have made it to Hollywood?!
Genuine CX Professionals do not struggle to describe what it means to them to be one. Genuine CX Professionals do not do what they do for money or status. Genuine CX Professionals do what they do because they have a finely balanced mindset – balancing their head and their heart – their technical competence, with an irrepressible understanding of why they are doing what they do in the first place. CX is all about enabling an organisation to do the right thing – the right thing for the customer, the employee and the shareholder. To be an effective CX professional, you need to put the customer, the employee and the shareholder a long way before yourself.
As someone who worked as an employee for 17 years, I constantly did what I thought was right. What I thought was the right thing to do for the customer, employee and shareholder. For 17 years, I fought (metaphorically speaking) against many who did not care about doing what was right. For the last 5 and a half years, I have continued unabated – on a weekly basis, I meet, mentor and learn from other CX Professionals who continue to do just the same. They do it because it is what they believe in. They do it, because it is their vocation. They do it, because they are genuine CX Professionals.
What does being a CX Professional mean to me? It would be rather churlish to write this post without answering the question myself. If being a loving husband and father is what I was meant to be in my personal life, being a CX Professional is what I was meant to be in my professional life. I am hard wired to help inspire people to believe they can do the right thing – seeing those people’s eyes light up; hearing the stories of things those people have done to bring the theory, capabilities and competencies to life; learning how organisations have transformed the way they work and behave; that’s why I do what I do – knowing that I have made a difference to the people who deliver and receive Customer Experiences every day – that’s what it means to me to be a Customer Experience Professional.
Happy CX Day to everyone – wherever you happen to be in the world.