Lessons and Takeaways From Being a Customer Experience Professional


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As a committed Customer Experience (CX) professional, I often wonder about how people enter into this professional discipline and then what motivates them to stick with it over the long run. I began by thinking about my own entry into the CX field and why I choose to remain committed to it. So I’ll begin with my own experience first then share what some of my CX professional colleagues have to say about their own experience along with a few takeaways and lessons learned.

Customer experience wasn’t anywhere close to where I thought I might settle within my career. After earning a degree in the sciences and spending several years performing chemical analysis, that pathway migrated into teaching laboratory robotics to biochemists and earning a Master’s Degree in Education. What I began to realize was that I was slowing working my way toward more direct interactions with customers through two years in a direct sales role followed by several more in Training & Development.

What intrigued me, within the organization I eventually worked for in a pure CX capacity, was their collecting customer feedback in a fairly rudimentary manner. It was, from my observation and opinion, subject to all sorts of gaming and credibility issues. Leadership was also reporting skepticism over the results and questioning their validity. So I got creative, did a little research on my own, and wrote an internal white paper on how I would manage the “voice of the customer” if I were running a program.

This is one of those “be careful what you wish for” situations because, at that point, leadership said to me; “OK, this sounds good, we think you’re right individual for the role.” And there I was, now in charge of VoC, barely understanding exactly what the acronym stood for, along with a team of five now reporting to me that were totally committed to doing VoC the way they had been doing it over the last four years.

The transition into the Customer Experience profession happened for me in late 2004 and today I lead a team of three and a CX program that built the model and set the pace for a large multinational provider of fire and security products and services. So the questions I have posed, first to myself, and then to some professional CX colleagues are these.

  1. What originally attracted you to the CX profession?
  2. What keeps you committed to the CX profession?
  3. What are the most valuable lessons learned or takeaways you would share with others either within or choosing to enter the CX profession?

By nature, I’m at my best when I feel I have the latitude to be creative. That’s one element of the CX profession that drives me the most and keeps me challenged. There seems to be no end to ways of collecting and applying customer feedback to help drive business outcomes. Every business is different. What works for one organization won’t necessarily work for another. But because there are so many different options, I find that this presents me with an opportunity to always synthesize new ideas. One of my earliest successes was taking the traditional Net Promoter Score concept and creating an internally branded and similar concept that I called Net Customer Advocacy or NCA. I used a different scale, a different way to express the question, plus a different calculation. My organization, and most notably the senior leadership team, quickly adopted the concept and embraced it as our own branded key customer metric. Having leadership committed up front is one of the key takeaways and lessons learned for me.

The other thing that keeps me so engaged in the CX profession has to be the people that are in it. We all seem to be ENFP (on the Myers-Briggs) which makes this profession highly interactive, collaborative, willing to share all that we have experienced, and eager to develop new and creative strategies that every business can learn from. As an active member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) I now have access to over 2,000 like-minded CX professionals that have all become valuable resources that have significantly strengthened my abilities to drive VoC in creative ways within my own organization.

Lastly, CX is a discipline where the customer literally sits at the center of the business universe. If not for customers, no business would neither thrive nor survive. I can’t think of any more critical element for business sustainability than CX, yet it continues to astound me at how poor some organizations can be at exhibiting customer-centric behaviors. That is also what keeps me within the profession—the need for organizations to continually ensure business survivability through customer centered behaviors is not going away—and some would argue is an ever expanding business need.

That’s my take on being a customer experience professional. Now I’d like to share the perspectives of four other CX colleagues of mine along these same lines. The following was the result of interviews I conducted May 2013.

Desirree Madison-Biggs
Dir., Customer Experience Insights & Advocacy
Symantec Corporation

What originally attracted you to the CX profession?

That’s what I’ll call a “happy coincidence.” I started out doing social work which migrated into an HR position and then finally I arrived at a sales role for a small high-tech startup. As a sales manager, I found myself always on the side of the customer. As a startup, it bothered me why we couldn’t figure out our critical business problems and so I put a proposal together after which I began to survey customers and map out the customer lifecycle. Sales and account management is largely a relationship building role and I was hearing customer experience first-hand and coming up with solutions. Through subsequent roles at other startup organizations, I found myself gravitating toward the “fixing and healing” of company systems.

What keeps you committed to the CX profession?

This has been a process of change and evolution for me personally, but I’ve been in the CX profession for about 15 years now and what keeps me engaged is the fact that the profession keeps changing and evolving as well. There’s just so much depth and breadth to what can be done and it’s circumstantially oriented as opposed to aptitude oriented and you can literally do as much as you want to, of course, depending on the organization you are working with.

What are the most valuable lessons learned or takeaways you would share with others either within or choosing to enter the CX profession?

My most significant takeaways are that I feel CX is a higher calling. The work we do positively impacts people’s lives no matter what industry we are in. CX is complex if you let it be. At its most simplistic, it is easy to articulate, communicate, inspire, and motivate in order to get things done. You don’t have to do the work, but you must enable leadership to do the right things in the right ways and every organization is different. For larger organizations go where success is possible and just start. CX delivers hard results with a soft touch – engaging the hearts (motive) and minds (metrics) of folks at all levels of the organizations. If leadership is not on board, the road will be rough and you’ll probably not end up at the destination you desire.

Jennifer MacIver-Edwards
VP, Customer Success Programs and Operations
Thunderhead Limited

What originally attracted you to the CX profession?

I started out in sales and what initially frustrated me was that the focus seemed to be more on attaining quota rather than taking care of customers for longer term profitability and loyalty sake. I was far less dollar driven and more service driven because I recognized that if I took care of their needs-they would purchase more-and did. This caused me to step further into the service relationship management arena where I became the voice of the customer and advocate for the customer. I found that I excelled more at balancing all of those elements—sales, service, product management, support, and employee communications—in a more holistic manner. Essentially, I got into CX by choice but partly by default. I liked the idea of taking care of customers and tying all this back to business results—inspired in part by reading the book Chief Customer Officer, by Jeanne Bliss.

What keeps you committed to the CX profession?

It’s a proven fact that businesses are more profitable when they focus on and care for their customers and their employees. By building experience and process around that, you’re going to end up with a healthier business. I love to win and I love success and I believe that’s how business success is achieved, especially in the hyper-connected business environment of today. Remember, this mindset does not necessarily come naturally, depending on your organization’s culture, growth trajectory and power core.

What are the most valuable lessons learned or takeaways you would share with others either within or choosing to enter the CX profession?

You need to be patient and determined. Pragmatism and tying CX back to results, which can be done, will always be the best way forward, whether that’s improved employee engagement and increased repeat sales, higher NPS, positive word-of-mouth, or Lifetime Customer Value. Executive level support is a must; it cannot be lip-service. This starts at the top and flourishes in all parts of the organization. If our role is to grow and thrive, we need to be advocates for customer-centric behavior that drives good profitability and a great culture.

Carol Buehrens
Chief Architect, Customer Experience
ICW Group

What originally attracted you to the CX profession?

For me, it was an evolution over what amounts to about 30 years and is rooted by my experience in Training & Development. I was working with interface designers and figuring out how to translate that to the customer, then finding out what the customer needed and bringing that back to the designers. This involved a lot of needs analysis and workplace observation as well as a deep understanding of the customer experience. Today, we use the term “customer experience”, but it was known by different names back then. However, the concept remains the same—understanding customer needs and expectations, then bringing the right products and services to the table.

What keeps you committed to the CX profession?

I’m a bit quirky, a square peg trying to fit into the round hole! I think this kind of tenacity pays off in the CX profession, because when it comes to customer experience, it’s as though your work is a never-ending challenge. So you must keep at it. Your customers are evolving and their expectations are changing. This may sound a bit odd to say, but, for me, nirvana would be advancing my organization to become so customer-centric, so focused and fully accountable in meeting the needs of the customer, that my position was no longer needed. That would be amazing, but of course I’d be out of work and have to look for the next opportunity…

What are your most valuable lessons learned or takeaways you would share with others either in or choosing to enter the CX profession?

It’s a wide-open field, but fair warning: half-crazed, dogmatic persistence and determination are basic requirements for this job. Another requirement is a sturdy helmet, because you’ll hit your head against a brick wall – A LOT! But all kidding aside, there’s a bunch of construction work needed—barriers and silos to break down and new attitudes erected—in order to rebuild a culture, which is what this work really is. My ultimate and altruistic goal would be to have everyone in my company understand and be responsible for extraordinary, end-to-end customer experiences. That would mean that customer experience is embedded into our DNA, our culture, which is what most organizations struggle with today. I don’t think the CX role is destined for extinction any time soon.

James Bampos
Customer Experience Consultant

What originally attracted you to the CX profession?

I was attracted as a result of a focus on customer metrics. I was responsible for quality of products and services at my last position, and when challenged with the customer view of quality, there wasn’t a solid foundation of data to determine this view. This gave birth to the Customer Experience program, which was comprised of customer listening posts, customer metrics, analytics, actions to improve, and results that impact both the business and customer.

What keeps you committed to the CX profession?

I am in fact in it for the long run. I believe the CX profession has lots of opportunities for growth, particularly in the areas of certification, big data analytics, and proven business impact. Companies are still learning about their customers, still trying to determine moments of truth, and are trying to balance their investments between innovation and customer centricity.

What are your most valuable lessons learned or takeaways you would share with others either in or choosing to enter the CX profession?

Lessons learned for those entering the profession: be patient. Measuring CX, acting upon recommendations, and proving value takes time. In addition, always look to determine the value of the investments being made on behalf of CX.

In summary, we can see that somewhat different pathways can lead one toward CX as a profession. It’s interesting to note here especially how a role in direct sales can lead one to becoming more customer-centric; including evaluating the motivational aspects of remaining is the sales role itself. Experience in Training & Development certainly seems to have had manner of developing one’s strategic thinking process around the business drivers and connections between organizational operations and customer experience. You clearly need to understand that and also have a passion for customers.

Very few organizations can lay claim to having been born customer-centric. Some organizational cultures may have started out that way, but perhaps lost their stride through rapid expansion and or acquisition. This is why there will likely always be a role for a Customer Experience professional—along with the various titles that the positions carry that can range from a customer care representative all the way up to a Chief Customer Officer. Being a customer experience professional, regardless of title, in what Forrester Research describes as “The Age of the Customer” (the year 2000 +) is indeed a rewarding field of study and, as the professionals in this article will attest, is a tremendous career opportunity.

Karl Sharicz, CCXP, EdM
Karl is a certified customer experience professional (CCXP) with thirty plus years of skills and experiences in B2B and B2C.He has served a broad range of organizational roles—marketing, sales, training, and training, and business development maintaining a decided customer-centric focus along the way.Karl is immersed in the CX discipline, driving business outcomes through customer experience excellence systems that help drive organizational return on investment.


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