My CCXP Journey: Five lessons from taking the CCXP exam (again).

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I joined the CXPA in its second year. When I attended the first Members Insight Exchange, I was thrilled to meet so many like-minded people who had been toiling in the CX trenches for years. I had been working in CX Strategy (by many names) since 2000, building a network of my own over time. Now, I had found my broader tribe.

When CXPA announced the CCXP certification, I was excited to see an opportunity to elevate the profession to a level where real expertise was recognized. I was among the first to take the exam – my first proctored exam since the GMAT in 1999. “This should be a snap!” I thought as I had been working in CX for 15 years. There weren’t very many materials to study, so I went in cold.

I’ve never had much trouble with tests, and I have been a good student my whole life. In facing the CCXP exam questions; however, I was struck by how many questions presented me with a “well, it depends” thought process as I pondered the correct response. As a career-long consultant, flexibility in approach with clients was always a fundamental value proposition. I joke about this, but on more than one occasion, when I had narrowed it down to two potential correct answers, I asked myself, “What would Bruce [Temkin, CXPA Co-founder] want me to answer?”

Without studying and channeling Bruce, I passed with a 90% score. I was now Anne Cramer, CCXP.

Two years passed. While I had gathered enough continuing education units to maintain my certification, I had suffered a brutal layoff and subsequent period of unemployment that drained my savings. I struggled to find new clients on my own, and many job applications went nowhere. When it came time to renew my CCXP certification, I had the points, but I didn’t have the cash. Sadly, I let the certification lapse.

My career started to turn around for the better in 2018 when I joined Delta Dental of California to create a CX Center of Excellence virtually from scratch. As I built my team from two to ten, I put each of them on the path towards attaining their CCXP. I committed to retaking the exam, and I was excited to join my team on the journey. I signed us all up for the CX University 500 series, and the studying began in earnest.

How far the field had come in preparation materials! Readings, videos, and interactive engagement exercises rounded out a well-designed study program. There was something for every learning style. A few members of my team expressed trepidation around the wide variety of study materials and a fear of failing. Honestly, it’s likely more about taking a test than it is about learning the material.

For me, practice tests are the best way to learn. I start cold, follow my instincts, and answer to the best of my knowledge. I then see what questions I answered incorrectly and attempt to learn from the right answer where I went wrong. This exercise is not necessarily an approach that will work for everyone, so I will try to provide a few guidelines for confident preparation:

1. Many thought leaders have different approaches. It’s important to understand that there is no one perfect way to do CX. There are generally assumed best practices, however. Whether it’s the Six Tenets of CX Strategy from one author or Do These 10 Things to Guarantee CX Success from another, there will be key themes that emerge. Rely on these to guide you to the right answer.
2. Make some good old-fashioned flash cards. Like any established profession, CX has its rhetoric, acronyms, and aphorisms. If you are new to CX, the term “closed-loop,” for example, may mean something very different from what it means in the voice of customer best practice. Make sure you are collecting all terms that are new to you along the way to recognize them in the test.
3. Be prepared to do some math. The test will include calculations of ROI, NPS, as well as an understanding of statistics concepts such as correlation and causation. CX is a very data-driven discipline, and a certified practitioner should be fluent in these metrics.
4. Use your scratch paper. When I wasn’t sure about a question, I could usually cross out two of the options right away. I wrote A, B, C, and D on the scratch paper and crossed out the ones I knew were wrong. This process helped me focus on the two remaining possible answers. Other times I jotted keywords from the question to help me zone in on the answer. Finally, see #4: math.
5. Breathe! You have three hours to answer 100 questions. Read the question. Read the answer choices. Reread the question. Make the selection you think is the right answer. Read aloud in your head. Measure twice, cut once! I didn’t need to flag questions or skip any temporarily using this method.

Now that I’m about to teach a CCXP prep course with CX University, I am pleased that I got to put myself into my students’ shoes and retake the test. I hope to instill confidence in them – not only in their knowledge of the discipline of customer experience but also in the art of test-taking. Let’s do this!

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