Many customer experience (CX) professionals found their way into their roles through varied professional paths like marketing, customer service, market research, management consulting – to name some of the most common. They have built their knowledge through a combination of formal training, self-directed exploration, peer-to-peer learning, and knowledge transfer from working with consultants and service providers. Due to the work that CX teams are often responsible for, the list of what CX professionals need to know is a long one, encompassing both technical and interpersonal skills. When we asked CX professionals about the effectiveness of their teams, abilities around customer insights and analysis topped the list, while areas like internal communications and training and coaching were not as strongly rated.
So how should CX pros focus their personal learning journeys?
A couple of weeks ago I co-taught a workshop on evolving CX programs to take them to the next level. During that session, I shared the following five skills (first introduced in Temkin Group research) that I believe are essential for CX pros (you, me, all of us) who want to be effective in driving action inside organizations. While I definitely advocate gaining knowledge in specific technical areas relevant for your role, I also believe these skills will raise your game across the assorted job responsibilities that might be on your written – and unwritten – job description.
• Stakeholder Empathy. A significant contributor to your success as a CX professional is the ability to connect with and understand the needs of the stakeholders you partner with – from business unit leaders to account owners, front-line employees to product teams, and more. And not only understand their needs but get them excited about the illumination your insights can provide. This skill involves building relationships across the company and gaining a deep knowledge of the business goals and decision criteria of the users of the insights you share. Raising your skill in this area enables you to uncover contextually meaningful insights and translate those insights into customer stories that help drive action.
• Enterprise Intelligence. It is harder and harder for CX pros to live in their own data bubble. Rather you need to access and integrate meaningful operational data with experience data to offer richer insights to the business. Mastering this skill starts with deep industry knowledge and organizational awareness to know what operational data matters to the business and then tapping into the tools (and people) who can synthesize data together from across sources. This skill also requires flexibility to keep up with organizational changes and shifting stakeholder needs – this is not “one and done” mastery.
• Tailored Insights. If your goal is to deliver actionable insights to your organization, they need to be relevant and intuitive to be useful for making decisions on what to do next. Demonstrating this skill taps into your stakeholder empathy and enterprise intelligence, and combining that with a technical savviness around managing analysis and reporting to enable effective root cause analysis. It requires understanding how to leverage the capabilities of analytics and predictive modeling, data visualization, and communication channels (even if those are executed by other experts on your team) to put useful insights into the hands of your users.
• Journey Alignment. CX professionals understand that customers are on journeys to accomplish their goals, and along the way, there are some interactions with the company that help them do that (hopefully). Everyone else in the organization is often more narrowly focused – on their role, their product, their project – and the individual customer interaction their work is connected to. They need guidance on how to put insights into the context of the holistic journeys customers are on. The skill of Journey Alignment includes understanding how to create and use journey maps, but it also involves defining and understanding the organization’s target customer segments (and helping everyone else understand them, too). This skill requires a greater comfort level with learning from qualitative techniques and unstructured data. You will also need to understand your organization well in order to make connections across interactions and to spot the upstream and downstream impacts of actions being considered in response to CX issues or opportunities that are identified.
• Response Activation. Too often CX pros assume that the people they deliver insights to will automatically know what to do. But that is not always the case, especially in organizations just starting their own CX journeys or organizations introducing new insights or analytics models. If you have been demonstrating the other skills above, you’ll have made great headway in establishing the necessary organizational credibility to direct action. You’ll also need strong communication and collaboration skills to facilitate action planning discussions with business stakeholders, product/service design teams, and process improvement groups. And those same skills will serve you well when capturing and sharing internal and external success stories that result from actions taken by the organization to encourage more of the same.
I wish there was a one-stop shop to point you to in order to bolster your proficiency in these skills. Instead, it’s redirecting some of the tactics that have worked for you in the past towards these skills – targeted formal learning, self-directed exploration across research reports, articles, and books, and conversations inside your organization to learn about their goals and needs along with what’s working in your current approach. Then you have to get onto practicing and refining your approach based on what you learn and what works. As you are learning, don’t overlook the powerful, generous network of CX professionals you are a part of – when you are together at conferences and events or through association connections like the CXPA. When we help each other learn and grow by sharing our knowledge, I truly believe the whole profession can benefit.