The value of certification


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I once had a mentor whose cubicle walls were covered in certificates and evidence of completion of training and qualification.  People considered him a bit of an egotist and obsessed with certifications.  Credentialism is a thing, after all.  But I asked him once about all his accreditations.  He said, “Some people say, ‘Sure, well you’re just good at taking tests,’ and I say, ‘Yea, I am, I guess.’”  Point being, he was pretty humble and casual about them, but wasn’t kidding himself that lots of folks take them to heart.  In his mind, it didn’t hurt that some people weren’t impressed—he likely wouldn’t lose favor with any of them for being credentialed (he was, it should be said, supremely smart and talented too…that always helps).  But for those who did care, why not jump through a little hoop here and there to get your foot in the door?  I’ll just say, it served him well.

I wrote recently about hiring your CX leaders from outside of your industry.  I understand that that’s quite a plunge to take for some folks:  You mean you want me to go with a complete novice in our industry and trust that person with our Customers?  Our entire CX program?  You must be nuts.

Well, I’d qualify that I’m not necessarily recommending someone with no experience at all in your industry, (although, if your tolerance for risk is good, I say jump away!).  But in a way, yes, you should be looking for outside perspectives.  I remember once writing a cover letter for a CX job and stating (I’m paraphrasing here), ‘I’m not going to fit in here.  I have no experience in your industry other than observation and study from the outside.  I’ve not worked in any industry adjacent to yours either.  I’ll need some ramping up and education.  I’ll probably ask a few questions that seem silly to you.  But I’m eager to learn, intensely curious, and passionate about CX.  Also, I’m certified as a CCXP, and have been a CX executive in a Fortune 100 company.’  (Okay, so I didn’t include that last part because it hadn’t happened yet, but the first part was true and the last part is true now.)  You can probably guess that I never got a call back from them.*

My point, though, is that expecting a CEO to take on someone in a leadership role without (an awful lot of) experience within the industry is a big risk and a big ask.  But if that CEO is willing to take that risk (and believe me, there are quite a few who are, because they see the physics of how challenging it is to revolutionize an industry surrounded by…well, people who’ve known no other industry), it’s helpful and a comforting know the CX professional in question is at least, you know, an actual CX professional.

This is where a certification can come in handy for both sides.  Certification in Customer Experience can work as a pretty helpful shorthand for someone who has a solid understanding of the concepts of CX (strategy, VoC, Process Engineering, Customer-centric culture).  And certifying is no slight lift.  It may seem to some as just ‘a piece of paper’, but it certainly signifies (if accompanied by actual experience in a CX role) knowledge in this field.  Of course, you wouldn’t want to hire a CX leader into your organization who’s had no experience in your industry and has never had a CX leadership role.  That is a little nuts.  But if you’re looking for a little bit more encouragement to bring someone in from another industry, a certification by a CX organization (and there are quite a few!) should go some way to settling your stomach around the idea.

Some organizations will never bring anybody into a leadership position without extensive experience in their industry.  I think they’re missing a great opportunity for fresh perspectives, especially in a CX role.  But if you’re looking purposely for someone without experience in your industry (or simply, not too much) to take on an important role like CX, this can be a great way to qualify candidates.  So go ahead…cast your wide net, and if it makes you feel more comfortable, ask for a certification.  That can give you license to take a shot.


*The surest sign I didn’t get a call is that I eventually did go on to certify as a CCXP and did hold an executive CX position in a Fortune 100 company.  Believe me, if I’d received a call from this hiring manager and taken the job at such a gutsy organization (as having hired me at the time would have proven a daring move), I’d likely still be there today instead of having had these other experiences in the meantime.  Gutsy organizations and I get along.  Very well.

(Originally Published 202001001)

– LtCol Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB, CSM

– Principal, Zeisler Consulting

Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB
I’m a Customer Experience executive, certified Process Improvement professional, Agile Scrum Master, dynamic educator, change management strategist, and in-demand business and leadership coach. I've worked from the inside and from the outside; in organizations large and small; public sector and private; from oil and gas to technology to non-profit (with lots in between too). I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen it all.


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