The work of the customer experience leader is infinitely complex. We must be capable of telling compelling stories through a combination of the empirical and the theoretical, be fluent in the language of every organizational function, and be masters of change management and culture building. And that’s just the big stuff! Where should a CX leader even begin if they are looking to build up their skills and accelerate their career?
As the CXO at Officium Labs, I’ve had the privilege of working with dozens of incredible CX leaders around the world. While all of their situations are unique, these leaders share specific traits that are instrumental to CX success. Our team at Officium has identified five of the most essential skills for CX Leaders, which we’ve detailed below. We’ve also provided our favorite training resources in each area for your continued development!
Skill Number One: Customer Storytelling
We have the honor and privilege of being the personified voice of the customer. The primary work of the CX leader is awakening a desire in employees of all types to design the best experiences they possibly can. In order to inspire and motivate, a CX leader needs far more than flashy dashboards and a great project plan. Inspired leaders “start with why,” as best-selling author Simon Sinek so famously stated…and the why is communicated through story.
The best CX storytellers are those who are able to take the customer journey and articulate it in such a way that people not only care…they are motivated to change specific behaviors. Unless the story results in a change, both for the employee and the customer, there is an opportunity for improvement. These stories can be told in person as well as digitally or artistically. The customer journey maps we create are without a doubt a form of storytelling. We are bringing the organization closer to the customer and helping to identify ways in which the customer’s journey can be enhanced. Here are the best resources we know to improve your ability to tell the story orally, as well as visually:
- Building A Storybrand – This amazing framework can help you crystalize the story of your brand and put the customer in the center as the hero.
- The Pin Drop Principle – This book is guaranteed to help you as both a presenter and a storyteller and is one of the best communication resources I’ve ever seen.
Skill Number Two: Strategic Planning
It’s not enough to talk a great game as a CX leader. Once the “why” is clearly communicated, we are then responsible for the “how.” What are the elements of the customer journey that present the largest ROI? How can we mobilize resources inside of the organization to make the required changes? How can we measure whether the changes we make are having a positive impact? All of these questions and more must be anticipated and strategically planned for. The ability of the CX leader to create an intelligent roadmap for CX transformation will likely make or break the success of the experience function. These resources will help you to see the big picture and anticipate challenges ahead:
- Outside In – This book by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine is one of the very best for visualizing the various components of a CX transformation and guiding its reader through the planning process.
- Chief Customer Officer 2.0 – This is the most comprehensive and practical guide ever written for CX leaders. It walks readers through all the requirements of a healthy CX initiative and offers a variety of perspectives on how to plan for them.
Skill Number Three: Analytical Insights
One of the greatest challenges facing CX leaders today is the ability to prove the ROI of their work. Focusing on customer experience is the best way to grow a customer base organically and to improve the bottom line of a business; however, this does not happen overnight, and the correlation is not direct. Consequently, a CX leader must be highly skilled at collecting VoC (voice of customer), operational data, financial data, and more to demonstrate things such as “customer lifetime value” or CLV. These resources can help you better understand the metrics you should be calculating:
- MetricNet – Jeff Rumberg is a genius when it comes to CX-related metrics. He has all kinds of great content and puts out new material on a regular basis.
- Hubspot Resource – This post from Hubspot gives very practical wisdom on how to measure CLV. CLV is, for many industries, the strongest single CX metric an organization can use.
Skill Number Four: Change Management
At the end of the day, CX transformation is going to boil down to change management. You are changing the culture, the supporting process, and even the thoughts and behaviors that employees demonstrate toward customers. The execution of such a complex and overarching strategy will require outstanding change management capabilities. Uniting the organization around a common set of terms is one of the first and most important steps. Once you are speaking the same language, coordinating the change and working together will become much easier. These resources will help:
- Leading Change – The legendary work of John Kotter, possibly the foremost change management expert in the world, is especially relevant to CX initiatives. Listen to this podcast, where I describe the stages of change as it relates to an experience transformation.
- The Lean Turnaround – Lean/Six Sigma is a change methodology that lines up very well with CX principles. This book by Art Byrne helps to “minimize waste to maximize customer value.” Personally, I earned a Lean/Six Sigma Green Belt certification early in my CX career, and I’m very glad I did!
Skill Number Five: Adaptability
One thing we do know for sure…even the best strategy in the world is going to require modification. At the time of writing this, the COVID-19 virus is just starting to impact organizations in dramatically unexpected ways. While this is an extreme example, it does show that any company is going to transform internally and will be transformed externally as well.
The CX leader must have the ability to roll with the punches and customize the CX strategy on a regular basis. There are likely to be periods of time in which CX truly is the top priority of the organization…times when we can make hay because the sun is shining. There will be other stages in which CX is pushed to a back burner due to unforeseen circumstances. A great CX leader knows how to function in these moments to keep their initiative alive while providing excellent support and is ready to move back into the spotlight at the appropriate time. A shift in focus should not be a death sentence. Sadly, the statistics show that, in this line of work, it often becomes one. Adaptability will keep you surviving and thriving! Here are the top resources for CX pros on the subject:
- YPO 10 Minute Tips From the Top Podcast – Kevin Daum is an adaptability expert with a great podcast in which he interviews all kinds of CEOs who overcame challenging circumstances. It’s only 10 minutes and will surely get your flexibility genes working.
- Leadership and Self-Deception – This amazing book by the Arbinger Institute is remarkable in its ability to help leaders view things from a different perspective. It will get you “out of the box” and finding creative solutions to problems that previously had you stuck.
And there you have it! The top five skills for CX pros and a whole variety of supporting resources. Our Officium team sincerely hopes that this helps you in your career as an experience professional. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can further assist! We love this work, and we are here for you.
Nate Brown is a perpetual student of the world’s greatest experiences and the people who create them. Having spent the first decade of this career managing a complex technical support environment for Occupational Health and eLearning software, Nate transitioned to Customer Experience in 2015. He was dubbed the “CX Influencer of the Year” by CloudCherry in 2019, as well as being named a top CX thought leader by TruRating, Qminder, ProcedureFlow, LifeHelpNow, ICMI, and Exceeders. Nate currently serves as the Chief Experience Officer for Officium Labs and can be found at a variety of conferences speaking and training on the CX topics he loves.
Jerry Leisure is a Customer Success leader who believes the heart of every company is its customer. He recently founded Officium Labs , a CX marketplace that helps companies leverage top talent to maximize customer value and revenue, and serves as CEO of the company. Previously, Jerry was Vice President of Customer Success at Forte Labs, and Vice President of Player Retention and Customer Services at Kabam, a mobile device game developer. At Kabam, he led by the ethos, “Happy and empowered employees = happy and engaged players.