The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked global havoc on businesses. CX professionals are seeking to better understand how they can manage their career through these uncertainties. I spoke with Chris Rios, Founding Partner at Blue Rock Search, to get his thoughts.
A Time to Step Up—and a Time to Reflect
Rios says that the global reality of COVID-19 has placed the CX function at a crossroads.
“We can either step up as a function and really show how important it is to be connected to customers, we can show our impact as a cultural transformation function, we can show the value of empathy in business, or we may suffer the consequences of not doing it.”
Those consequences are varied, but could mean lost jobs, customer churn, and employee disengagement, he says. “Unfortunately, there are organizations who have been claiming they are CX-oriented who have been shown at this moment not to be.” Rios says companies making knee-jerk reactions that harm CX—and the CX function within their enterprise—may face problems during the recovery. “When we come out of this and the economy starts up again, and companies will have lost employees and lost customers, they’ll need to answer the question of what they’ll do to get them back and to keep them,” he says.
For CX professionals who do find themselves in a career transition, Rios says that it’s important to take a breath—and make time for self-reflection. “You have to sit down and think about where you are, how you get here, and what your story is so you can tell everyone who you are. Whatever job you want to have—does your resume tell that story? Does it lead the person who is going to be looking at your resume there? Ask yourself—if you were the hiring authority, what would you hire yourself for?”
Networking: A Two-Way Street
Self-reflection is not only critical during the beginning of the transition, it’s an ongoing process that can lead to more effective networking, Rios says.
“If you really want to grow your network, one of the best ways to increase your engagement with people is to ask them questions,” Rios explains. “If you’ve really been practicing self-reflection, you ought to see gaps. You ought to see spaces in which you don’t have skills. You must ask yourself, ‘who has those skills?’ I think the best thing to do is engage from the vantage point of asking for help in either identifying how to acquire a particular skill or asking them to share how they got it.”
But networking isn’t a one-way street. Rios says that those in transition can build relationships by determining what they have to offer as well. “I would think about the skills or expertise you have, and just offer it for free,” he says. “You want to build a relationship and say ‘I happen to have this skill. I’ve noticed you have these other skills. Why don’t we share with one another?’”
The Power of Career Coaching
For those in a career transition, Rios acknowledges that it can feel like a lonely pursuit. That’s why he says it’s important for CX professionals to find someone who’ll be in their corner to ask tough questions that can propel them forward. For some, that person is a mentor or a career coach. “No one has the perfect career. No one has the perfect resume. No one has the perfect evolution,” he says. “A coach or mentor is a great investment in yourself to be the best you can be. To have someone alongside you who will ask the critical questions necessary for you to evolve and who will challenge you to reach new heights—that’s invaluable.”
While self-reflection and coaching are enablers of career success, Rios says they can enable better organizational outcomes, too.
“Acquire the coaching mentality for yourself,” he says. “Because when you step into a CX job, you can then coach them through their own transformation.”
Who is Chris Rios?
Chris Rios didn’t know the phrase “customer experience” when he was preparing culinary delights as an executive chef throughout much of the 90’s and 2000s, but he knew how he wanted those eating his food to feel. “What I was really trying to create was not only great food—because that’s only one aspect of the entire restaurant experience,” he recalls. “It was also about how a person feels when they walk in the door. I wanted to make sure that when this person is coming to have my food, they knew they had entered into a sacred space, that they would be well taken-care of, and that by the time they eat, it’s just another elevation of experience.”
Years later, Rios put a name to the passion he felt during those early years. As Founding Partner at Blue Rock Search, Rios oversees the retained CX Executive Search Practice, which specializes in the identification, assessment, recruitment and onboarding of executive level CX leaders and their teams. After the restaurant business, Rios transitioned to HR and recruiting, which provided him valuable experience in those functional areas. However, he yearned for the opportunity to deliver a different kind of experience to clients and candidates—something more aligned with those feelings from his restaurant days. He saw the opportunity to do that at Blue Rock Search. “I said, ‘we need to apply CX to our own organization first. We can’t talk about how great an experience they are having unless we create something for ourselves within the confines of our company. That was the birth of my desire to focus on customer experience exclusively.”