Ben Motteram (BM) along with Ian Golding (IG), Chantel Botha (CB) and me, Karl Sharicz (KS) are four Customer Experience professionals living on four different continents, all members of the Customer Experience Professionals Association, (CXPA) and each possessing the passion and the tenacity of making a difference in the lives of people and business around the world through a disciplined approach to CX. As we often chat with one another, the conversation at one point came to a question as to why we do the things we do as a CX professional.
That seemed like a reasonable question given the challenges we face on a daily basis but we wanted to reach a little deeper and answer that on a more emotional level. With the help of our good friend and CX colleague, Bruce Temkin, here are three questions he proposed to us to which we responded below.
What are among your most proud CX accomplishments?
BM: Generally, the customer engagements I’m proudest of are those where the value of becoming more customer-centric has been amply demonstrated and I’ve “converted” sceptics within the company. More specifically though, about 18 months ago I implemented a VoC survey for an IT Helpdesk that ended up saving all their jobs. Senior management wanted to outsource the function but when the outsourcer wouldn’t sign up to a KPI that targeted them with maintaining a 95% “satisfied or very satisfied” CSAT score (which is the figure the Helpdesk was consistently achieving at the time), management quickly changed their minds!
IG: To be completely honest with you, every time I see someone who has read what I have written or who has listened to what I have said and been moved by it. To have the ability and honour of influencing and inspiring others to believe that they can make a real and genuine difference to the experiences and lives of their customers and colleagues is something I hold very dear, as well as being something I am truly grateful for. I am also remarkably proud of the difference I have personally made in the organisations I have worked for and continue to work with. Winning a UK Customer Experience Award in 2010 for an initiative we called ‘Customer 1st Aid’ will always stick in my mind as a massive milestone in my career as will becoming a CCXP in 2014. I will also always never ever forget being the first person in the world to become authorised to train people to become a CCXP – the first and only time I will be the first person in the world to something!!
CB: Some my proudest moments in my career as a CX professional has been seeing the transformation stick in corporates long after I left and they no longer can even remember my name. Creating a legacy that makes clients and employees lives better, gives me purpose. I feel incredibly happy when I get invited to conferences to tell the story of the transformations that I have been a part of as well as being asked to write articles about my work.
The recognition of my international peers and being accepted into the community of CX professionals world wide, not only created huge support for me, but it also is a testament for Africa in terms of our skills and capabilities being on par with the rest of the globe.
More recently I was authorised by the CXPA as a training and resources provider for BrandLove’s Customer Journey Design course. We have carefully designed the materials over the last year and see this as our flagship offering that will enable companies to start transforming their experience one interaction at a time!
KS: My foray into the CX discipline came about in 2004 quite by chance when, after years of serving in customer-facing roles, I received an offer I couldn’t refuse—to manage the Voice of the Customer program of a US-based B2B organization. Building and implementing a full-blown VOC system from the ground up around service delivery with a built-in closed-loop action-management process and introducing a customer metric equivalent to NPS so they could track and report progress in a matter of roughly five years was ground-breaking at the time. That accomplishment may be somewhat de rigueur these days but my sense is that this might be the extent of it within some organizations.
I developed my CX system further as I drove it deeper within the organization from the board-level down to the front-line. Outside of a small annual budget, I did not initially have the total support and buy-in from the C-Suite but with a little tenacity and a fair bit of self -promotion my message got through. In 2014, after 10-years of solid building, marketing, and promotion, I left what I had created in the good hands of a protégé that I had trained and coached in the nuances of CX. He now carries forward the CX torch that I initially lit but today within a much larger enterprise as the result of a recent merger. All of this happened because I articulated a convincing vision, took the resulting offer, and carried it forward with passion.
What do you most love about being a CX professional?
BM: This one’s easy. The knowledge that we’re making the world a better place for customers. We’re improving peoples’ lives by making companies easier and more pleasurable to deal with. As a customer, I love the fact that the companies I choose to give my business to are hiring people like me because it means they want to listen to me, customise their offerings, give me more options, be more agile, and/or just generally reduce the hassle in my life.
IG: In a way, I could cheat and repeat my answer to the first question!! Whilst all of that still stands, what I also love about being a CX Professional is the excitement, challenge and honour of opening the eyes of people all over the world to recognise that what people like us do every day is now recognised as a professional discipline. Seeing the surprise and acknowledgement of people who may have thought CX to be ‘soft and fluffy’, yet come to the realisation that there are a very tangible set of skills, competencies, tools and techniques behind it, is very satisfying. There is also no doubt that the greatest thing of all is seeing those who were previously sceptical, contact you after a period to share the things they have done themselves to make their organisation more customer-centric – what can you not love about that!
CB: I would describe what I love most as ‘connecting the dots’. Often, the challenge is to take people on a journey, where they have to face the unpleasant truth about the reality of their brand experience. I enjoy working with leaders, that have the courage to see past the flaws and are willing to start making the brand experience aspirations a reality.
I also work in a team of wonderful people, who just ‘get’ me. Sometimes they anticipate my next steps so well in workshops, that customers really experience our team as living what we ‘preach’. They are incredibly passionate about the work we do and they commit to using journey design in every intervention we do for our customers. We really live CX internally and externally day by day!
KS: Becoming the CX professional I am today didn’t just happen overnight. It was a total immersion from the start and a learning process that will likely never end as I find the CX discipline to be both an art and a science. That’s what makes it so fascinating for me while at the same time challenging because the market constantly moves, organizations continually adapt and evolve, and people’s preferences are dynamic. One size or format of CX definitely doesn’t fit all situations and that is what keeps it so interesting. I thrive on being creative and I find CX gives me that kind of outlet, similar to song-writing and musical composition. The fact that I can earn a living from it, unlike my music, brings it to the top of my list of passions. Knowing that the work I do is making change for the better of organizations, employees, and customers alike keeps me motivated daily.
What is your best advice to those just entering the CX profession?
BM: This is a BIG question. I’m going to dot point my answers to be as brief as possible:
- Keep your eyes on the prize – keep at the forefront of your mind why you exist: to improve customer experience. Don’t get caught up in the numbers, act on your analysis, and measure the impact of the changes you make.
- Study change management – becoming more customer-centric involves organisational change so to improve your chances of success, learn about change management.
- Executive support is vital – without the support of the CEO, your job is going to be harder than it needs to be. Choose to work for a company where the value of the work you do is understood and appreciated.
- Align with HR – sometimes we get so focussed on customers that we forget one of the golden rules: the internal experience determines the external experience. Read about The Service Profit Chain and work with your company’s Human Resources team to align incentives, improve employee engagement, and make job descriptions/hiring criteria/induction training more customer-centric.
IG: Experience, experience, experience. What is unusual about the profession that CX has become is that there is no textbook!! To be able to develop knowledge and understanding of what it takes to be a CX professional, the only way to do it… is to do it! To become a CX professional, in my opinion there are several traits that any individual considering it as a career must consider:
- Do you BELIEVE in CX? Sounds evangelical, but does it touch your heart and soul – if not, CX may not be for you
- Are you ready to ride the rollercoaster? Being a CX professional is not easy – you will have some amazingly wonderful days and some horrendously horrible ones. Are you the kind of the person who will just put their head down and keep going, whatever is thrown at you? If so, CX may be for you
- Do you want to do the right thing for customers and for colleagues? The most successful CX Professionals are the ones who are completely committed to doing what is right for customers and colleagues – even when their organisations do not want them to do so. Could you do that? If so, CX may be for you
- Are you in this for the long haul? Becoming a CCXP is a long-term goal – it requires commitment and tenacity and the desire to put the defined CX competencies into practice. If you want a quick qualification, CX is not the way to do that. If you want this to define you for the rest of your career – it is
- Do you want to make a real difference in an organisation? If the answer is yes – CX is for you
CB: If you aspire to make a change in the experience that brands deliver, I suggest the following:
- Learn from people that have got the battle scars. I met Lou Carbone and Bruce Temkin very early on in my career as a CX professional and I learnt a tremendous amount from reading their books and spending time with them.
- Actively seek support from the CX community by joining the CXPA. Being a CX professional at times can become a lonely place where you feel like you don’t make a difference. Just keep going and seek support from people like us when times feel like they are getting tough.
- Imitate and innovate. There are such amazing resources on the web that can help you on your journey. I read a lot and find such great sparks of ideas as I read other CX passionata’s blogs and articles. I have started producing resources to assist people on their CX journey as a result of my reading and understanding the importance of continuously telling the story of CX. For some free resources, go to cxindaba.com.
- Just start somewhere. Don’t over analyse. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t wait until everything is ‘perfect’. Even if you don’t have the support of the entire executive team, just start making small incremental changes, until you can illustrate the benefits. I find CX like a tsunami that starts with very, very small waves, then tremors, and once it is clear that there is no turning back, people will get on board.
KS: Through the CXPA I serve as a mentor to other CX professionals but the most rewarding of those tends to be younger professionals just beginning their journey along the path of becoming a CX professional. The first advice I have is not to go this alone. Seek like-minded colleagues to get inspiration and ideas. Join an organization like the CXPA and get involved as a volunteer. That will help you move ahead by leaps and bounds. It did for me. Secondly, take the time to learn and master the basics of CX. It sounds a bit cliché but it’s just like learning music. You need to master the rudiments first in order to advance to the point where competency is like the proverbial “falling off a log.” Aim high for sure but don’t expect immediate results from your efforts. That will come in time; tenacity and discipline will out.