“When the student is ready, the master will appear.” – Unknown
People often ask me what experience they need to be a good fit for customer experience roles. When I spoke at NYU Stern recently, I was faced with the same questions. Students with varied backgrounds wanted to know if they were a good match for roles in my team. Today, we go over the key skills that make you successful in a customer experience team, but keep in mind that you are in charge of your career and at selling yourself across disciplines and industries. Use this post as a guide, not as the sole source of your research.
Although this is a soft skill, I believe empathy is the most important one for the role of customer experience professional. You can have all the technical skills in the world, but if you cannot walk in the shoes of your customers (or employees) you will fail to recognize their needs or to design intuitive experiences.
Without empathy you are blind and deaf to the service world.
The logical question is how do I know I have empathy? Try online personality self-assessment tests. You can even go with Briggs Myers as a start. When you take these quizzes, remember to be honest with yourself. If you do not score high on empathy, that does not make you a bad person, though it may be a good sign you should pursue a career that does not focus on customer experience.
I am purposefully using the most generic marketing word in terms of roles and experiences here. Any type of marketing background helps make a successful customer experience professional. If you have marketing experience, that means you are aware of the notion of brand image, strategy and/or values.
Since these represent the guiding light for creating customer experiences that meet the promises made by the brand, you will be one step ahead of other candidates that must learn brand management thinking from the ground up as part of their customer experience job.
I could have used the term “process thinking” here, but again I am leaving it more open to allow more of you to think of the transferrable skills you possess and how those translate to a successful customer experience career.
In the customer experience world, we assess and redesign processes through journey mapping (sequentially documenting each transaction between the customer with the brand as they consume the company’s product or services). For this reason, you will see process improvement, mapping, thinking as requirements for customer experience roles.
Even if you do not have those specific skills listed on your resume, you can still apply for a customer experience position if you are a critical and analytical thinker. My experience transforming the budget management process in National Grid in my first role after college was not part of a continuous improvement role, but it accomplished the exact same goal.
A developer or an IT architect can absolutely become a customer experience professional! If you are empathetic and eager to be more customer-focused, I urge you to show your passion to your business stakeholders and work on transitioning to more customer-facing roles.
It may take time and the right partner on the business side, but the transition from IT to customer-facing roles is absolutely doable. I faced a similar challenge when I was trying to move from finance to marketing. It took time, but in the end, it happened. Having an individual from IT on a customer experience team is a great competitive advantage for a company. CX leaders who understand the cross-functional nature of integrated and memorable digital and in-person customer experiences will be open to welcoming an IT professional onto their team.
I told the NYU students that the customer experience professional role is a complex one that is exciting, and more challenging than many business roles. The cross-functional nature of the field, combined with the implied innovation and change management for success and impact require the customer experience team members to be comfortable with less formal structures than other career paths.
As customer experience professionals, we live in the gray with less overtly defined goals and objectives. We are entrepreneurs, change agents and disruptors. It can get lonely sometimes. But then again, show me a leaders who was not lonely at some point in his or her life.
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