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CX Pros Can Make Their Mark
Big challenges—and big opportunities—lay ahead for customer experience professionals
For the rest of the November 2015 issue of CRM magazine please click here

It's not hard to notice the surging interest in customer experience (CX) efforts. I've been actively involved in customer-focused work for more than 15 years, and my company has been providing such services for many more. Over the years, we've seen a revolving door of terminology that begins with customer and is followed by words such as satisfaction, loyalty, commitment, value, retention, delight, listening, engagement, intelligence, and many others. However, few phrases have stuck the way customer experience has.

There are a growing number of people who refer to themselves as "customer experience professionals" and they are now supported by an association that in five short years has seen its membership grow to more than 3,000. This group, the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), provides education, networking, resources, and even certification. Its ranks consist of business professionals who have developed skills for gathering and interpreting customer insights and driving customer-focused initiatives in their businesses.

CX CHALLENGES

Even with these growth trends, those professionals who are called upon to be key advocates for the customer are, to some extent, in uncharted territory. Few, if any, studied to be customer experience professionals or aspired to this role. Instead they gravitated there from their careers in marketing, marketing research, quality assurance, sales operations, project management, and other areas. They come with a real mixture of skills and talents but have few established standards for what are considered best practices.

At the same time, there are huge opportunities for businesses that deliver outstanding customer experience. This means CX professionals face a number of challenges, including these:

Information overload. Companies have mountains of customer information, but they haven’t figured out how to harness it in a way that truly creates value for the customer.

Overuse of surveys. Surveys have become too long, too frequent, and often too poorly designed. And it's too much for our customers—who have responded by not responding.

Hunger for customer intelligence. The demand for insights is on the rise; a growing number of departments need them to make more customer-focused decisions.

Executive demands. Today's leaders desperately want to create experiences for customers that truly set their company apart—which ratchets up the pressure on CX professionals to deliver real results.

Of course, such challenges inherently mean opportunities for customer experience professionals to make their mark. Here are a few ways to do so:

Go beyond surveys. Customer experience leaders can't rely solely on customer feedback surveys. Instead, they must create multiple streams of customer intelligence from other sources—operational data, customer communities, social media, advisory councils, and much more. Such efforts are more respectful of our customers—who may be sick of surveys—and provide a more comprehensive view of what customers actually want.

Do more than keep score. NPS ratings and satisfaction scores provide valuable insights, but too often they are seen as the end goal and the CX leader as the scorekeeper. Instead, CX leaders need to interpret scores, identify needed change, prompt action, and measure the business impact of improvements.

Be more proactive. With today's new tools and analytic approaches, CX leaders can do more than just react to customer feedback; they can look ahead, identifying customers who are encountering problems, predicting who are most likely to buy a new solution, anticipating emerging solutions that need development, and much more.

Embed action. And CX leaders can do more than make recommendations and develop action plans. Instead, they can ensure action is taking place by embedding insights into the systems employees and customers use every day to make decisions. In this way, customer intelligence is not only accessible, it's built into daily operations.

I'm convinced there is no better time to be a CX leader; the position has moved into the spotlight. CX professionals should embrace this moment, as there's ample opportunity not only to become more valuable to their companies and advance their careers, but also to make important contributions to this rising field.

Patrick Gibbons is a principal at Walker, a leading customer experience consulting firm. You can read his blog at http://blog.walkerinfo.com/blog/engaging-the-enterprise. He can be reached at pgibbons@walkerinfo.com.

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