Five Traits of Exceptional CX Leaders

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It's a known fact that if you ask five people for their opinion on something, you'll get five different opinions.

I found that to be true when I asked more than a dozen customer experience professionals what they thought were the most important characteristics of a CX leader. Here is a short list of responses I received:

CX leaders should be curious, persistent, passionate, resilient, patient, data-driven, pragmatic, courageous, self-directed, visionary, and open to new things. They need to be able to facilitate change, have a healthy degree of skepticism, be accomplished communicators, skilled at building relationships, able to prompt action, experienced at navigating corporate politics, knowledgeable about the business, able to demonstrate the ability to organize and simplify the insights they receive from customers, willing to take smart risks, work on constant and continuous improvement, prioritize effectively, and be an enthusiastic cheerleader for customer initiatives.

Yes, that was the short list!

While I would not argue with any of those characteristics, it's a lot to take in. I have narrowed the list to five characteristics that were most often mentioned and have added a few of my own thoughts as well.

The ability to establish and build relationships. Exceptional CX leaders are well networked. To make an impact, they must serve many functional groups and stakeholders. To do that effectively, they must establish and build strong relationships. First among those are relationships with senior leaders, which will have a strong influence on creating a customer-focused culture and setting customer initiatives as a priority. Along with building a network of relationships comes accountability. CX leaders must consistently collaborate, communicate, and deliver value across the organization.

The ability to align CX initiatives with business goals. A number of those providing input referenced the need for CX leaders to see the big picture, to be knowledgeable about the business, and to align customer initiatives with the company's strategic goals. How true! Exceptional CX leaders are strategic thinkers who understand the direction of the business and develop customer strategies that completely support that direction. Their work is seen as essential to the organization, and they emerge as important, sought-after resources.

The ability to go into the weeds—and come back out. In addition to the big picture, it is important to mention that the details of a customer leader's job are important as well. Understanding and facilitating the flow of customer data has become vital. There are more sources of data, more ways to analyze data, and more tools to gather and distribute data. Exceptional CX leaders must get into the "weeds" to manage all of this. However, at the end of the day, the real skill is being able to emerge from the weeds to put it all to use in practical ways that have a positive impact on business performance.

The ability to initiate change. Nobody likes change. But like it or not, CX leaders are among the key people in the organization responsible for driving change. They are the advocates for customers, and must initiate change to streamline processes, enhance relationships, improve quality, deliver better service, fix problems, build better partnerships, and make everything easier for those customers. The good news is that all of these changes eventually produce cost savings or revenue growth, delivering powerful results for the business.

The ability to be proactive. In today's fast-paced business environment, immediate gratification is not enough. CX leaders are charged with not only evaluating customer past experiences, but, more importantly, anticipating the future. They need to help each area of the company to become more proactive by leveraging predictive analytics and designing decision support systems based on customer intelligence.

The role of the customer experience professional is rapidly changing. Corporate executives are placing a higher priority on customer experience as a way to differentiate and grow market share. They are looking to CX professionals to be leaders—to drive action, to initiate change, and to deliver results. Expectations are higher and exceptional CX leaders will rise to meet and exceed them.


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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