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Four key skills for building an effective CX program

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How can CX teams overcome what can seem like insurmountable challenges to support their businesses through good times and bad to reduce churn, cross-sell, and/or [insert your company’s key objectives here]?

Creating a CX program that evolves with changing demands requires a strong foundation and a skilled CX team. Now more than ever, customer experience teams need to work together, playing to each other’s strengths and shifting their focus and resources as needed. Aligning with business objectives, thoroughly understanding customers, taking action, and having a strong communication strategy in place to ensure that the entire company is on board and committed to a clear customer experience goal is what will dictate long term success.

Whether it is developing a concise vision, recruiting support from internal and external stakeholders, driving operational change, or fighting for prioritization (i.e., budget), CX teams need to have the right skills represented to achieve these goals. Here are four tried-and-true skills to tap into to get you started on the path to success: business acumen, data analysis, influencing stakeholders, and executing on strategy.

1-Business acumen: CX professionals need to understand the strategy and key objectives of the organization and internal stakeholders to make sure there is alignment around the CX vision. While developing an overarching vision might be a straightforward skill, it can often be overlooked in the turmoil to address immediate demands. CX professionals without business acumen will find themselves facing problems in the future where program direction and resources have come up short.

Utilizing business acumen skills starts with investing time into learning the industry, the company, and the customer. Obtaining an understanding of internal culture, industry trends, and customer needs is crucial when it comes to defining well-informed program goals. This widespread knowledge comes, in part, from building relationships both internally and externally. The ability to listen to a range of perspectives will ensure that the overall program is coherent with expectations across the company.

In addition to gathering information, business acumen encompasses the ability to weigh options and resources in order to identify key objectives that fulfill complex needs. CX professionals with strong business acumen can recognize possible pain-points in advance and bring together the right tools and individuals needed to address the problem. Learning to balance priorities (including those of the business and customers) and harness available resources are critical skills that can continuously be improved—and in today’s shifting industry are nothing short of vital.  

2-Listening to customers: There is no CX program without having mechanisms and technology in place to listen to and deeply understand your customers. However, gathering information is often where the focus remains. An effective CX team cannot become just another source of information that is “interesting” or “nice to know.” Collecting customer information cannot drive any action or improvements without translating the data into insights.

While a strong vision and clear goal will kickstart a CX program, it’s the data analysis that ensures the program stays on track and aligned with evolving customer needs. If a CX program hits a roadblock, turning to data analysis is a great place for discovering innovative solutions. Without this ability, CX professionals will find themselves lacking fresh ideas or actionable direction when it comes to anticipating and addressing customer needs. To be effective problem solvers, CX professionals should stretch their data analysis skill set to combine both quantitative and soft skills. Beyond data savvy, a successful data analyst also embodies intellectual curiosity and communication skills.

3-Ability to influence stakeholders: Your CX program can only go so far if there is not stakeholder buy-in. You can understand the organization, develop your vision and understand your customers; however, if stakeholders aren’t involved, it will be extremely difficult to take any meaningful action and the program risks just being another failed initiative. The continued existence of your program relies on support at all levels of the organization—from the C-suite to the frontline. This is the path to integrating the customer experience into the company culture.

The influencer brings together all data points and translates them into a cohesive message or story that is not only understood but easy to repackage for others to spread.

One approach is to break this into four steps:

  1. Inform about the customer reality using the information gathered from your Voice of Customer (VoC) program. Share the message that is tailored in a way that will resonate with your audience. (This will most likely differ for different individuals in the company and stakeholder mapping is a good precursory exercise.)
  2. Engage by reframing issues into a shared opportunity to improve the customer experience.
  3. Align around creating a great customer experience. The CX team can provide structure and direction but success will be dictated by alignment around a common goal of customer-centricity.
  4. Motivate others to amplify the message and rally around CX initiatives. The influencer not only has a cohesive story to tell, but also inspires others to act.

4-Strategy execution: Once there is a plan in place, if the CX team can’t facilitate efforts to improve the customer experience, all efforts are for naught. Ultimately, this is how ROI will be demonstrated. Getting the C-suite onboard is critical; however, the ability to recruit middle management support will enable CX teams to develop and execute on the strategy. The CX team will not be able to implement lasting change on its own.

Having the ability to facilitate real change requires an understanding of organizational culture (what individuals to go to) and strong internal relationships (getting those individuals involved). A fair bit of influencing comes into play as this is when other teams will need to provide resources in the form of time or money. CX professionals who have this skill can create innovative ways to address business challenges, identify needed actions, track success and monitor impact of actions on the KPIs. Strong project management skills might be needed if those are resources are not provided to the team.

In the meantime, there needs to be a line of vision to the bigger picture beyond the day-to-day. Aside from individual projects, the CX team should set up a formal execution process and governance structure where everyone in the business is aligned on his/her role to play. This will set the stage for an efficient and sustainable way to execute on strategy.

It takes a combination

No skill stands alone and there is no linear process to when these skills should be leveraged. Each has an important role to play in the development of a successful CX program. Aspects of these skills might be found in several members of your CX team or some might be missing altogether. Taking an inventory, is a great opportunity for CX teams to leverage members’ strengths and develop (or build upon) weaknesses to fill in the gaps. You might find resources to leverage outside of the direct team as well. Utilizing and refining these skills will lay the foundation to embedding the customer into the company culture with all levels of the business actively supporting efforts to improve the customer experience.

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