Why should you become the next Customer Experience Manager?
In July 1995, Amazon marked a day in the history of customer experience (CX) when it became the first ever organisation to sell a product online. The ease of getting a book of your choice delivered at your doorstep was a remarkably different experience compared with that of purchasing a book in a retail store. This was the beginning of a new era of customer experience.
Since then, customer experience has become a management practice that organizations have increasingly been adopting. This has created a wide range of opportunities for professionals who have the skills to delight customers. However, because customer experience management is still an emerging job role, not many people understand what a customer experience manager does or how to become a successful customer experience manager. In this article, I will take you through everything that you need to know about how to build a career in customer experience.
Who is a Customer Experience Manager?
A Customer Experience Manager essentially acts as a bridge between customers and the brand. He/she heads the customer experience management team of a brand to create memorable experiences for the customers and maximize customer retention for the brand. He/she must have the ability and knowledge for assessing and improving the interactions that customers have with the brand. Clearly, a customer experience manager plays a very important role in shaping up the company’s brand image and improving customer loyalty.
Let us see how this role has evolved over the past few years.
Trends in the Customer Experience Manager job role over the years
Recently, I was in a conversation with one of our clients who has over a decade-long experience in the CX arena. She pointed out that ten to fifteen years back, a customer care department in any organization was non-existent. Only the frontline employees, such as receptionists or nurses, would listen to customers’ issues and solve them.
Fast-forwarding to today, every organization has a dedicated customer service department. Some of them even have a customer experience department.
Since customer experience has become the central theme for businesses, companies have started incorporating CX as a key management practice. Thus, the job role of a Customer Experince Manager has become very popular over the years.
Source: Google Trends
As you can observe, there has been a considerable upward trend in the number of times people have searched for “customer experience manager” in the past few years. This indicates that people have gradually become aware of and developed an interest in the role of a customer experience manager in an organization.
However, this doesn’t prove that organizations are recruiting more customer experience managers.
Around 20-30% of job postings on Indeed for the past five years were for hiring a customer experience manager. Interestingly, the majority of these were from customer experience leaders such as Amazon, Salesforce, Oracle and the like.
However, surprisingly, less than 0.0020% of job seekers showed interest in this job role!
You might think that such a low percentage of people showed interest because only certain industries located in a particular geography need and hire customer experience managers. Well, the charts below would make you think otherwise.
There are 8m+ profiles of practicing customer experience managers on LinkedIn to date. These customer experience managers are present in all industries, ranging from retail to IT to insurance. These customer experience managers are present all across the globe, some are in the USA, others in Australia and a few of them in Asia. I believe, the need for customer experience managers will keep increasing in the coming years. Therefore, there is a huge open opportunity for professionals to choose customer experience management as a career path.
Why is the job of a Customer Experience Manager most future-proof?
While researching for this article, I received a common answer to this question. Most of the participants told me that the reason is plain and simple – no company wants to lose a customer because customers run their business and make it profitable.
Forrester’s 2016 report clearly establishes that customer experience drives revenue growth. While Customer Experience Managers might not always be in touch with the customers themselves, they are the main reason behind customer satisfaction and delight. They devise effective strategies and work closely with all the departments of an organization to ensure a great experience is delivered to the customers.
Businesses that understand this have already hired their first Customer Experience Manager and will keep hiring more. Now they are exploring ways to manage and improve the customer experience function better.
A couple of days back, a friend called me up, asking me to help her grow as a professional in the CX arena. Since I work with Omoto, a customer experience management platform, she assumed that I would have enough knowledge to share. But, I knew nothing about this career path and couldn’t be of any help to her. I realized that many professionals like my friend would have developed an interest in customer experience but might struggle to find a starting point in this career path. So, I decided to learn and share how CX leaders paved their path in the customer experience field. I reached out to our clients and customer experience managers in our network. I also asked members of various LinkedIn groups to share their bits of advice with me. Let me share what I learned in the course of this journey.
Where does one start to develop a career in customer experince management?
The biggest question that an aspiring CX professional might have would be: “Where to start the journey in this career path?”
A few of the people that I spoke to suggested that one must start at the ground level – by interacting with the customers themselves. This would help in understanding and analyzing customer behavior. This, in turn, would help one in preparing plans for customer experience improvement as a Customer Experience Manager.
A few were of the opinion that most recent college-graduates end up becoming a customer service representative because of lack of opportunities in other areas. It is only later that they develop a liking towards customer experience and fully commit to this career path.
A customer success manager of an Indian tech-startup told me that a career in CX begins only in a truly customer-centric company. The employees of such companies learn how to listen to all kinds of customers, and not just the happy ones.
There were others who opined that this question itself is invalid; the valid question would be: “WHEN to begin a career in CX?” They believe that one should start a career in CX when they learn how to empathize with customers and stay customer-focused.
Another CX Head of a leading insurance company that I spoke to suggests that a professional can begin his/her career in any of the aspects of customer experience – customer insights, customer journey creation, operations and the like.
I also asked Maurice FitzGerald, ex-VP Customer Experience of HP and author of four books on customer-centric strategy, when in his career did he realize that customer experience was his calling. It was interesting to learn that it was an accidental discovery for him. While working in a leading apparel brand, Maurice was in charge of a product’s distribution in Paris. That’s when he started interacting with customers. In the process, he realized that the assumed customer needs were completely different from the actual customer needs. For instance, for customers, it was more important to have a timely delivery of the product, whereas the brand assumed that they wanted properly manufactured goods. This was an eye-opener for him and since then, he has been improving organizational processes to deliver great customer experience.
One answer does not fit all. So, it is upon you to decide where you would like to begin your career in customer experience. But, for that, you would need to understand what roles and responsibilities you would have as a Customer Experience Manager.
What are the roles and responsibilities of a customer experience manager?
A customer experience manager is primarily responsible for developing and executing strategies to increase satisfaction for a brand. Additionally, he/she also needs to identify novel ways in which the company not only meets customer expectations but also exceeds them. For this, he/she needs to work closely with the customers to uncover and understand customer insights. Based on these insights, he/she needs to work with other cross-functional teams.
Today, most organizations set weekly, monthly, and yearly targets for various CX KPIs such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) score, Return On Investment (ROI), Turn-Around Time (TAT), customer churn rate and the like. Apart from defining the measurement and reporting standards for such KPIs, a customer experience manager also needs to ensure that all these targets are met and improved over time. Additionally, Maurice emphasizes that customer experience managers must regularly share these reports with all the employees of the organization.
We believe that another important responsibility of a customer experience manager is to essentially instill a customer-centric culture in the entire organization – in his team members, peers, and seniors. Without a customer-centric culture, no plans, investments, or efforts would be enough to make customers happy.
The one important responsibility that everyone mentioned was to manage his/her team efficiently. He/she must clearly communicate and ensure alignment of the team with the company’s customer-centric goals. He/she must serve as a great leader – define what training the team must receive, closely observe and guide each member, and help them improve their skills so that the customers have a stellar experience.
I would like to share an important note. Interestingly, all the people that I spoke with also mentioned that a customer experience manager must always share any negative feedback discreetly with the concerned team member. It should never be to demean or demoralize the employee but to assist him in performing better.
What are the various kinds of Customer Experience Managers?
Customer Experience Program/Project Manager
A CX Project Manager needs to focus on improving the areas and processes where a customer interacts with the brand, increasing the overall level of satisfaction, perceived value, and engagement with the business. In simpler words, he/she plans various projects that are aimed at improving the experience of customers at all touchpoints. He has to plan the scope of the project, set specific timelines, and ensure that it is completed within an allotted budget.
Customer Experience Design Manager
A Customer Experience Design Manager is responsible for maximizing the conversion of customers by reshaping the customers’ experience. He/she is required to design and create satisfying and compelling experiences for users and consumers at all touchpoints across the entire journey of the customer with the brand.
Digital Customer Experience Manager
A digital customer experience manager designs, oversees, and improves interactions and experiences of the customers which are delivered via digital communications and online platforms such as social media channels, advertisements, or chatbots.
These managers must be extremely tech-savvy and have an adaptable nature, as the technology changes every day, every hour. With all the technological advancement at their disposal, the digital customer experience managers can focus massively on personalizing the interactions of customers with the brand.
Roles in the customer experience field apart from these are:
Customer Service Manager
A customer service manager heads the team that is responsible for providing value to customers by recording and resolving customer queries and complaints. Additionally, managers also interact with customers whose issues could not be solved by the representatives, or customers who were disappointed by the service of the representative. Another responsibility that a customer service manager has is to provide top-notch training to the CX team, especially on how to deal with the most irate customers.
Customer Support Manager
Customer service and customer support are two very similar functions, with the only difference that customer support refers to technical support provided to the customers. A customer support manager, along with all the responsibilities similar to a customer service manager, also has to provide his team with the right training and tools to help them in resolving the technical issues that the customers might be facing while using the products or services.
Customer Success Manager
A customer success manager heads the team responsible for building and nurturing the brand’s relationship with its customers post a sale. He/she needs to ensure that the team is focused on making the lives of their customers successful. A CSM is also responsible for maximizing the revenue, by converting more number of prospects into customers and minimizing the customer churn rate.
What are the various career levels in CX?
Customer Experience Associate – A Customer Experience Associate is responsible for driving the customer experience through proactive and customer focused behaviors and actions. He/she actively evaluates customers needs by listening, providing solutions, and making recommendations to maximize customer satisfaction and exchange brand loyalty.
Customer Experience Executive – A Customer Experience Executive usually attends to and resolves customer queries and complaints. He/she needs to be a great listener and a multitasker, along with having good communication skills and empathy towards the customer.
Customer Experience Analyst – A Customer Experience Analyst, as the name suggests, is primarily responsible for developing a great understanding of the customers’ journey with the brand, their behavior, and preferences, as well as generating reports based on the analysis. This job requires an individual to be extremely data-savvy and have great analytical skills.
Customer Experience Manager/Sr. Manager – A Customer Experience Manager or Sr. Manager heads teams of customer experience associates, executives, and analysts. He needs to constantly look for ways of improving the customer experience, based on the feedback collected and reports generated by his team apart from ensuring that his teams meet the targets of various KPIs.
Director/Vice President/Head of Customer Experience – A Director/VP/Head of the customer experience department oversees the entire customer experience function in the organization. He/she is responsible for leading all customer experience projects, aligning them with the company’s business model, brand management, and the CEO’s commitment.
Chief Customer Officer (CCO) – The role of a Chief Customer Officer has emerged only recently and is definitely on the rise. The CCO, being a member of the board of directors, is required to provide a comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer. He/she is responsible for creating strategies at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition and retention, thus, generating revenue for the company.
What knowledge or skills do organizations look for in a customer experience manager?
Organizations prefer job applicants if they have knowledge in the following aspects:
- Use-case mapping/Customer journey mapping
- User adoption strategies
- Overall technical/functional expertise
- Understanding of CEX tech and today’s customer ecosystem
- Customer touchpoints measurement in a way that becomes actionable through collected evidence of ROI
Some of the skills that are a must-have in any customer experience manager are:
- Team management and leadership skills
- Change management skills
- Analytical skills
- People skills such as empathy, patience, and politeness
- Communication skills
- Decision-making skills driven by customer insights
- Skills to understand and interpret customer behavior
The AVP-Customer Experience of a leading global insurance company suggests that professionals who are extremely customer-obsessed can be successful customer experience managers.
Manuel A., customer service manager of a leading multinational software development company tells us that a great customer experience manager must possess the skill of being approachable to his team, yet hold a commanding position.
A Sr. Customer Service Manager of a leading diagnostic chain in India believes that customer experience managers must know when to be polite and when to be firm. That is a skill that can not be ignored.
Maurice FitzGerald emphasizes that the three most important skills of a customer experience manager are:
How to become one of the most-sought-after customer experience managers in business?
and many more…
And a few more…
What advice do practicing customer experience professionals have for an aspiring Customer Experience Manager?
People who I spoke with shared their valuable bits of advice that every aspiring customer experience manager must keep in mind. Let’s find out what these are:
“A customer experience manager should know where to be sensitive and where to be firm with customers.”
~ Customer Service Sr. Manager of a leading diagnostic chain in India
“As a leader who manages the customer experience management team, he must always be approachable, yet hold a position of command so that team works efficiently.”
~ Customer Service Manager of a multinational software development organization
“Don’t be swayed by the buzz of CX. Get down to identifying an objective measurement (NPS, Revenue uplift, Cost reduction, Loyalty, Persistency, etc.) and plan your initiatives around it.”
~ Customer Experience AVP of an international insurance company