Building a customer experience (CX) team requires knowing what that team will do and what skills you’ll need to do those things. Seems simple enough, and yet it’s challenging to build said team because oftentimes companies don’t have the funds or don’t want to add headcount to their rosters.
It’s important to note that no two CX teams are alike. Factors like business size, executive commitment, and more, will determine whether there is a team of one or a team of 50–or no team at all. Regardless of size and make-up of the team, there is still a lot of work to be done.
The CX team comprises the staff that does the critical underlying work to ensure that the customer experience solves problems for customers and meets their needs. Basically, the team keeps the CX engine humming, so to speak.
At a high level, this team does the following and more:
Develop, implement, and manage tools, and processes to understand customers.
Monitor and measure performance against customer expectations.
Co-create and design new experiences with customers.
Centralize, analyze, and synthesize customer feedback and data.
Identify metrics to track and ensure those metrics are linked to business outcomes.
Share insights from customer understanding tools throughout the organization.
Provide tools and guidance to support improvement initiatives and to help drive change.
Develop the strategy to achieve the desired and intended customer experience.
Prepare internal and external communications about the work that is being done.
Drive clarity of expectations, consistency of experiences, and education of colleagues around the experience to be delivered.
For the team’s leadership, I would add the following:
Educate the rest of the organization about the customer and the customer experience.
Align and unite not only executives but also the rest of the organization around the customer.
Ensure that the customer and the impact on the customer is embedded in all decisions, discussions, and designs.
Partner with HR to ensure that employees have a great experience, in turn leading to a great experience for customers.
Partner with the CIO to ensure that the right data is (a) accessible and (b) shareable; able to get to the right people at the right time.
It’s a lot of work to ensure the customer voice is listened to and then heard within the organization. While everything a business does is about the customer, this team provides valuable information and services that feed into and facilitate the customer-centric culture.
The top nine skill sets needed in a CX team
What are the general skills that are needed to make all this happen?
Your CX team is comprised of: trainers, educators, influencers, problem solvers, change agents, evangelists, listeners, analyzers, assessors, auditors, planners, coordinators, advisors, coaches, entrepreneurs, innovators, communicators, designers, researchers, project managers, strategists, and critical thinkers. Let’s parse that out a bit and talk specifics.
Market research skills
Probably a lot of the skills that you’ll need for this team can be wrapped up under “market research skills.” I’ll save some of them for their more-detailed respective buckets below and specifically call out the following under this category: survey research and questionnaire design, measurement, metrics, statistics, data collection methods, report and dashboard design, sampling, interviewing and qualitative methods, and managing budgets.
Analytical and critical thinking skills
These skills are necessary given that the CX team is largely a data-driven department within the organization; insights from the data gathered either through feedback, or via the breadcrumbs of data that customers leave behind as they interact and transact with your brand, are fundamental to customer experience strategy success.
Developing these insights starts with observation, analysis, and interpretation skills, along with a knowledge of data lakes, data warehouses, data science, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, statistics, basic and advanced analytical methods, and more. Building the business case and ROI modeling fall into this skills bucket.
There’s a lot of overlap among the skill sets mentioned here. Problem-solving skills include analytical and critical thinking skills, for example, as well as team building, collaboration, communication, decision making, creativity, and more. Also included in this set of skills is your ability to assess and to audit a situation–and then take what you learn and deliver a roadmap for getting to the next step or level.
Design skills among the team will vary from survey design to design thinking and experience design. The important thing to note about this skillset is that we need open-mindedness, creativity, and innovation to rule the day.
Change management skills
Carrying on with that theme of overlapping skill sets, this category is no different. Change management skills include recognizing a burning platform when it occurs, as well as leadership skills, vision for the future state, communication skills, analysis and planning, teamwork and collaboration, the ability to influence others, and education skills. In a nutshell, change agents are welcome!
This skillset is a no-brainer for any team, but it’s a vital skill for the CX team. Communication skills mean that you’re a great listener, a great speaker, and a great storyteller. You know how to formulate thoughts into a presentation or how to argue your point in a discussion or debate. You’re an evangelist for the cause, you train and educate, and you can influence others to see your point or to align with and join the cause.
Without a doubt, communication skills fold right into relationship-building skills, both within the CX team and across every other department within the organization. Collaboration, communication, working together, partnerships, and breaking down or connecting silos can only lead to a better experience for employees and customers.
While I’ve listed this skill set toward the end of the list, this by no means indicates that this skill is any less important than any of the others. As a matter of fact, this team must be leaders in every sense of the word when it comes to customer experience: model, reinforce, teach, coach, mentor, advise, support, etc.
They also need to be strategists, setting goals, outlining actions to achieve the goals, and supporting and informing the teams who will execute on the actions. Lead the way, guide them, give them the tools to do what needs to be done, and get out of the way.
If you’re a CCO or CXO or if you’re on a new CX team or if you’ve been voluntold to “do CX,” you know this is the “original skill!” If you’re not business-minded, autonomous, or a self-starter, you will struggle, for sure in this role. You’ve also got to know how to translate ideas and insights into action.
Examples of job titles for CX teams
While I’m sure it’s great to uncover the skills needed on or for this team, putting some labels in the form of roles or titles might be helpful.
The following are specific roles within the CX team that will be using the skills reference in this article. This list is far from comprehensive, but it includes the most-common roles that I’ve seen, plus some of their responsibilities.
CCO, VP of CX, or similar title: executive sponsor, team lead, customer champion.
CHRO, VP of HR, VP of People and Culture, or similar title: executive sponsor, team lead, employee and culture champion.
CX admin or CX specialist: a coordinator role, coordinates meetings, workshops, etc.
VoC program manager: survey design and implementation, EFM platform manager, dashboard design, analytics and reporting.
Analysts (might be shared with other teams): data science, analytics, insights.
Customer advisory board manager: develops and maintains customer advisory boards, engages with advisory board members.
Communications manager (might be shared with marketing): prepares internal and external communications about the work being done.
Process change or improvement specialist/lean specialist (might be shared with other teams): develops service blueprints, process maps, value stream maps; looks for waste and improvements internally that affect both employee and customer experiences.
Experience designer: design thinking, ideation, journey mapping.
Customer journey manager: audit and map customer journeys, collaborate with and connect departments, break down silos and barriers to a seamless customer experience.
CX operations: identifies tools and processes to keep the strategy on track, change management implementation, internal communications.
Strategist: often the CCO or VP, but sometimes a separate role to support the executive, who is often focused on aligning and uniting the organization through C-Suite or executive conversations and interactions.
You may have or know of other roles, so I think it’s important to reiterate that no two CX teams are alike.
I’m sure you have a few questions about these skills, especially in light of budgetary limitations or company size. Here are answers to a few questions you might have:
Can all of the necessary skills be found in one person? Rarely, yes. Those unicorns do exist, but they are few and far between.
Can the skills be learned? Yes, I believe they can all be learned, but it takes time, and you’ll need to prioritize.
Do they all need to reside on one team, i.e., report to the Chief Customer Officer or VP of Customer Experience? No, people with these skills can live across the organization and reside on other teams, as noted with some of the roles above, but shared responsibilities must be outlined and agreed upon by team leaders.
I’m often asked what to do if there is no formal CX team in place. This can happen within organizations of any size, believe it or not!
There are other ways to focus on CX without a dedicated team, but in order for that to work, you must have a CEO who is your customer champion. The CEO must educate, direct and guide employees so that they know what it means to put people first, ahead of metrics and profits. And, importantly, the culture must be one that is deliberately designed to be customer-centric.
That last point applies regardless. It all starts with a culture where core values and acceptable behaviors for each of the core values have been defined, socialized, and operationalized. Short of that, you will fail. You can have all of the skills that I’ve outlined in house, but if your culture is not a customer-centric one, it will be an uphill battle to be successful.
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About the guest author
Annette Franz is the founder and chief experience officer of CX Journey Inc.
She’s got 25 years of experience in both helping companies understand their employees and customers and identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience—so that, together, you can design a better experience for all constituents. She has worked with both B2B and B2C brands in a multitude of industries. Connect with her: www.cx-journey.com | @annettefranz | @cxjourney | LinkedIn | Facebook