Clare Muscutt headshot on MYCD UP branded image
Women in CX/MyCustomer

The future of Women in CX

In the latest episode of MYC'D UP with CX Leaders, Clare Muscutt, CEO of Women in CX, discusses the community's growth, challenges conventional CX norms, and reveals plans for the future. 

24th Nov 2023

I think we're at this really scary time politically with the anti-woke movement that's happening around us, threatening to dismantle a lot of the progress that's been made in diversity and inclusion.

In the latest episode of MYC'D UP with CX Leaders, MyCustomer speaks with Clare Muscutt, CEO and Founder of Women in CX (WiCX). Clare shares the organisation's plans for the future, which include becoming 'Women in CX - The Movement for Human-Centred Business'.

Clare, a seasoned CX practitioner with an impressive track record, discusses her career journey from leading customer experience for major organisations such as Whitbread and Sainsbury's to founding Women in CX during the challenging times of the pandemic.

She emphasises the need for a more human-centred approach, highlighting the urgency for a reevaluation of CX practices: "The landscape of customer experience and technology is evolving so rapidly that we're seeing a lot of bad experiences out there that are being driven by technology decisions rather than human-first decisions." 

The journey of WiCX

During the episode, Clare takes us through the evolution of Women in CX. Originally a podcast, it grew to become the world's premier online community for women in customer experience. Boasting a community and audience of over 40,000 people globally, Clare sheds light on the diverse projects and services offered by WiCX, from consulting to resourcing.

"Our online membership community is the core of what we do. We've expanded and diversified significantly into services for individuals around membership but also business services now, leveraging this amazing network of women we've built," Clare notes, underscoring the organisation's growth beyond its initial podcast roots.

With Women in CX challenging the conventional norms of customer-centricity and advocating for a shift towards a human-centred business model, Clare emphasises the importance of value creation and adopting a market-oriented perspective.

There's never been a more pressing time than now for us to take this next step.

Building meaningful connections

Women in CX recently hosted its second Global Gathering conference in London. Members from all over the world got together to build connections. Clare reflects on the experience of fostering in-person meet-ups within the community, promoting openness and camaraderie.

"The boost that they get from the energy of being in a room with so many women that have become their friends (...) I've never seen anything like it in my life," she says.

Providing a glimpse into upcoming initiatives, Clare reveals plans for a revamped podcast featuring new voices (including those of men), the release of thought leadership content authored by community members, and the launch of WiCX courses tailored to impact organisational influence and build confidence.

"The big one for members is WiCX courses. We're moving into education because nobody needed another CX course. What we need is 'how to impact and influence organisations' courses and 'how to build confidence and resilience' courses," she reveals, outlining Women in CX's commitment to addressing the real-world needs of its members.

Although Clare spilled the beans about some of what's next for WiCX, she promised to reveal more exciting news on International Women's Day 2024, proving once again that Women in CX is all about shaking things up, amplifying the voices of women, and pushing the CX industry towards more human-centred business practices.

You can listen to the episode or read the full transcript below. 

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Sabine Groven
For the benefit of our listeners, could you give us a little bit of an introduction to yourself? So, a bit about your background and Women in CX.

Clare Muscutt 
Sure. So, I guess I'm a career CX practitioner, having led customer experience for some of the UK's largest B2B B2C companies. So a few names you probably know, things like Whitbreads, Marks & Spencer, Compass Group. Before I left corporate, I was head of customer experience at Sainsbury's, where I spent five years developing my methodology for customer experience design in, I guess, what you would consider one of the largest, most complex organisations possible. In 2017, I decided to go freelance and see whether there was the potential for me to get involved with more diverse projects and clients. And it did work pretty much straight away. I ended up running a customer experience design agency based out of London called CMXperience.

I was travelling around the world as a consultant keynote speaker; I was reading workshops for clients. And just before the pandemic hit, I was forced to come back to the UK. During those first few months of March, the CM experience, unfortunately, disintegrated because all of the work that I did was in person, and it was all like in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. So, Women in CX actually began during the pandemic.

When I experienced my own need for community at probably the most difficult time of my life, I'd lost my business, I'd lost my income, my housemate moved out, my relationship ended, and I just started reaching out to women that I'd met on social media through our connection of customer experience. I guess the rest is history because those conversations became a podcast; that podcast became the world's first online community for women in customer experience.

And yeah, we've just been growing ever since into what we are today, which is much more than community alone.

Sabine Groven 
Brilliant, and the rest is history. And we are going to talk about the future of Women in CX now, so it's good to have a bit of that background. So you have talked about the future vision of Women in CX and that expanding further than amplifying women's voices. So my question to you is, why now? Why have you decided to take it one step further?

Clare Muscutt
Yeah, so why now? It's a good question. And I think there's never been a more pressing time than now for us to take this next step from a couple of perspectives. Firstly, the landscape of customer experience and technology is evolving so rapidly that we're seeing a lot of bad experiences out there that are being driven by technology decisions rather than human-first decisions.

And I think there's one piece of the puzzle that technology can't fill, and that is maintaining the human touch, which is something that all consumers, employees, and agents are all continuing to ask for and seeing that erode when you look at things like the most recent surveys that are being done into satisfaction with things like digital channels. And I think also there's this social and political backdrop that's happening right now. 

So whether that be the under-representation of women in positions of power and authority to actually influence the future direction of things like experiences, whether that be the tiny proportion of sub 16% of women in AI or less than 20% of developers being female or still less than 25% of IT leadership being female. But of course, the number we all know of is less than 20% of women occupy board positions. Plus, I think we're at this really scary time politically with the anti-woke movement that's happening around us, threatening to dismantle a lot of the progress that's been made in diversity and inclusion. I suppose the second question from why now is why women? And for me, and everyone, I guess, you know, women have an innate ability to build deep, meaningful social relationships within organisations that we're naturally, not all of us, but more compassionate in the way that we lead. We have this longer-term strategic view about the value that can be created beyond the bottom line and the bottom line. So whether that's in the communities we serve or the people that we employ, just much more consideration of that longer-term purpose-driven impact that I think women have a really critical, more than an important pivotal role to play in helping to lead this movement for human-sensitive business that can genuinely change the future to be better for everybody.

Sabine Groven 
Yeah, nice. And evolving into this movement for human-centred business, how do you see this movement influencing the industry?

Clare Muscutt 
Yeah, so this one's probably a little more complicated because I guess it's another backdrop, isn't it? That 70% of business transformations are failing. Customer experience programs are failing at around the same rate that I'm reading articles saying we wish the CX circus would leave town in the media. Faith is at an all-time low because customer experience says it's being practised today is failing to deliver the results that businesses need and, therefore, the impact on people that we could have. Um, so I think in talking to our members, who are incredibly diverse and representative of all of the functions that contribute to customer experience. So we have women in marketing, in HR, uh, women in UX, in service design, in a business process.

We're not all the same shape that's been certified, if you know what I mean. We're all coming at customer experience from very different perspectives and angles and where the diversity in how industries operate massively impacts how we need to apply ourselves. So the word customer experience, I think, has become too constrictive for what we're trying to do because we are all women united by this desire and this drive to make business more human-centred. And because CX has become this kind of prescriptive framework that's being applied, and it no longer works, it's no longer fit for purpose; we believe that we've got a role to play in actually innovating using all of these key skills about human understanding, research, design, and innovation to elevate the industry in a different and new way. So yeah, I guess the voices of women already in our community are challenging the status quo. 

We're not leaning back like a lot of the articles I read that businesses need to listen to customer experience practitioners. Well, how long are you gonna keep saying that until the CX practitioners start talking in a different language that businesses do understand, such as the language of value creation? But these women in our community are already challenging that and looking at different and innovative ways to apply themselves using this skillset, but in a much broader context where value is created for people and that human-centeredness is still becoming the focus of what we're all talking about, not necessarily customer centricity, which is in my humble opinion, are rather outdated, joining together of two words that means meaningless. So, you know, recognising that a lot of organisations are never going not to be product-oriented or sales-oriented, but actually, market orientation over customer centricity is a much healthier space to be working towards rather than this absolute of customer centricity being the only way that something would work. So yes, we're evolving from being Women in CX to Women in CX, the movement for the human-centred. So we're not changing our logo or our brand; we're just now adding the line, the movement for the human-centred business underneath it, which is exciting.

Sabine Groven 
Yeah, and I wanted to pick up a bit about what you said about the term CX there as well because that's something that I noticed when I started working in this industry is that the people that are responsible for that function, they don't necessarily have customer experience in their title. It is so much more than that. So yeah, I suppose you are just kind of embracing and inviting in more people and opening up for more diversity and more voices, ultimately.

Clare Muscutt 
Yeah, I think that's the way that business is going. So it's less of a specialist, I-shaped leader that businesses are looking for. And definitely, um, these more T-shaped broader generalists who have a set of skills that are more design-oriented as opposed to the voice of customer and metrics-oriented. And again, the members of our community are really representative of that diversity.

Sabine Groven 
Mm. So, a lot is happening, and a lot has happened for you as well. So, since launching in 2021, the community has evolved a great deal. So, can you share some milestones with us?

Clare Muscutt 
Yeah, so I suppose, as I said in the intro, you know, starting as a podcast and becoming an online community with our platform was the first huge milestone. But then, the Women in CX community had their second conference in London, and it was a total success! Members from all over the world got together to build friendships and make connections in person. A community that's built around our online platform is now over 40,000 people. Audience for Women in CX, the members of our community. Hitting that has been absolutely incredible, bearing in mind we're not even three years old yet. Out of the online platform, we then started to speak to this external audience, as you know, a collective of women doing things like LinkedIn live events, articles, and blogs, more external media, which then attracted sponsors to want to come and use our media services, which is a huge diversification, I guess, of revenue streams as well. This year, we launched, softly launched WiCX Consulting House, and we've now got huge international big-name clients on our books, which is, so it's me leading as a principal consultant, but working with freelance women from our community to resource, WiCX's resourcing again was born, where we're helping businesses to recruit from within the community for permanent and contract positions. We also launched WiCX's speaker bureau, which is around event organisers who are looking to diversify their speaker lists, being able to come to us. And obviously, I know the women in our community so well.

Me being able to make recommendations. And yeah, this year, the organisers in Latin America, who I'd worked with before as an influencer myself, was like Clare, I love what you're doing with Women in CX. And this year, I want to have all the keynote speakers be women from your community. Can you help me? And we have members of Wix flying off to Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia to feature, yeah, as the headliners for these events. So yeah, I guess whilst our online membership community is the core of what we do. We've expanded and diversified significantly into services for individuals around membership but also business services now, leveraging this amazing network of women we've built and connecting women with all these fabulous opportunities and these businesses with fabulous women. 

Sabine Groven 
So you are really bridging that gap.

Clare Muscutt
Yeah, I'd like to think so. But it's all been like super organic, you know, didn't set out with a plan to do any of these things. We've just let, I suppose, the market and the demand lead the way. And clearly, there was a huge need for this community. Otherwise, we wouldn't have found product community fit so quickly, I guess, when there are a lot of communities popping up at left, right and centre. But you know.

To build such a fabulously highly engaged community is a rare thing. But I'm 100% sure it's down to having a clear purpose and value. So that's the reason why we're getting to be in this position where we're still here to expand.

Sabine Groven 
And you've done something great there because the community is sought after, and it's something that people really want to grow and nurture, and you've done it so quickly, and like you said, you have a very engaged community, so for those that are looking to do something similar maybe on a smaller scale but want to grow a community would you have any tips or advice on how to go about that?

Clare Muscutt
Yes, so I think the kinds of communities I see that are less successful are those that revolve around an individual rather than a community. So I've always been super careful that this doesn't become the Clare Muscutt community; it is the Women in the CX community because communities that are really built as something for individuals to market to will fail eventually, because they're not really communities. 

And I guess the other is communities that are built with the sole purpose of that audience being monetised for sponsorship. People think about building that kind of community as a large audience that someone would pay for, and then, who wants to join a community where you just get marketed to by vendors? That's not the kind of thing that people want. So Women in CX are the product was the output of customer experience design research with listeners of the podcast, whom we sought to understand their needs behind the community. We delivered a prototype MVP. We invited beta members to come and co-design it with us. We iterated various versions of our platform before we took it to the wider market. But I think because we were such an awesome group of women, we were able to go from ideas to innovation to launch within just eight weeks and have an MVP. So I think also experimentation involving a customer testing and learning and iterating and yeah, maybe just not trying to go to market with something. Perfectly formed, but being able to get something.

That's going to create value for people and then work with those people to figure out how more value could be derived from different features and benefits.

Practising what we preach basically, a customer experience. Ha ha ha.

Sabine Groven 
Exactly, yeah. And what you say there again about not bringing something to market that is fully formed. Let people engage with it and see how they use it. Yeah, let them influence it.

Clare Muscutt 
Mm-hmm. Absolutely co-design for the win.

Sabine Groven
Yeah, so you recently hosted your second Women in CX conference. 

Clare Muscutt
We did! And you came!

Sabine Groven
I did. It was a great day. So obviously, a global group of women came to London. And I wanted to ask you how an event like that contributes to your mission.

Clare Muscutt 
Yes, well, I think online communities are amazing because they can connect people from across the globe, but with the restriction of it being virtual. So our global gathering conference is the one time of the year when women arrive from literally all over the world to get to be in physical presence with one another.

I was thinking like whether the conference is even really the right word for what it was, or whether like it was more of an unconference or a summit because it felt so, they always feel so completely different. because you know, we're vendor-neutral, we have sponsors, but they're not the ones on stage talking to the audience, which is, you know, highly unusual. So, for the attendees, it's time to experience the community values, I guess, but in person, so that safe container in real life for our members, you know, the boost that they get from the energy of being in a room with so many women that have like become their friends, but they've not seen or talking so openly about the reality of the challenges that are going through. I've never seen anything like it in my life, like before our first conference in 2021.

It's just... I suppose for us as a team, we're only three people, being able to put on an event of that scale that gets the kind of feedback that says, this is like anything I've ever experienced before, is pretty incredible, but the reason we do it is for our members and members of the community to get together.

Sabine Groven
Yeah, it was really special. I found myself sharing some pretty personal stuff with people I've never met before, but it's about creating that space where people feel like they can, and you're met with someone open and non-judgmental and someone who gets it. So it was a really great day. A lot of fun as well. A lot of unexpected stuff, a nice surprise.

Where we were all drumming at one point. 

Clare Muscutt
Yeah, yeah, which workshops did you go to?

Sabine Groven
So I went to Sandra Thompson.

Clare Muscutt 
Oh, so you've got bean-boozled, you've got the jelly bean experience.

Sabine Groven 
Yes, I did; I took one jelly bean, and it tasted like toothpaste; I was like, I'm not having any more.

Clare Muscutt 
I just filmed a podcast actually with Sandra that's going out in December. So, if anyone wants to hear more about Bean Boozled, tune in to the Inspiring Women in CX podcast to find out more.

Sabine Groven
Yes, listen up. Sandra is amazing. Yeah, it was brilliant. I also did the human design workshop with Amelie.

Clare Muscutt
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Like you'd never see something like that on a normal CX agenda, would you? Yeah, yeah. But again, that's, you know, I suppose, a testament to what we're trying to do as an organisation. We will; we're more experimental. So we're open to trying new things.

Sabine Groven 
No, it was not what I expected, but it was very interesting.

Sabine Groven
Mm-hmm.

Clare Muscutt 
It's a bit like getting the jelly beans, isn't it? Which one are you going to get? Toothpaste or kiwi? And getting feedback because I think without innovation, without trying new things, without, as I said, you know, putting not quite fully formed perfect ideas out there into the world, you miss out on the opportunity to create something new and different, and everything just continues to stay the same, and you know our mission is to challenge the status quo.

I'm just really proud, I guess that we live up to the mission in all of our touchpoints.

Sabine Groven 
Yeah, and the connections that you make with people when you have been pushed a little bit out of your comfort zone together are quite special, so yeah, it's very nice. So I'll be coming again to the next one.

Clare Muscutt 
Yes, 100%. I can't wait.

Sabine Groven 
So, the Women in CX inner circle members play a large role in co-designing the community experience. So, how does that collaborative approach contribute to your success? And how can members engage in shaping the community?

Clare Muscutt
I think it's everything, isn't it? And again, one of the things that makes us different is the fact that we do that, and we do it genuinely. So, I suppose there are two sides to how members help to shape the community. One side that we touched on is the co-design of the community itself. So practising what we preach, we have our voice for the member's listening program.

It's not about us getting a net promoter score; it's about us checking in on the most important value factors for our members. So we're asking things like, do you feel welcome and included in this community? Do you feel that you've learned something new here? Is this community helping you reach your goals? Because that's the success factor for them. But you are also asking and inviting members in for feedback as part of our Veeam survey.

What do you love? What don't you like so much? What should we be doing differently? And then each time we rev the engine to try the next evolution of community, we get feedback on that, but not just in a quantitative way. We host focus group style research, so we get qualitative. Like last year was probably our biggest step change. We still haven't implemented all of the ideas yet. It's that big.

But, one of our freelance members, came and held focus groups and one-to-one interviews with members to understand more about the needs behind these things rather than just the feedback. We hold co-design workshop sessions, so whether that's showing our members a prototype, asking for their input into it or asking our members to be involved in things like joining committees for things like conferences or events or whether it be members deciding to run local chapter events. They're all part of the design and delivery of what we do and how we do it. But then the other side is the content contributor initiative that we have. So, you know, we always talk about diversity of opinion, diversity of background, diversity of experience, being a crucial part of helping people form their own opinions about, I don't know, where they should be going with their CX initiatives strategies or employee experience programs. So basically, we give the mic over to the women in our community to do master classes, case studies, to do like TED Talk-style that you saw at the conference to get their ideas out there.

And then it's our job as a community to unleash the power of women to do that, basically. So, as part of this movement for human-centred business, Women in CX, as an organisation, our role is to unleash the power of women to do that. So it's the women in our community that are contributing all these different perspectives and experiences to the group to enable us to do that. And yeah, like...

I suppose giving permission is not the right thing, but encouraging challenging the status quo. Because there are a lot of people who join that have been involved in more organised, like communities with a small C, where they've kind of been indoctrinated into this is one way to do things, and that's it. And you've got to learn how to do that and pass an exam on it. Who then come and find Women in CX, and they're like, whoa, like, it's just practical case studies, for example, of how women got over barriers and challenges are so much more valuable than just learning theories about things, which quite often is content that you see elsewhere. So yes, I'd say shaping what we're going to do and how we're going to do it and actually contributing to it; our members are involved in every aspect, really.

Sabine Groven 
Nice. So, Clare, before we wrap up, I have one final question for you. You've hinted at some exciting events and offerings in the future. We touched on this a little bit as well, but can you give us a sneak peek into what's coming next?

Clare Muscutt 
Yes. So we're going through, I guess, what you'd call a bit of a transition period now from who we are today to being Women in CX, the movement of human-centred business, becoming much more overt in our challenge against the status quo. So, for example, we're about to unveil a new-look podcast.

We're not just focusing on featuring the voices of women, but we're also bringing in allies to have conversations around CX. So, for example, I know a lot of men challenge why you need a community for Women in CX, and I'm having that conversation with a man in CX, and so it is becoming much more challenging there. So yes, this New Look podcast. We are aiming to become a source of thought leadership. So, as well as these more challenging pieces of content, a lot of what we've done has all been inward-facing. So, the community helping one another. So how do we amplify the voices of our members even more than we do today in publishing, for example, white papers authored by the community and working with our sponsors like Kantar?

You're going to be seeing those coming out in 2024. The big one for members is WiCX courses. We were moving into education because nobody needed another CX course. What we need is how to impact and influence organisation courses and how to build confidence and resilience courses. So, having seen that need, just like we saw that need for a community for women, we're going to be fulfilling that in 2024.

And yeah, some of the things that I'm going to have to keep under wraps for now. But certainly, a lot of change is coming. But I guess I suppose I'd summarise it as everything's going to be public on International Women's Day 2024. Everything will be announced on our third birthday, but you'll already start to see changes happening now in the content that we create. So very exciting.

Sabine Groven 
How exciting. Watch this space, then.

Clare Muscutt
You heard it here first. 

Sabine Groven 
Yeah, exactly. Well, Clare, thank you so much for joining me on the MYC'D UP with CX Leaders podcast. It was brilliant speaking with you.

Clare Muscutt 
Thanks so much for having me. It's always great to talk to you, Sabine.

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