The 10 super skills that CX managers must possess - and how to develop them
100 job ads for customer experience leaders have been analysed to identify the skills most commonly required for the role by recruiters.
What are the most important skills that today's customer experience managers require if they are to not only deliver success, but actually land a role as CX manager in the first place?
CX solution provider MetricsXM recently conducted some interesting analysis of job postings for customer experience managers to identify the skills most commonly cited as key requirements for the role.
For the purposes of the research, the company analysed over 100 job postings from global online recruitment website indeed.com that included the phrase “customer experience manager”.
The analysis showed that the following skills represented the key requirements for the role of CX manager - here represented by importance based on topic occurrence in documents:
- Communication. Excellent communication skills, organised and strong problem-solving skills.
- Relationships. Ability to build and maintain relationships with external stakeholders and internal cross-functional team members (services, sales, support, product development, QA, etc.).
- Project management. Must be an effective project manager able to handle multiple complex projects.
- CX strategies. Identify improvement opportunities and develop innovative CX strategies to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention and to meet their expectations.
- Data-driven. Ability to collect customer data from different sources (surveys, mapping customer journeys, Voice of the Customer, etc), to analyse it using analytics tools and to convert data into insights to identify opportunities.
- College degree in business. Bachelor’s degree in business or marketing preferred with professional experience between 2 and 10 years.
- Performance measurement (metrics). Ability to define key success metrics, set performance goals, and continually monitor key performance indicators for improvement.
- Fast-changing environment. Ablity to adapt in a fast-paced, changing growth environment and to work independently.
- Software knowledge. Experience using office applications and other software related to the position (e.g. Qualtrics, Medallia, SurveyMonkey, etc.).
- Support team. Train and support team members so they can provide services or products that meet or ideally exceed customer expectations.
Reaching into MyCustomer's rich archive of content, we've pulled together a list of content that can help customer experience managers learn more about these skills and develop them, linking to some of our most popular and valuable material.
Whether you're looking to carve out a career as a customer experience leader, or you're already well-established but would like to brush up on the essential skills, you'll find some invaluable advice on the following pages.
Excellent communication skills emerged as the quality most desired by companies seeking to recruit a customer experience manager. It is easy to understand why. As the leader of the organisation's customer experience programme you'll not only need to galvanise and engage your own team, but also inspire the entire organisation to commit to a culture of customer-centricity.
And for many CX managers, there is also the small matter of having to secure buy-in from sceptical executives who may be less than keen to ramp up investment in customer experience management.
While it's easy to assume that communication skills are something that you're just born with, many of the greatest communicators in the business world have worked long and hard to develop their talents - and you should too.
For that reason, MyCustomer recently published an article dedicated to the art of communication, sharing advice from a range of experts on how to become a better communicator, including models to help professionals develop their listening skills and self-confidence.
Customer experience programmes encompass the entire organisation at a cultural level, but CX managers will need to foster particularly strong relationships with key stakeholders in the customer-facing departments - customer service, sales and marketing - as well as the IT department.
This isn't always easy because it is common for organisations to be hamstrung by organisational and cultural silos. Breaking down the silos that prevent cross-department collaboration and the development of relationships is a key goal for CX managers, and so it is no surprise to see so many job advertisements prioritising relationship skills.
MyCustomer has published an entire series on improving collaboration between customer-facing teams, so that's a great starting point: Aligning sales, marketing, service & IT.
In addition to this, we have also recently written a piece sharing advice on how CX leaders can become better at all-round relation-building, and in particular building those all-important relationships within the organisation, including how to develop trust and become more emotionally intelligent.
Project management skills
CX author and speaker Maurice FitGerald has described programme management skills as "the single most important skill set needed for customer experience improvement".
"The easy way to learn the basics is to attend formal training such as that given by the Project Management Institute (PMI) or PRINCE2 training," he advises, but he also adds: "Learning the basics from a colleague who has already attended formal training is an acceptable minimum."
Read more from Maurice on the topic here.
On MyCustomer sister site TrainingZone, Prince2's David Baker has outlined five key project management skills that leaders should refine:
- Communication skills. "To be able to coordinate the project between disparate project groups, regularly update stakeholders and project sponsors, and ultimately, lead a unified team through to project success; a project manager needs to be an expert communicator, with the abilities to both listen and articulate," notes Baker.
- Leadership skills. "Whilst leadership effectively employs a number of qualities - including, the ability to communicate the project vision, resolve conflict, set goals and evaluate performance - one of the most important aspects is empathy, specifically the ability to listen to, involve and motivate a team."
- Strategic planning skills. "Developing and monitoring plans is critical to making sure that we hit the right targets at the right times, and maintain our budget and timelines, ensuring each project comes in within the deadline and inside of its original specifications."
- Time management skills. "Effective time management functions on the ability to prioritise and make tough critical thinking decisions."
- Being results-driven. "Maintaining the pace and success of the project is all about driving your team and yourself towards quantifiable results; continually reviewing and assessing the performance in each task and measuring the success of each objective, to improve upon the overall performance for future iterations."
Elsewhere, for those looking for tools to support their project management efforts, Lori Wagoner has kindly listed some of the best collaboration tools available for successful programme management, including Basecamp and Nutcache.
As MyCustomer revealed in its recent survey of customer experience leaders, building the organisation's CX strategy is the most common responsibility of a customer experience manager, with 91% of those we interviewed telling us that they had ownership of it.
Therefore, having the skills to develop an organisation-wide CX strategy are clearly crucial, a fact reflected by the frequency in which it appeared as a key requirement of the job advertisements.
To provide some valuable guidance, managing director of McorpCX, Michael Hinshaw, has outlined the main components of an actionable customer experience strategy.
And for those looking to refresh their strategy, rather than build a new one from the ground up, Peter Dorrington has provided a useful 90-day framework designed to renew customer experience strategies in only three months.
A data-driven approach
Collecting data, interpreting data, presenting data and driving action from that data are all core skills required of today's customer experience leaders, and MyCustomer has covered these areas extensively over the years.
According to MyCustomer's research, three-quarters of customer experience leaders will have ownership of their organisation's customer insight programme. One of the components most commonly associated with this are Voice of the Customer programmes.
Here are some valuable resources to help guide your VoC programmes and drive action off the back of them:
- How to build a Voice of the Customer strategy
- The nine steps to designing a Voice of the Customer programme
- How to buy the best VoC tool for your business
- 5 ways great companies take action on customer feedback
When MyCustomer surveyed its audience two years ago, it also found that the discipline of customer journey mapping was also being utilised by the majority of today's customer experience programmes. The Customer Journey Mapping Research Report found that two-thirds of organisations were using CJM to collect and depict customer insights - and were also reporting that it was delivering huge benefits to their organisations and customers.
With customer journey mapping therefore a key discipline for today's CX leaders, we've shared a wealth of resources on the topic, including the following best practice advice to help guide CJM efforts:
- How to create a customer journey map
- Nine sample customer journey maps – and what we can learn from them
- Customer journey mapping: How to drive daily action from your insights
Possessing a college degree
OK so we've not got any information on college degrees here, but we do have information about some valuable CX training courses that you can undertake to acquire some official customer experience qualifications.
Read Jeannie Walters' recent article to find out what makes a great online CX training course, and also learn her thoughts on the best free and cheap courses currently available.
Focused on measuring performance
Having the ability to define key success metrics and set performance goals, and then continually monitor KPIs, is crucial for customer experience managers. But it is made more difficult by the fact that there are so many metrics for them to consider.
To provide some steer, ContactBabel's Steve Morrell surveyed customer experience leaders to find out what methods and metrics are most commonly being measured. Read his piece: The top CX measurement techniques - as ranked by CX leaders.
Elsewhere, Jim Tincher has provided a very useful list of CX metrics that deliver valuable insight. Read his piece: 10 customer experience KPIs that provide better insight than NPS.
While there are a whole host of different metrics out there, the one that the top brass are increasingly most interested in are those that are accompanied by a dollar sign. Worryingly, in MyCustomer's survey of CX leaders, it was notable how few track financial metrics or ROI related to their CX programmes (36% and 31% respectively).
Part of the issue, however, is that proving a return on invesmtent of customer experience programmes can sometimes be a big ask. Indeed, our survey found that a quarter of respondents said that demonstrating ROI was the biggest obstacle to their CX programme's success.
For some useful advice on measuring and demonstrating customer experience programme ROI, read the following two articles:
- How to calculate the ROI of your customer experience programme
- How to design and deliver a metrics system to prove CX programme ROI
Given how quickly business circumstances can change, and also how quickly customer preferences and behaviour can shift, it is necessary to be adaptable.
For advice on developing your adaptability, MyCustomer sister site has some very valuable resources. But here are a couple of particularly useful ones to get you started:
- Leadership: Why adaptability is the must-have skill for leaders today
- Personal development: How to increase your adaptability
Possessing software knowledge
You can only become adept at particular software tools by getting hands-on and using the things. That said, if you get off on the wrong foot by adopting poor tools, you'll make the job that much harder for yourself - and when you decide to change tools, you'll have to start learning how to get to grips with another new solution.
Save yourself the bother by using our handy guides for choosing the right solution from the start:
- How to buy a Voice of the Customer solution
- How to buy CRM solutions
- How to buy customer experience anaytics tools
When Forrester asked business leaders what priority actions they’re taking to improve employee experience, the top response was increasing access to training and skill development.
Unfortunately, it also found that there was a particular skills gap around customer experience. In a blog post, Forrester's Erin Streeter noted: "Only 53% of customer-obsessed businesses educate new hires on customer values, motivations, and goals, and an insufficient 33% require soft skills education for customer-facing employees."
"Learning is a crucial part of effectively leveraging CX. It’s an investment that pays dividends for your employees, your business, and your customers," she added.
Ensure that you're well-equipped to deliver CX training programmes to foster a culture of customer-centricity and develop an understanding of the role that employees play in delivering excellent customer experiences by reading the following articles from the MyCustomer archive:
- How to ensure your customer experience training programme is a success
- What is a customer-driven training strategy?
- Contact centre training: How to craft a comprehensive learning programme
- 12 ways to hone the skills of your customer service team
- How to run successful customer service training
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.