We’ve all been there. It’s your first day on a new job and you’re trying to figure out how things work. There’s lots to be done – relationships to be built, goals to be set and plans to be drafted. You’re learning how to work in a new environment, and trying to battle the exhaustion that comes with that while remembering everyone’s names and figuring out what your priorities should be.
Nearly every type of job contains a similar pathway through your first days and weeks, while you try to get to grips with the new reality of your working world. But Customer Experience (CX) specifically holds some challenges that many new leaders can take weeks or months to grasp.
Here are a few tips to try and demystify those challenges upfront, to make your initial transition easier:
Within a typical workplace, there are certain job roles that are well understood by others outside of that role. Most people know what salespeople or customer service representatives do. But it’s not usually the case that Customer Experience professionals experience the same level of understanding about what they do and what their job roles are for.
In your first days and weeks, you’ll likely introduce yourself to a lot of new people who are all interested to find out what your role is. But when sharing that you’re a CX professional, you might hear a few common things:
“I have no idea what CX is.”
“Uhh.. okay… so what do you actually do?”
“Oh, so that’s customer service, right?”
This lack of understanding can be a problem. How can you work with others to build new, customer-centric processes and ways of working if they don’t really understand what you’re trying to do?
So how should you go about remedying this? Aim to develop some stories and narratives that clearly explain not only what CX is, but also what it means to you, and what it can mean for your business.
As a CX professional, you likely already have a strong vision of what you want to achieve. You have probably come to the role from a place where you are deeply convinced of the benefits of customer centricity and it’s a part of the fabric of who you are. That drive is essential and a part of what will make you so convincing in your role, so draw on it! Don’t be afraid to share personal stories and show how passionate you are about CX.
Your own journey and ideas are fantastic tools to help others build an inspiring narrative about you and about the benefits of CX. But make sure that your approach demonstrates not a desire to change and control, but a wish to invite others in to share your passion and vision.
And the more you can align your own story of what you’re aiming towards with wider company vision and strategy, the better.
Imagine you’re the captain of a rowing team and you want to get your boat moving towards the finish line. If your team know where that is and how to row in synchronicity, you’ll be able to all row together, coasting smoothly over the finish line. But if your team all have different ideas of where the finish line is, how far away it is, or how best to get there, likely you’ll end up going nowhere.
The same can be said for company strategy. If every company update meeting talks about prioritising value for shareholders with no mention of customer value, you’re likely not going to have much luck implementing customer-centric processes on an operational level. Everyone else in your company will be focused on delivering shareholder value and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb calling for something different when to everyone else it seems like there’s no real reason to.
Customer-centricity can be embedded in many places in a company’s strategy. It can be seen in the goals your exec team sets for the business, your mission, vision and values, the way your exec team talks about your business, customer charters and more. Pay attention to what’s being said at the top level to understand how it influences those further down, and what might need to change – either in terms of strategy, or in terms of your own working approach.
While you being hired as a CX professional sends strong messages about your company’s strategic commitment to customer centricity, that’s not to say that you should expect everyone above you to share your vision. Be mindful of how you fit in with the status quo, influence up as best as you are able, and where there are clashes between strategy and what you stand for, try to find middle ground that will be acceptable to all.
As a CX professional you’ll likely be working with a lot of different teams and departments to try and change the way they approach their work, removing processes that result in bad customer outcomes and trying to implement more positive changes.
Understand that each of the teams and departments you work with will have their own micro-culture, their own way of doing things. The way they approach their work will depend on a lot of different factors, for example:
- Their day to day work activities and the standards, rules and processes that govern them
- Their values and what they feel truly matters
- Their history and personal “story” covering people hired, fired and promoted
- How much they feel accountable to each other, their manager, their department, or the business
- How much power they feel they have
- How comfortable they are with change
Each of these factors can result in conflicts and tension experienced within work in various different ways. For example, it’s common for smaller teams to feel hamstrung by initiatives that come down from “on high” which aren’t compatible with the rules and processes they have developed locally. Or, teams that historically have felt dis-empowered and like they haven’t been listened to might be very resistant to any change from outside, no matter how good for them it actually is.
These factors can act as powerful barriers to change. But if you can empathize enough to identify where there are tensions between the new world versus the old, and aim to broker solutions collaboratively, this gives you the ability to achieve change in a way that’s respectful of all parties, allowing you to develop truly trusting relationships.
Developing trusting relationships is at the root of effective CX work. It takes time to build those relationships through collaboration, empathy, and respectful negotiation, with a deep awareness of where the other party is coming from and what they’re trying to achieve.
There are no easy shortcuts to this.
Some articles about CX tend to talk about CX change as something that you just swoop in and force upon others. Those articles tend to discount the fact that many employees find change at work a difficult and personal experience, and they often assume that every CX professional has the power to implement any change they want. But even if you could dictate new processes or ways of working, don’t expect them to be bought into or for that change to be sustainable over the long-haul.
You’ve probably heard the idea that “most CX comes from great EX” (Employee Experience). At a basic level that means that employees should be having good experiences in their workplace in order for them to want to deliver good experiences for their customers. Good EX, leading to employees freely and happily delivering good CX, is rarely built through sweeping directives and shows of power that deny others the chance to be heard.
Instead, collaboration, negotiation and empathy are some of the most powerful skills you should look to develop to help you build influence and achieve the changes you’ll need to build better CX.
When interviewing for your new CX role, you likely built up a picture in your head of what your organization would be like if it was completely customer-centric. You imagined sky-high CSat, happy customers writing rave reviews, those reviews going viral on social media and hitting the news, cheering employees and your company valuation going through the roof as everyone around you asks: why weren’t we doing this earlier?!
Well, dial back your expectations a little. Educating others and changing minds, whether on a small or a larger scale, is hard. And even seasoned CX professionals tend to acknowledge that they haven’t achieved all of the goals they dream of achieving because their company just isn’t quite ready yet.
Instead, it can be helpful to build a long-term and multi-year CX plan that acknowledges that CX improvements need to be made in three stages: crawl, walk, run. Most CX improvements come about through a process of slowly changing up the status quo and doing a lot of work at each stage to acclimatize teams to their new reality. Each stage builds on the last and creates a plan that has room for new customer-centric approaches to truly flourish.
It’s normal to feel frustrated and stuck at work at times. We’re human, and every so often we will run into situations which make us throw our hands up in frustration and wonder why on earth we’re bothering to try when it all seems so hard.
But CX work can contain some pressures unique to CX professionals that require unique support.
You may find that you spend a lot of time and effort fighting what might sometimes feel like a broken, siloed and customer-careless business. That can feel alienating and difficult to accept.
In the same way, if you personally consider customer-centricity to be a core value you personally hold, seeing others not sharing that can leave you feeling different or alone.
That’s why I consider it essential for CX professionals to have a good support network of other CX pros who understand what CX work is like, and part of the reason why CX Accelerator is such an important resource for CX professionals. There are people out there like you, who understand the tensions in the environment you’re working within. Seeking to become part of a community can be a fantastic way to maintain enthusiasm, get new solutions to tricky problems, and create a network that will support you throughout your entire CX career.
CX work sure isn’t easy. But if you’re embarking along this path for the first time, don’t be put off. If CX work was easy, it wouldn’t be as worthwhile as it is. You have a rich, exciting and experience-laden path ahead of you! And all of us at CX Accelerator would love to hear your story and follow you on your journey.
Originally published on the CX Accelerator Blog.