I am a big advocate for customer experience. You may have noticed this if you follow me online – I find the topic endlessly interesting! We’re still shaping the industry so there’s a lot of exciting work to do in the space. I think young people would benefit from considering a role in customer experience and thinking about a career in it. The field of customer experience has grown tremendously in the last decade. When I first started writing about customer experience more than 12 years ago, it wasn’t even on most companies’ radars but something owned by customer service. While it’s a key part of many company’s strategies for 2020, back then it was something companies created by accident. Originally I fell into customer experience by being the online brand of an events company—which simply meant producing their online content. I had a podcast in 2009 (with my maiden name Blake Landau) and did blogging and video interviews. After this role customer service and customer experience kept coming back into my life whether I wanted it or not. I was recruited to work as a customer service executive, but that wasn’t even something I wanted to do. I did this to get in at a good company and took the job begrudgingly. Then I was asked to actually do customer service on our new Twitter channel, which I also did not want to do. Are you seeing a trend here of me not wanting to do customer service? However now I am so glad I had all of these service experiences because I learned from them and became experienced in a niche not everyone had. There is no way around getting your hands dirty—you’ve got to get experience and the best way to do that is to expose yourself to different opportunities even if they don’t seem appealing. No one goes to college and gets an undergraduate degree in customer experience, but if they offered it I would tell you to get that degree—every company is focusing on this area in some way (the ones that will be here tomorrow at least). I personally studied literature, art history, and was involved with the school newspaper. The only commonality with customer experience is critical thinking and writing. Universities don’t have a ton for undergraduates on this topic although I have been a guest lecturer at UCSD, Columbia and Rutgers who offer executive M.B.A. work in the area. But it would be great to see more opportunities for undergraduates or even high school students.
Since there isn’t a ton of information about this field and how to get into it, I put together a brief list of advice that I believe would help you. I recently received a note from a young person who works in customer experience in Japan and she asked me for advice. I wrote this article for her and for anyone out there who wants to do more in customer experience. From my years of experience, here are seven tips for young CX professionals looking to build their careers.
1. Get Cross-Departmental Experience
Customer experience doesn’t exist in its own box or silo. In fact, companies that have internal divisions often face the most roadblocks to creating a great customer experience. The best CX professionals know how to reach out to people in other departments. You might not have a degree in IT or finance, but you need to know how to speak their languages so you can work together to create a unified, customer-centric strategy.
2. Work In Customer Service
Before you can excel at creating customer experience, you have to get your hands dirty. Front-line employees have more interaction with customers than anyone else in the organization. Work in customer service or the contact center to see what it’s really like to interact with customers, answer their questions and calm their complaints. Many companies require their CX professionals and executives take turns in the contact center so they don’t lose focus on who matters most—the customers.
3. Understand The Needs Of The Business
A good CX professional needs to be well-versed in business operations. That means having a full picture of how the business runs and what it needs to succeed. Customer experience professionals should keep tabs on what’s happening in their industry and with their competitors and have an eye to the future to see upcoming changes that will impact the company.
4. Practice Public Speaking
Change agents need to develop a strong voice. By leading the charge for customer experience, you’ll often find yourself put in front of large and small groups of customers, shareholders and executives. Get comfortable with public speaking. Know how to craft a persuasive message that gets people to listen. It takes practice, but you should be able to speak articulately to any group in a way that gets them on your side to push for customer experience. Here is an entire article on how to become a keynote speaker where I detail my own experiences.
5. Learn To Network Across Environments
Customer experience is about building relationships and connections. To be successful, you must know how to network across various environments. You need to be as comfortable talking to someone in person as you are networking online. Build a strong network in your own organization and across other companies.
6. Understand Data And Analytics
Numbers are the basis of a strong customer experience, and CX professionals need to know how to tell stories with data and analytics. You’ll likely find yourself having to justify the need for investments in customer experience. Data is key to persuasion and in tracking the progress of your initiatives. Understand the wide variety of metrics, know how to track them effectively and understand the power of analytics to use the numbers to tell a story.
7. Become A People Person
When you’re leading the charge for customer centricity, it helps to be someone who other people enjoy being around. If you are a robot and only talk about work, you can’t expect to win friends and influence people. By being well-rounded and having hobbies outside of work you’re going to find more people want to be around you, which is a part of being like-able at work. This is not an easy thing to do, and to be frank even I struggled with this in the corporate world. I struggled with this so much I preferred to work for myself and I don’t ever see myself going back. But for all of my twenties I got experience working for other people. I encourage you to do something that you enjoy and stay well-read. You want to be an interesting person who can carry on a conversation and who people want to talk to.
A career in customer experience can be incredibly rewarding and come with great growth opportunities. Follow these seven tips to jumpstart your career and become a leader in the field.
This article was originally published on Forbes.com.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.