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I'm asked about this on a regular - quite frankly, almost weekly - basis. That's exciting because I love when people see this as a great career progression or a field to they want to get into. The more people we can have on the customer's team, the better.
After responding so frequently to this question (or questions - one version is how to get started, one is how to advance) lately, plus hosting a CX Expert Office Hours session at the 2017 CXPA Insight Exchange on this very topic last month, I thought it was time to document some of the advice I give on this. So, in no particular order, here on my thoughts.
1. Build your personal brand
Whether you're just entering this field or looking to advance your career, having a personal brand that speaks to your passion and expertise in customer experience will take you far. There are a lot of different ways you can build your personal brand. I was almost 20 years into my career in this space before I started writing my own blog, but I had written for my employers' blogs prior to that, and I had been interviewed for articles, podcasts, etc. and spoken at industry events. (Note: Not all employers are thrilled about you building your personal brand, even though it aligns quite nicely with your role and area of expertise.)
There are a lot of different ways to build your personal brand, including: creating your own blog and writing articles on a consistent basis, getting those posts syndicated across a variety of other sites and media, guest posting for like-minded sites/bloggers, doing interviews/being interviewed, publishing case studies of your work, conducting webinars, speaking at industry events, answering questions on industry forums, participating in Twitter chats or Google Hangouts about customer experience, and more. Market yourself. Put yourself out there. Get your voice and your expertise heard.
If you're relatively new to this field - let's say you've been on the frontlines for the last couple of years - and want to branch out to consult, my advice to you is this: consultants in this field are a dime a dozen; find your niche, build your brand, and help others understand how you're different and why they should hire you.
2. Get/have client-side experience
Being on the vendor side and getting consulting experience in this field is awesome. It provides a breadth and depth of knowledge that you can get in no other way. But having client-side experience, being a practitioner and having done the work, is an even better calling card. It's great to not only have CX experience on the client side but to also have had some cross-functional experience and to have experience across multiple companies and industries.
3. Educate yourself
I cannot say this enough: read, read, read. Books like the Ultimate Question series, Outside In, and Jeanne Bliss' books about the Chief Customer Officer role are great resources. Attend webinars. Sign up for blog newsletters. There is no shortage of CX resources out there!
And don't go to just one source. Don't settle for just one perspective; keep an open mind and decide for yourself. It's OK to read and to understand opposing views. I was once lambasted on Twitter because I shared a view that opposed the mainstream position on NPS. Sometimes I share these kinds of articles because it's OK for people to consider other views and perspectives. NPS is not for everyone; we know that. So do your homework and go into this with an open - and educated - mind.
Read about, or attend, Disney U. Take the Zappos tour. Study companies with great customer experiences (like Amazon, Apple, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton, Warby Parker, etc.) and identify and understand what they do to stand out.
Participate in the CXPA Mentor Match Program. I'm a mentor, and I must say that I love teaching, but I also love learning from my mentees. It's a two-way street, for sure.
Take a course with one of CXPA's Authorized Resource & Training Providers. They are a network of independently-provided resources designed to help candidates prepare for the CCXP exam. They provide training and educational resources on the six core competencies of customer experience.
4. Network, network, network
There are no more-helpful peeps in this world than fellow CX professionals. We are all facing the same challenges and are happy to share with one another our experiences and provide resources and guidance about our favorite topic. Reach out to your network; share and learn from each other. Find a mentor who can guide you on your journey (know that that may come at a cost).
5. Promote yourself - literally
No CX role in your company? Build the business case for customer experience. Take ownership. Show some quick wins and identify a framework for a sustainable CX strategy. Sell it up the chain. Get executive commitment. Get yourself a promotion - or a second day job!
6. Check your skills
As a CX professional, you must have a wide range of skills. You will be a coach, a trainer, a teacher, a communicator, a salesperson, and an advocate. You have to be well-versed in change management. You must have the patience of a saint, be an influencer, and be persistent, politically savvy, flexible, adaptable, and tenacious. You've got to have a strong will. And you must have thick skin and be able to handle rejection, yet at the same time know how to stay the course and come back even stronger. If you fall short on any of these, get some help shoring up your weaknesses.
These are just some of the things to consider; I know there are others. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.
Identify which part of CX inspires or excites you. Which of the six core competencies of customer experience do you want to master? Then go master them using the steps above.
Experience is one thing you can't get for nothing. -Oscar Wilde