The new age CX Leadership – role expectation and skills needed for effectiveness.

Having been in the ‘ring’ and thick of action with several large consumer-facing organizations and then consulting with clients over the last few years for enhancing their Customer Experience (CX) capabilities, it has struck me that CX leadership’s role expectations, skill inventory needed, and measure of role effectiveness need much clarity within organizations. Only then can the gap that is hindering the potential of CX power to elevate the brand’s stature be fully unleashed.

The Customer Service (CS) leader of an organization is expected to lead the charge of ‘Customer Experience’ – CX evolution for the company – so it is critical to understand what new skill sets are needed for effective delivery of the role. Customer Service (CS) traditionally was a functional vertical within an organization. Their core responsibility was for addressing post-sales support needs of a customer. The Customer Service Leader needed to lead a team to deliver all the processes defined for post-sales support – be it handling queries from existing customers or their request for any accessories, upgrades, additional services, and complaint handling. Typically seen as a ‘cost center’ within an organization, the Customer Service Leader had to find means and methods to reduce the cost of per unit transaction while maintaining efficiency that met customer needs of post-sales support. Minimalism was the core skill needed – to deliver maximum with minimum resources/costs. Any investments required in the Service function competed with investment needs of other functions that were top line contributors and thus CS was often passed over. So making do with less to meet essential needs of functional delivery was an overriding competency. Since the performance of the touchpoint teams (frontline staff) was their direct responsibility, selecting the right profile and then further developing their competency on soft skills/process knowledge/supervisory skills was important.

A few organizations added some top-line responsibility to CS function for upselling/cross-selling whenever touchpoint interactions happened to increase the share of the wallet from the customer. If this responsibility was added, CS leaders’ business acumen and selling skill development for the team came to be added competencies needed.

Moving from a post-sales ‘reactive’ function to becoming a business-impacting strategic contributor to the brand and top-line impacting role – Customer Experience (CX) leaders are expected to play a much larger and a different role within the organizational structure. This calls for competencies/skills that are significantly different. A CS leader will falter if he does not take cognizance and develops accordingly. Organizations will also have to understand this and provide a capability enhancement intervention for the individual to unlock the full potential of CX for their organization.

CX programs are ‘organization-wide’ change management programs – since they touch upon all processes and systems that impact a customer lifecycle. So different vertical specializations within the company have to be aligned to respond to the needs of different customer segments. This calls for a high degree of analytical, communication, negotiation, and influencing skills in the CX role holder. Usually, change management programs run into obstacles/resistance from many skeptics and often cynics in different functions. Tact and skill of navigating such roadblocks while pursuing the larger ‘vision’ needs positive political management skills and a mature temperament of leadership. The CX Leader has to be constantly learning new developments happening in the CX domain and how relevant practices/tools/technologies can be brought into the organization after a thorough ‘business case’ assessment.

Appreciation of this vast difference between a CS and a CX Leader competencies and skills lies at the heart of failure/underperformance of CX capability building of an organization. It is time that organizational leadership, HR Heads, and CS Leaders take note of this and address it appropriately.

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