When I started out on my Customer Experience career many years ago, I had no idea that Customer Experience would ever be recognised as a profession. As I started to influence the organisation I was working for, I also did not realise that to be the best Customer Experience Professional I could be, I was going to need certain types of authority. In other words, I was going to need certain types of influence to enable my organisation to become better at delivering consistently good experiences to customers.

I once went to an event in Berlin where I had the pleasure of listening to a keynote presentation from Curtis Bingham. Curtis is Founder and Executive Director at the Chief Customer Officer Council. You can find out more about the CCO here. I found Curtis’s talk fascinating – indeed one of the things he presented that day has stuck with me ever since. I would like to share it with you now.

Curtis talked about the types of authority necessary for a Chief Customer Officer or Customer Experience Professional. He described three types of authority – POSITIONAL, BORROWED and EARNED. As he talked through each one, it made such sense to me and resonated with my own experiences. You can see the authority types displayed in Curtis’s diagram below:

Source: Curtis Bingham, Chief Customer Officer Council

Source: Curtis Bingham, Chief Customer Officer Council

The model starts with Positional Authority – the position that a Customer Experience Professional (CXP) holds within his or her organisation. Most CXPs do not benefit from sitting on the board of directors – it is therefore very difficult to influence from the position you hold in the organisation alone. In my first CXP role, I was four levels below the board – who was going to listen to me?

If you cannot benefit from positional authority, you then need to look to the next type –  Borrowed Authority. Who can you borrow the authority from who does hold the position – i.e. which board member can you borrow the authority from to influence your organisation at all levels. In some cases it may be the CEO. In others cases another senior officer in the business – ultimately it does not matter who it is – as long as they can give Customer Experience the platform and voice it needs at a senior level.

The problem with ‘borrowing’ authority is that you cannot do so for ever. Over time, the impact of borrowed authority wanes. This leads to the third type – the most important of all in the context of the Customer Experience Profession – this type of authority is Earned Authority. As a CXP, there is nothing more important than your ability to earn authority as a CXP over time. Ultimately, your earned authority will exceed either positional or borrowed authority as time goes on.

Earning authority is the primary reason for me writing this post. Knowing how to earn authority as a CXP is a vital component of being one. I personally have earned and continue to earn authority as a CXP. My earning of authority will never end. So what do I do to earn it. Here is my personal 3 point checklist:

  1. Walk the talk – there is no better way of earning authority than demonstrating the core competencies that make a CXP. From developing methods and activities to drive a customer focused culture; to deploying and utilising customer feedback mechanisms; to enabling your organisation to become accountable for the Customer Experience; to developing an approach to continuous improvement of the Customer Experience; to implementing robust customer focused measurement systems. These are the competencies that make a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) – which leads me nicely to number 2:
  2. Become a Certified Customer Experience Professional – attaining an independent global accreditation for your skillset is the most powerful way to earn authority in you field. As CXPs, we are now fortunate to be in a position to do just this. I m proud to have already become a CCXP – if you are a Customer Experience Professional, why wouldn’t you want to do the same?
  3. Learn from others – I will always describe the coming together of CXPs as akin to a counselling session. Learning from each other is a core characteristic of the Customer Experience Profession. Every organisation is different. The way we approach CX is different – yet many of the challenges are similar. Listening and learning from others is an invaluable way of validating your own approach. As a result, I will always make it a priority each year to attend as many CX related events as possible – events where I am pretty certain I will be able to get value in my learning from others.

These three points have stood me in extremely good stead for my career to date. There are of course other things I have done to gain authority as a CXP, but it is these three that are central to my continuing development.  One of the most valuable learning platforms for me in my career as a CXP has been as a member of the CXPA (Customer Experience Professionals Association). The not for profit global association is committed to developing the Customer Experience Profession. I have learned so much from my fellow members, that it has become as much a part of my working life as my day job.

On the 10th February 2015, The CXPA is holding its first Members Insight Exchange (MIE) in the UK. Intended to act as a knowledge sharing event between CXPs, the thought of the best minds in Customer Experience across Europe coming together to share ideas and experiences is so exciting. With keynote sessions from customer focused business leaders (including McDonalds and the ex CEO of First Direct), it is an event that I believe all CXPs should make a priority to attend. Additionally, Bruce Temkin, co-founder of the CXPA will be in attendance to share his thoughts and update attendees on CCXP progress one year after launch.

You can find out more about the CXPA UK Members Insight Exchange here. You can register for the event here. It would be amazing to see you there so we can continue to learn together!

If you have two minutes, please take the time to complete my 2 question survey to find out your personal #1 brand for delivering consistently good customer experiences. I also want to know what makes the brand your #1! The research will be used for an upcoming blog post – many thanks for your time!

You can complete the survey by clicking here