How do you become a Customer Experience Professional? I cannot imagine that there are young children all over the world who wake up dreaming of becoming one!! I personally wanted to be a police officer when I was a little boy – my life did not quite work out like that! I think it is fascinating to understand how people end up doing something like CX…… and so I am absolutely delighted to share with you one professionals story in this post.
I have known Heather Grisedale for a number of years. She is as hard working, committed, passionate a Customer Experience Professional I have ever met. Last year, Heather became a CCXP – please enjoy reading her story of how she got there….
I was recently asked why I chose Customer Experience as a profession, and I have to say I had to really think about it…
All these questions and not one I could answer immediately…. Then it hit me….. I didn’t choose CX – it chose me!!
It all started back in 1996 when I took a job at the local (Grange-over –Sands) Tourist Information Centre. My boss Jean was an awesome lady – I was a bit scared of her to start with if I’m honest (probably because she always seemed to know what to do or say in any situation we had with any customers and nothing seemed to faze her!) but she was awesome because she inspired me, when I look back I see that she instilled some very core values, beliefs and principles in a very green “just-left-6th-Form” employee in the 4 years I worked for and with her.
Her standards on service delivery were very high and all about making things easier for customers, but it wasn’t “branded” in any way, I didn’t know this as “CX” at the time, to me it was just setting high standards and making sure we looked after our customers – we wanted them to come to Grange over Sands, use us and our services and make purchases from us, have a fantastic holiday and then come back next year (For those that don’t know Grange over Sands, it’s a pretty little Edwardian village at the very south of Cumbria in the UK – www.grange-over-sands.com – where people generally holiday to year after year, then retire to!) We wanted Customer Loyalty – Raving Fans (we just didn’t call it that!)
Fast-forward a couple of years and I’d moved up to working at the Windermere Tourist Information Centre, one of the busiest in the country at that time.
I loved the job, I loved not knowing what the next customer was going to ask:
“How far to the Lake District?” (You’re in it!)
“How do I get to Am-bless-i-dee?” (Ambleside to you and me!)
“Why did the bus leave without me?” (no idea – the bus driver isn’t a mind-reader & neither am I!)
…and countless other weird and wonderful questions!
Clearly those WEREN’T the answers I gave, but the job was extremely interesting and I learnt so much about people, dealing with problems, managing workloads and customer expectations (Saturday afternoons were usually so busy and making sure the customers at 7pm received the same high standard of service that the customer at 9am received was hard sometimes!) and just reinforcing all the values and beliefs Jean had instilled in me several years earlier.
I challenged new summer recruits to deliver to similar high standards I’d been taught and in some cases they’d fall short – not everyone was as passionate about the role and delivering the service to the customers. This was quite hard to understand in my early 20’s – still all green and blinkered when I look back now – but this was my first real encounter of engagement and inspiring teams to do what’s right (not that I knew that back then!)
CX was slowing stalking me…catching me up…grasping me in its clutches….
A couple of years later and I took a contract role working for the Cumbria Tourist Board (as it was then) where I was helping to roll out and train the County’s accommodation providers in the new Destination Management System – something else that would help make things ultimately easier for the customers… they’d be able to search online for accommodation availability and even and book online!! (It wasn’t common practice those days!) It was also going to make it a lot easier for the accommodation owners too, but I had a lot of persuading, supporting and coaching to do with many of the accommodation providers (stakeholder management & influencing as we now know it!)
At this point I’d still not come across the phrase “Customer Experience” – it [customer service] wasn’t something we talked about, it was just something that we did without knowing about it – being sent on Customer Service Training Courses was the norm, so I was seen as a Customer Service enthusiast at that point!
The biggest change to my career path (still not ‘chosen’ at this point!) was when I moved into the world of manufacturing in 2006, working for James Walker – they were looking for a Customer Service Facilitator. They wanted someone to help roll out some training on online systems, but also to work with the results of their first customer survey and help drive change. In that first couple of months, the biggest difference I found between the tourism industry and the manufacturing industry was the pace! Everything felt so slow, no urgency and (and this was my personal opinion at the time!) little or no passion or care for the customer – it felt like there was no desire to make things easier for customers.
Obviously I stayed, I liked the company and the role was interesting and varied and I got to move into working for the James Walker Group (so working with all of our businesses instead of just the one!). It was in this role I first came across “Customer Experience”. Over the last four or five years CX has taken over my life!
I think the final “acceptance” that actually my career was as a CX Professional was when I took my CCXP exam (Certified Customer Experience Professional exam for those who are wondering what I’m talking about!) back in August 2015 and passed – Wow, do I really know about this stuff?!! Apparently I do, and apparently I’m in the CX profession…well who knew? That one crept up on me!! That cheeky little CX monster stalking me through my working career to finally capture me! Although, if I’m honest, the last thing I feel is ‘captured’ – passing my CCXP exam was actually very invigorating, it finally felt like I’d got some purpose and direction in what my work (profession) actually is, that what I’ve done for the past 20 years finally has a name!
If anyone asks me in the future why I chose CX as a career, we all know what the answer is going to be….
I didn’t choose it, it chose me….! Happy CX monster-hunting everyone!
A rally co-driver in my spare time, my weekends are spent in the forests keeping the driver on the right track! I’m of a farming background & have my own Highland Pony mare who has as much character as me (she can be sooo stubborn sometimes!) and I live with my partner of 3 years, Mark, in a village in West Cumbria. If I’m not out rallying, I’m either drinking red wine & eating nice food, or I’m walking the fells of the Lake District!
Twitter: @heather_jw (only tweeting about Service Excellence and work stuff) or @RallyChick79 (personal twitter – rallying amongst other things!)