A few days ago I published an interview I recently conducted with a company called ReachForce. The very first question they asked me was “How did you become so passionate about customer experience management?”. It is a question that I do not recall ever being asked before. My response was as follows:
In reality, I think I must have been born with a passion for CX! Apart from it being in my genes…. my very makeup, my evolution into the CX Specialist that I am now started at the end of the 90s. I was working as a process improvement specialist for General Electric – I was bowled over by the power of Jack Welch and his ideas. Using tools and methodologies to improve the ability of a business to meet and exceed customer expectation just made so much sense to me. I took a role as a Six Sigma Black Belt…. the rest is history!
If you are interested in reading the full interview, you can do so here. Answering the question made me think a little more deeply about the career that I have been immersed in for quite some time now. I always used to believe that one of the primary roles of a human is to get a job. Having secured a job, it is then necessary to keep trying to get a better one that continually rewards you with more money. For the first few years or so of my working life, this is exactly what I did.
It was only when I had my personal ‘epiphany’ – when I came across something I truly believed in, that my working life…. my career…. began to take on a whole different direction and meaning. Fast forward to the current day and I no longer believe I have a job – the dictionary definition of which is:
I feel that this is a far better description of what I now ‘do’:
a special urge, inclination, or predisposition to a particular calling or career
This is a dictionary definition of the word ‘vocation’. Often used in a religious context, there is a risk that calling what I ‘do’ a vocation could be seen as a little ‘evangelical’. I am prepared to take that risk. I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate – I have found the thing outside of my family life that I do genuinely; passionately; wholeheartedly believe in. That is why in my opinion, Customer Experience is not a job… it’s a vocation!
There is no better way to bring to life what I am describing than the experience I had the pleasure of enjoying last week. Thursday 31st March 2016 was the day that saw the first ever European Members Insight Exchange of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). For the last four years, as I have continually evolved and developed my ‘vocation’ as an independent Customer Experience Specialist, the CXPA has literally become my extended family. It is quite an odd existence when you leave full time employment – not having any work colleagues is very strange and often quite isolating. The CXPA has filled that void and more – it is my learning and support network.
There is no greater pleasure for a professional of any subject than being given the honour of addressing your peers. Along with my friend and fellow Customer Experience Specialist, Neil Sharp, I was bestowed that tremendous honour last week. When I stood on the stage at the wonderful Landmark Hotel in London and saw so many passionate; committed; friendly faces – I have never felt so proud (in a professional sense).
I joined the CXPA as a founding member in 2011 – it was a ‘no-brainer’ as far as I was concerned. To see how far the association has come is incredible. To have been a part of it is humbling. In 2016, the CXPA and it’s members have, without question, had the effect of changing the way the commercial world does business. Yes – there is still an unfathomable way to go – but there is no denying that CXPA members all over the world have changed the mindset of thousands of business people.
A reflection of how far Customer Experience has come was perfectly summised by one of only two full time employees the CXPA has – the wonderful Lesley Lykins – Lesley shared some numbers that highlight the progress of the association in the last four years:
70 countries!! All this with just two full time employees and the goodwill of Customer Experience Professionals – members of the association – on 5 continents. It is really quite remarkable. Just last week, the room was represented by members from the UK, Greece, Italy, Czech Republic; Ireland; France; and Finland (I hope I have not missed anyone) – the Irish and French communities even held ‘local networking meetings’ at the event itself during the day.
These people do what they do because they are like me (I hope I am not too bold in saying so!!) – they do what they do because they believe in what they do. They do what they do because they are as passionate about Customer Experience as I am. They do what they do – not because it is a job – but because to them…. to us… Customer Experience is a vocation!
When I am interacting with Customer Experience Professionals, I will always say that the organisations we work in and with are ‘lucky’ to have us – I mean that sincerely. Great Customer Experience Professionals do what they do because they want to do the right thing – for the customer; for colleagues; and for shareholders. Great Customer Experience Professionals know that their reward comes as a result of doing the right thing – not putting ourselves first – but putting the needs of customers and employees at the forefront of everyone’s thinking.
This is not evangelising – it is the truth. If you do not believe me – you need to attend the next CXPA Members Insight Exchange – or a local networking group. You will find the members passion infectious. I could not be more proud to be a Customer Experience Professional – I look forward to many more years of seeing the profession and all those involved with it go from strength to strength!