During my career as a Customer Experience Professional, my opinions, points of views and suggestions have been rebuffed on many an occasion. I have been accused of being lots of things over those years – from being ‘emotionally immature’, to ‘ignorant’, to perhaps the most humiliating of all – ‘insignificant’!
At the time, the branding of me and my profession in this way was very hard to take. I found myself constantly questioning whether or not they were actually right. My mind continuously challenged my ability.
The early years of any career are testing for a whole variety of reasons. Those who have been working for longer than you, will often deem themselves to be ‘superior’ – irrelevant of knowledge and capability. Experience IS vitally important. Until or unless you have ‘been there and done it’, you will be unable to truly understand and empathise with certain situations and the people involved.
When we take on a new role in an organisation, there are occasions when we just expect others to listen to us as a result of the job title that has been bestowed upon us. ‘I am responsible for Customer Experience’ – ‘You have to listen to me!’. I have heard these two sentences uttered by someone in a Customer Experience role (note I do not describe them as a Customer Experience Professional) – they wondered why no-one wanted to listen to them.
It does not matter who you are; where you have come from; how prominent your education was; what your job title is; how much you are paid – EVERYONE must understand the need to EARN authority within their business. From the CEO down, EARNING authority is the difference between trying to do your job and continually bashing in to brick walls; and trying to do your job with the support and enthusiasm of others.
I have been involved in the fields of business improvement and Customer Experience for over twenty years. In the early days of my career, I was responsible for teaching Lean Six Sigma methodology to a US owned reinsurance business. With a corporate wide mandate to train as many people as possible all over the world, I was faced with transferring knowledge to actuaries, underwriters and marketers’ in the UK, Germany and Asia/Pacific. When I was recruited into the role, the hiring manager wanted someone with ‘more experience’. I was the only person who wanted the job!! From the minute I started, it was vitally important to develop and EARN the authority for highly skilled and educated people to listen to me.
I will never forget sitting in my hotel room in Munich on the morning of my first class. I am not embarrassed to say that I cried. I was petrified. Yet as soon as I started speaking – as soon as I confirmed in my own mind that I had nothing to be afraid of – I relaxed. The bottom line is that I knew what I was talking about; I knew my subject; I knew my material. What I needed to do was to ensure that the people in front of me believed me and bought in to what I was telling them.
My two years in that role had a profound effect on who I am today. I will always say that if you can convince an actuary of the benefits of a methodology like Six Sigma, you can convince anyone of anything! I EARNED authority during that two-year period – to the point where those who attended my training were telling others of the benefit. I do not want to sound naïve, but prior to this period of my career, I had not really understood just how important that is.
Since that time, EARNING authority has become a core element of my personal strategy in any situation. During my time as Head of Group Customer Experience for an online retailer, the only way I was going to get any traction at all, was through the building and EARNING of authority. This was an environment where very few actually understood WHAT Customer Experience was or WHY it (and indeed I) was necessary. This scenario is remarkably common for anyone starting a job for the first time. It is almost certain to be the case for someone in a Customer Experience role. Building a tactical ‘personal’ plan to EARN authority is extremely important – for a Customer Experience Professional, it is vital.
There are many things that you can do; need to do to EARN authority. Perhaps the most important thing is to bring to life what you are trying to achieve by actually doing it – and demonstrating the benefit to the organisation and its people. Spending too long ‘spouting’ theory is not going to get you anywhere. There are two other things that always sit in my personal plan and that I encourage others to do as well:
- EARN authority by getting the credibility of a professional qualification
When you work with a subject that is still relatively new, there will be many who just do not understand it enough to ‘give it the time of day’! These people sometimes view what they perceive to be new ‘theory’ as just that – theory. Most Customer Experience Professionals will have been accused at some point of dealing with the ‘soft and fluffy’ – this could not be further from the truth.
With the evolution of the Customer Experience Profession and the creation of a global professional qualification in Customer Experience, the ability of those dealing with the ‘soft and fluffy’ to turn their subject into the ‘hard and factual’ has become a reality. The CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) accreditation is having a huge effect on the ability of Customer Experience Professionals to EARN authority – and anyone with those letters after their name has absolutely EARNED it!! This is not an easy qualification to get – these people have genuinely ‘been there and done it’. With this accreditation, it is much easier to get others to listen and learn than without it.
- EARN authority by getting external recognition
In 2010, I was overjoyed to see my team win my organisations first ever UK Customer Experience Award. It had taken five years of blood, sweat and tears to EARN a huge dollop of authority by getting recognition for what we were doing – from outside the company. That award completely changed the way many leaders inside the company thought about the things we were doing with Customer Experience. Getting this recognition was a big milestone in our progress.
Since that time, I have been an avid supporter of the UK Customer Experience Awards. I have spent the last five years judging others. I have seen some quite amazing people do some quite amazing things – all with the effect of EARNING authority for themselves and within their organisations.
This Friday, I am excited to be judging another crop of talented, committed and passionate Customer Experience Professionals at the 2016 UK Customer Experience Awards. This year, the awards will be the biggest ever. It is so humbling to be a part of it and so inspiring to see how the profession that Customer Experience has become continues to get ever stronger.
It has taken me a long time to EARN the authority to talk with confidence about Customer Experience. I will never take for granted just how hard it is to do. Yet it is also critical for me and others to understand that EARNING authority is actually never-ending. I, like anyone else, must continuously develop and evolve my specialism to KEEP EARNING the authority that I have taken so long to build. This is why EARNING authority as a Customer Experience Professional will always be so important!
I am writing this blog post in honour of all those who have worked so hard in their organisations to EARN authority in Customer Experience by becoming finalists at the 2016 UK Customer Experience Awards. Whatever happens on Friday, you and your teams can rightly be hugely proud of what you have done and the authority you have EARNED. I look forward to celebrating with you all.