You know how to rock customer service. You get along great with your teammates, and your customers ask for you by name. But how do CX (customer experience) professionals take it to the next level? What does it take and how do you make it happen? Here are five tips from the pros.
1. Leverage the skills you already have—and be your best self
No matter how you got into CX, you’ve already come to the job with a range of skills and experience—and you can use those personal qualities in the CX world.
For those who had a career before coming to customer service, Aimee Lucas, an analyst at the Qualtrics XM Institute, suggests you remember where you came from and use it to your advantage in the CX environment. “Many customer experience professionals found their way into their roles through varied professional paths like marketing, customer service, market research, [or] management consulting,” she wrote in 2019. “They have built their knowledge through a combination of formal training, self-directed exploration, peer-to-peer learning, and knowledge transfer from working with consultants and service providers.”
Whatever you’ve done in your past—even if it was just a part-time job while in college—think about what skills you learned then and apply them now. Management consultants are good problem-solvers, salespeople can quickly build affinity with customers, market researchers are analytical, warehouse stockers are logistical masterminds. All these skills can translate into providing great customer service. The key is to build on what you’ve already got and be your authentic self.
2. Hone your communication skills and empathy
The most important traits and skills for a great CX employee are communication, openness, and dedication, says Nandkishor Tripathi, global head of customer experience at SurveySensum.
“When it comes to dealing with humans, no one is perfect. But a few of the common skills and traits that make a great CX professional are empathy, the ability to be a sharp communicator and storyteller, being a good listener, having a positive attitude, being trustworthy, humble, and creative, showing commitment and ownership, and being an innovative strategist,” Tripathi tells RingCentral.
Esther Meyer, marketing manager with GroomsShop, agrees that communication skills feature at the top of any CX skills list. “The key skills that make a good CX employee include being able to practice empathy, listen actively, and actually provide solutions,” she tells us. “By possessing these skills, CX professionals will be able to provide unparalleled service.”
Most importantly, CX employees need to show empathy and be able to connect with total strangers to understand their issues quickly. “Having empathy to understand the expectations and needs of the customer or employee is key,” says SurveySensum’s Tripathi.
To build your communication and empathy skills, experts recommend practicing active listening—really listening to what’s being said. When you respond, speak to the customer’s needs. Active listening helps build trust and establish rapport with customers by demonstrating concern. Agents should consider summarizing the customers key points to show understanding, as well as using brief verbal affirmations like “I see” or “I understand.”
Building empathy requires seeing the world as others see it. It’s important to understand others’ feelings and communicate that understanding. Experts say you can help build your own empathy by getting out of your usual environment, walk in others’ shoes, examine your biases, cultivate your sense of curiosity, and ask better questions.
3. Be a star collaborator
In a world where few customer service problems can be solved by just one individual, the ability to collaborate effectively is a major skill for CX pros.
From YouTube to community forums and Google searches, customers already have many tools to find their own answers. So, when they finally reach out to a CX pro, it’s likely for something complex or tricky that they can’t solve themselves—and probably neither can you without collaborating with other team members. Being a good collaborator and focusing on customer needs are critical, says GroomShop’s Meyers.
“To be a competent CX employee, you need to get your motives right. If you want to be good at what you do, your motive should be toward the good of the employees or the customers, and not for your own achievement,” she says.
Collaboration with other employees is important for creating a top experience for customers. “We try to set boundaries upon ourselves, depending on what we do best. We do not try to do all things at once all by ourselves, but we accept the fact that another person’s weakness is another person’s strength,” Meyer adds.
Knowledge-sharing is one of the key aspects of good collaboration, says SurveySensum’s Tripathi. “Sharing customer stories and successes in turning a dissatisfied customer into a delighted customer is real knowledge that helps other employees to learn and get inspired,” he says. “Reducing churn rate in customers and employees is one of the most important KPIs to measure success—and the processes and actions taken to deliver that success should be shared as best practices.”
4. Don’t be afraid to get technical
When it comes to technology, top CX employees need to really know their tools. “With today’s advanced technology, there will always be technology involved to help improve processes and other aspects of the business,” says Chad Hill, CMO of law firm Hill and Ponton. He thinks mastery of technology is important for any CX pro.
GroomShop’s Meyer believes a top CX pro uses technology differently than a less-experienced or less-proficient CX employee. “While they’re going to use the same technology available, a newbie CX would use technology in order to comply with the standard operating procedures,” she says. “While a top performer would use it to his/her advantage—either to solve a problem faster or to make the customer’s burden lighter.”
This is especially true of collaboration technology, experts say. The top CX pros go one step further by leveraging collaboration tools to reach out to their colleagues outside of the traditional realm of the contact center to find answers not readily available. If you’re unable to connect with subject-matter experts due to lack of technology, try raising the issue with leadership to find out how you can reach experts throughout the organization to improve first-call resolution and customer satisfaction
Technology is also used differently based on the role you play in an organization, says SurveySensum’s Tripathi. “There is different technology available in the market that helps leaders to see the pulse of their customer, and different technology for CX pros who design the entire customer journey and track the performance of the company,” he says. “A front-line executive who connects with customers uses technology differently to understand customer problems and close loops for customer satisfaction.”
Tripathi adds that all CX pros should familiarize themselves with the different types of technology available and in use in their organization.
For CX employees, a new wave of digital channels is already beginning to radically change how they deliver customer service. Customers can now contact companies via machine-generated text and intelligent online bots that hand off to live agents at predetermined steps in the process. As successful companies embrace these new technologies, top CX pros will understand how to best use these channels to provide stellar customer service in an easy and frictionless way.
5. Learn, learn, learn (and then learn some more)
How professionals improve their skills isn’t simply a matter of experience. Building your experience is important, but building your knowledge will carry you even further.
“CX is an ever-growing field. With the emergence of technology, there are no fixed make-or-break skills or traits. A good CX professional is a continuous learner, adapts faster, and keeps learning new technologies,” says Tripathi.
To improve your skills, start with reading success stories about notable people in the field, says Tripathi, adding that there are lots of books that can give you ideas and open up your mind to customer-centric thinking. Two books Tripathi recommends are Would-You-Do-That-To-Your-Mother? by Jeanne Bliss and The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, by Chip and Dan Heath.
“You can also read articles available on LinkedIn and follow thought leaders in the industry to learn about new trends,” says Tripathi, who also recommends participating in live seminars to understand the real problems organizations face and how leaders resolve them. “The key is to learn and listen as much as you can, to understand different concepts of customer experience and employee experience—and how they have been effectively deployed in practice,” he says.
Qualtric’s Lucas says there are a number of areas where CX pros should focus their personal learning, including:
- Stakeholder empathy: the ability to connect with and understand the needs of stakeholders in the organization
- Enterprise intelligence: knowing your industry and business, its needs, and how they translate into customer service
- Tailored insights: understanding how to find, translate, and communicate customer data so it can be used as insights for specific stakeholders within the organization
- Journey alignment: helping other parts of the business put customer insights into the context of their customers’ holistic journeys—and helping those customers along those journeys.
Lucas believes there is no “one-stop shop” for obtaining the skills you need to be a better CX pro. It comes from formal learning, self-directed exploration, articles, books, and conversations with peers at your organization.
“Then you have to get onto practicing and refining your approach based on what you learn and what works,” she says. “As you are learning, don’t overlook the powerful, generous network of CX professionals you are a part of—when you are together at conferences and events or through association connections. When we help each other learn and grow by sharing our knowledge, I truly believe the whole profession can benefit.”
Wherever you are in your career, there are steps that can be taken to improve your skills, experience and professionalism as a CX pro. Continue learning from as many avenues as you can, build your experience and get tech savvy, and soon you’ll be at the top of your game.