Rise of the Customer Experience (CX) Professional

The most poignant part for me of last night’s Southern California CX Day that West Monroe hosted in its Los Angeles office was the 12 or so design students from Pasadena’s prestigious Art Center College of Design who attended. As I talked with one recent graduate — who received both an MBA from Claremont’s Drucker School of Management as well as an MS in Design from the Art Center as part of the college’s relatively new “Grad ID” program — he said something that stuck in my head: “As I listen to people talking about customer experience, I’m surprised at how much excitement there is about it. I guess I took it for granted…it’s just something we naturally are trained to do in the program.”

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When I wrote about the emergence of Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) back in 2011, these individuals were the first in that role within companies. They had no prior experience doing the role, and they had no formal training.  While that’s still mostly the case, CX leaders like Tabitha Dunn at Concur (SAP) have experience, a track record, and an increasingly larger operational role. And, when I look at the caliber of students coming out of Art Center, I see a glimpse of future leaders with formal training to solve big, complex problems in a technologically disrupted world with a design thinking lens that at its heart puts humans back at the center and as a focal point for the solutions. That bodes well for the field.

Their timing couldn’t be better for these young professionals. Harvard Business Review’s September issue was focused on the “coming of age of design thinking” which aligns with CX Day SoCal’s headline speaker, the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) co-founder Bruce Temkin, who stated that 55% of companies today strive to have the best customer experience within their industry. As Bruce pointed out, they can’t all be the best. So, there will be a war on talent.

Customer experiences are the result of a complex system of inter-connected activities. They’re also based on the expectations and perceptions that customers base off their interactions, which are a constantly moving target. That’s what makes them so difficult to design, orchestrate, and deliver consistently. Finding talent who can architect this complexity will give companies an advantage. Places like the CXPA and Art Center College will become an ever more valuable source for that talent.

For other CX Day perspectives, take a read through a couple blogs by my customer experience colleagues – Kyle Hutchins and Chris Hodges.

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