Your Next CX Hire…Shouldn’t Be a CX Hire

As we interviewed hundreds of customer experience professionals across scores of organizations for our research initiative last year, we looked for what indicated the ability to drive impact.

We’ve documented the top items a few times in the past: linking everything to business value, understanding the technology and data, measuring and improving emotions, and using change management.

But one theme behind these kept standing out. Whenever we found an ineffective CX leader, you could pretty much bet that person was hired from the outside to lead customer experience.

Let me be clear: We did talk with outside hires who were very effective at leading customer experience. It’s not impossible. But it is much, much harder.

Because get this: Every single internal hire who ran CX that we talked to was very effective.

If you can’t find a good fit internally, look to hire someone from a competitor.

It’s actually not all that surprising. Leaders from other parts of the organization – such as Operations, Marketing, or even IT  – have already had to learn the rhythm of the business and how the company makes money. (See next week’s post for more on that!) That makes it easier to converse with their fellow leaders. They also learn the power structure and the language of the business, making it easier to drive change.

A steeper hill to climb

Customer experience leaders who come from outside the company start at a hefty disadvantage. Unless they came from a direct competitor, they essentially have to learn a new language…the one everyone in your company already speaks.

External hires also have to learn how the organization makes money, so they can target the right problems. They need to discover the organizational players and their hot buttons. And they need to discover what CX infrastructure exists.

That makes for a heavy lift, and it becomes too much for many in CX.

So what do they do? Typically, they resort to chasing survey scores. This provides a much-needed sense of accomplishment…but it does little to ensure a healthy business.

That’s why I recommend that the next time you’re looking to hire somebody for your CX program, you take a long, hard look at internal candidates first. Especially if you’re supplementing an external hire.

And if you can’t find a good fit internally, look to hire someone from a competitor, who will at least know the business structure and language.

Only in very limited circumstances would I recommend a CX leader from the outside. Sure, they can be successful…but why make the climb toward impact that much steeper?

Above all, why make your most valuable asset – your customers – wait that much longer for an improved experience?

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