We often hear that to deliver a great customer experience, it must start at the top with executive buy-in and commitment.  While this is certainly true, it also requires an experienced and committed CX Leader.  Of course, being a CX Leader is not easy.  It’s even harder to be an effective one. Thinking about this reminded me of a good article titled “Key Traits of Effective Customer Experience Leaders” written by freelance writer Aki Merced and published in Tenfold.  In her article, she lists several key traits necessary to becoming an effective CX Leader.

#1 Accountability

Great leaders take charge. The responsibility of a good leader extends to not shying away from major problems and difficult resolutions. This involves being open to criticism from employees and peers. In customer-centric organizations, issues are resolved with the customers’ best interests in mind. Deliberations are bereft of personal blasting and are instead about coming up with solutions. Great customer experience is an organization-level pursuit. CX leaders worth their salt are steadfast in cultivating customer-centric practices and a culture that puts the customer first. They do not shy away from putting their foot down on mistakes and shortcomings that put CX in jeopardy. However, being the leaders that they are, they also know that mistakes reflect training and culture. They look to themselves and their process for clues on why certain errors are made

#2 Sharp Communication

A skilled CX leader transforms ideas into messages, may it be in the form of verbal or written communication. They know the most suitable channels to use. Model CX leaders can communicate with team members and customers with ease and confidence. A proficient leader knows that productive employees are crucial in carrying out a CX strategy. If a team isn’t performing well, a review of communication practices starting with your leaders—managers, supervisors, officers in charge–is in order. Do your leaders check on your employees to connect with them? Do they listen? Do your employees feel heard? Is the process positively affecting their productivity? Is there room for improvement? Employees perform better when they think they’re part of something bigger. They’re motivated to work harder when their efforts are acknowledged. Give constructive feedback on what they should work on, so they see themselves as part of the machine instead of just a cog in the wheel. Leaders who reach out to their employees improve employee engagement. In fact, A study from Harvard Business Review discovered that companies with disengaged workers have a 37 percent increase in absenteeism and 60 percent rise in errors. Their productivity is also 18 percent lower with a 16 percent dip in profitability.

Good leaders will know to look at the communication channels used to deliver information (memos, updates, KPI scores, etc.).  Do employees open them and take time to read them? Are they responding in a timely fashion? If you’re using email to send out every task, memo, update, and less important messages, your employees are likely to miss urgent ones. Use various communication channels. When your team knows what you need and what your customers want, their productivity will improve.

#3 Empathetic

Great communicators have a great deal of empathy. Effective leaders listen to employees and customers. They’re open-minded and sensitive, which are imperative in delivering positive customer experiences. Empathy enables leaders to see themselves in another person’s shoes. It’s important to note that you need to assess how the other person feels in their situation, and not how you would feel in theirs. Great leaders need this trait to gauge if they’ve conveyed the right message. It also helps leaders anticipate the impact of their decisions. Empathy allows leaders to strategize appropriately. Without this key trait, a CX leader can’t build a connection with the team, robbing them of the ability to nurture a new breed of leaders. You can’t inspire others if you don’t understand their needs. Cultivating leadership potential requires moving from the role of a manager to that of a mentor or a coach.

#4 Maintains a Positive Disposition

CareerBuilder commissioned a survey and found that 77 percent of employers valued personality traits, including a positive attitude and strong work ethic, as essential in performing a role regardless of hierarchy. A leader’s role can get quite stressful; torn between deadlines, managing KPIs, analyzing reports, and heading up both planning and execution. These take a toll on anyone. A good leader knows how to handle these pressures. They know to manage negative emotions such as fear and frustration. Each failure is an opportunity to improve and form better habits. Although negative emotions are natural, a competent CX leader does not brood over them. Every team needs a positive spirit to boost the quality of the customer experience they deliver. It’s important to remember that employees take after their leaders. If a manager or supervisor gets visibly upset, employees are likely to parrot the feeling and as a result, might take it out on the customer. Leaders are aware of this chain of emotions and how it can affect the kind of experience customers receive.

#5 Embraces Employee Motivation

Motivation and optimism go hand in hand, yet 36 percent of businesses still struggle with engaging their employees.  CX leaders bring out the best in others and allow employees to achieve greatness by guiding them on how to better serve customers. They help each employee grow professionally by understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Competent leaders also allow employees to shine and pursue their career goals. They let employees practice autonomy within reason and doing away with micromanagement. Motivated employees work faster as they’re allowed the freedom to explore ways to serve and delight customers. A motivating CX leader contributes to agent retention, which in turn improves customer retention. A happier workforce results in happier customers.

#6 Knows How to Delegate

Great leaders trust their employees’ capabilities. They foster employee engagement by involving them in important tasks and projects. Delegation gives employees better insight into the bigger picture. In a customer-centric organization, employee involvement in various tasks exposes them to the fact that delivering good CX is a concerted effort. As per Gallup, organizations with highly engaged employees outperform those with low employee engagement by 202 percent. Good leaders do not drown themselves in tasks that they can delegate to the right person. Delegation allows employees to take ownership and develop their skills. This also frees up time for leaders to mentor struggling employees. Delegation is much more than a function of efficiency. Employees, just like customers, need to fulfill their need for belongingness, a venue where they feel important. Entrusting tasks to employees affirm their experience, creativity, commitment, and skills.

Key Takeaways

She closes with the following key takeaways…

Delivering great customer experience is a top-down pursuit. Company leaders should be committed to serving and delighting customers just as much as they expect their workforce to be. CX leaders possess a mix of soft skills and domain expertise that enable them to lead organizations toward customer-centricity despite the strong pull to focus on the internal interests of the company instead. CX leaders know and preach that delivering exceptional CX is mutually beneficial to the company and its customers and prospects.

While there certainly may be more traits that are also important in being an effective CX Leader, I found this list to be tremendously relevant.  I’d love to hear of any additional traits that you might add to this list.

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