Building, maintaining, and improving good customer experience requires a range of skills within the supplier staff. The majority of those skills are soft skills related to understanding, interpreting, and generally working with people. These kinds of skills depend to a large degree on the nature of the individuals involved – some people are more naturally empathetic than others – and the best results come from choosing the most suited individuals for these kinds of customer-facing tasks. But whatever innate skills people possess, appropriate, relevant training can enhance and develop those skills and assist in their application. And many training courses are available for professionals working in the customer experience field.
Relevant training courses
While you won’t find many courses explicitly labeled customer experience training, there are many commercially available courses that address the skills needed to enhance customer experience. Effective customer experience should be wide-ranging, and so a range of training will be relevant, covering:
- Customer success – Working with customers to understand their needs and then deliver against them. This would address communication, prioritization, measurement, and more. These topics overlap with sales techniques, and some sales course will be relevant to customer experience professionals, but general communications training and (at least) some elements of project management will also help greatly.
- Supporting customers – Interacting directly with customers who need assistance or advice, focusing on the tasks taken on by service desks, support desks, and call centers. A wide range of courses are available: aimed both at help desk staff and at managers.
- Delivering service – The more proactive element of foreseeing requests and issues and preventing their impact on customers. These skills overlap considerably with problem management, operational management, and business analysis, and relevant training from those areas can help with CX.
Qualifications, certification and CX organizations
As well as formalized training, the chance to discuss, learn from – and help – others in similar jobs is one of the most powerful mechanisms for individual improvement. To that end, most work areas have seen the creation of membership organizations that can help people working in an area to help themselves. Customer experience is no exception, and one such is the nonprofit organization Customer eXperience Professionals Association (CXPA). They offer a formal customer experience certification via an examination covering six key areas of customer experience knowledge:
- Customer-Centric Culture.
- Organizational Adoption and Accountability.
- Voice of the Customer, Customer Insight & Understanding.
- Experience Design & Improvement.
- Metrics, Measurement, & Return on Investment.
- Customer Experience Strategy.
The CXPA website also lists their approved suppliers of customer experience certification training for those seeking to pass the exam.
Customer experience training- Inside knowledge
So far, we have looked at how to get help in generating improved staff knowledge and skills – traditional external training and qualifications. These undoubtedly do help, both in increasing abilities and also in helping to generate the confidence that good staff need to apply their skills effectively. But there are other customer experience training ideas that can also make a difference, particularly internal initiatives to help staff with their CX roles.
Because the best customer experience means delivering the best possible experience to your customers, it rests heavily on knowledge of:
- Who those customers are?
- How they feel.
- What products, services, etc. you deliver, could deliver, or can’t deliver.
- Relevant influencing factors and constraints.
All of these are specific to a particular supplier-customer situation and so delivering this kind of knowledge and understanding is something that – by and large – is best done via internal effort within an organization. Formal training still has a part to play, either by use of staff with training abilities and experience or, if necessary, by bringing consultant trainers in to learn first and then pass on the knowledge. But there are many other really effective techniques that organizations use, including:
- Work shadowing – The most powerful way to know about a customer’s feelings, experiences, and concerns is to live with them for a while. Sitting with them and seeing their everyday issues generates an ability to assess and predict how those customers will react to changes and improvements. Shadowing might last an hour or a week, depending on resources, the work’s variability, and other factors. But even the shortest time can help. And it plays a major role in reminding both supplier and customer that this is actually a relationship between people, not procedures, technology or unfeeling companies.
- Role-playing, gaming – Often a way to actualize the understanding learned from shadowing, acting out possible scenarios is a powerful test of viability and allowing suppliers and customers to experience the other’s viewpoint. And if there have been problems and CX failures in the past, these can be worked up into a role-playing game for staff to go through. Most organizations have their war stories that will form a good basis for such games. For those into Star Trek, the ultimate such exercise is the Kobayashi-maru exercise at star fleet academy. Hopefully, yours will be less fatal.
- Information sharing – This can – and should – range from articles and blogs on an organization’s internal portals, through lunch-and-learn type sessions and on to formal knowledge management systems.
- Empathy exercises – Focusing on realizing how other people feel – and that their feelings, preferences, and behavior are probably based on very different influencing backgrounds and history than yours. Games/exercise exist that can help with this – passing descriptions on, predicting choices, and so on, they can be fun when delivered carefully and professionally.
Customer Experience Training Summary
Customer experience rests on human understanding and skills. Those skills can be improved and enhanced via CX training and practice in a safe environment. To get the best value and development of those skills, organizations must be willing to invest time, money, and other staff resources into an ongoing education program.