5 Traits of Successful Customer Experience Leaders

by Jeannie Walters

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There are so many great people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. A great deal of them have been clients who were charged with leading customer experience improvement initiatives within large organizations. These positions tend to be very challenging. In most cases, it involves the adoption of a new philosophy.

With limited resources and authority, customer experience leaders must often move against an internal culture that seems inherently resistant to the wave of change that is required with a successful customer experience strategy. It also requires a handful of traits that are often not found in one person.

customer experience leaders

Here are five traits that make great customer experience experience leaders, well, great.


1. Flexibility

If Customer experience were an Olympic sport, it would be gymnastics. You have to be ready to bend, twist, stretch and jump. Seriously, one day you’re reviewing communications because the CEO realized they actually go to customers. The next day you’re investigating a 20% drop in online conversions.

2. Business Acumen

If you don’t know your P from your L, or how to get smart about measuring not just transactions but overall implications, there had better be someone else who does. Numbers are important, but having the talent to change them matters more. This takes painstaking review, critical thinking and game-changing action.

3. Instinct

This one is a little tough to evaluate or even describe. Instinct is what serves the leader who makes a call BEFORE the metrics show there’s a problem. Instinct helps you sniff out a problem to investigate. Do you trust your gut?

customer experience leaders

4. Communication Prowess

Gathering the information is great, but it’s all in vain if it just sits with the Customer Experience team. Whatever information you gather has to be communicated in ways that are conducive to change. Not easy, folks. This is where the rubber meets the road. (And, in my experience, where many customer experience leaders and their teams fail.)

5. Empathy

Finally, it doesn’t make sense to have a leader focused on customers if they can’t see the journey from the customer’s perspective. Sometimes a leader has to listen carefully to what customers are trying to say – not what they’re reporting in a survey. Empathy helps the leader decide what actions to take. Empathy drives customer-centric innovation.

There you have it. My short list of what it takes to become successful customer experience leaders. And while it’s unusual for any one person to have all of these traits, it’s important that each of them is prevalent in your customer experience team. What would you add?

Photo credits: José Encarnação, P Shanks via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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