5 Key Customer Experience Interview Questions You Need to be Asking

Through my experience and involvement in all things customer experience (CX), I often find myself engaged with individuals who reach out wondering how to get into the CX space and what to look for in a potential CX role.

Though every company and culture will be somewhat unique, there are certain elements that a candidate should consider when conducting research and preparing for an interview with organizations seeking a CX professional.

Profile of a CX Professional

Given that CX is as much a discipline as it is a function, there are numerous backgrounds, skills, and qualifications that can serve individuals and businesses well in CX-specific roles. Many professionals in CX positions find their way there from a background in research, UX, retention and loyalty marketing, process improvement, or customer service. That said, CX involves the careful attention to not only insights and design, but in the methodical delivery of those experiences through operational enablement, process mapping, metrics and ROI, and most critically — mobilizing employees to see themselves as true “owners” and contributors of the experiences that are being created. To that end, I’ve seen individuals from HR (talent management), operations, and even IT play commanding roles as CX professionals. I’d argue what’s most important — agnostic of function or title — is that a candidate demonstrate a relentless and deliberate focus on customer improvement, satisfaction, and engagement in their roles and job history.

Finally, when looking at industry-wide job tasks covering the wide-ranging scope of the CX profession, the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) has identified six key competencies that form the basis of the Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) accreditation. These competencies can serve as a helpful rubric for identifying and vetting one’s experience against sample job tasks and skills most utilized by CX professionals.

What You Need to Know Coming Out of a CX Interview

While every job interview should be seen as two-way, this is never truer than in a CX interview. Why? Because CX — as an officially “coined” function or discipline — is still relatively new. And while many executives will nod their heads in violent agreement on the need for “CX” as a strategic differentiator, most CX practitioners will find that what “CX” translates to will vary considerably between executives, teams, and organizations. So what should you be asking? While doing your homework on the company’s overarching strategy, look to these 5(ish) sample questions to get you thinking about the type of information you’ll want to glean from your interview.

1. Who does this role report to, and what part of the organization does it reside in?

As mentioned above, because CX influences the entire customer lifecycle, the CX function could reside virtually anywhere — though it typically takes up residency in Marketing, Operations, Product, Corporate Strategy, or Customer Service. In a 2016 Forrester online survey of global CX professionals, 25% of CX practitioners reported rolling up into a core CX team that was one level removed from the CEO (likely a C-level or SVP customer role), with 14% reporting into Marketing, 13% in Operations, 8% in Product, and 12% in “Other”. As a strategic enabler across the enterprise, where CX resides is perhaps less important, though it can tell you a lot about the scope of the role and what success of the CX function looks like relative to departmental goals.

Within Marketing, does that department own customer retention? Or are they primarily focused on customer acquisition and lead management? While the business should look for CX to add value and optimize all parts of the customer lifecycle, most organizations center CX on improvements to customer retention, lifetime value, and loyalty. Understanding the role of Marketing is helpful to forming an idea of how CX will show ROI and what specific journeys, interactions, and touch points will be of key importance if reporting up through this function.

CX (and UX) roles within the Product organization are certainly influential, though are often focused on, well, the product. While critical to a customer’s experience with your brand, I’d argue that experience delivery, service, and internal processes play an equal, if not more important, role in shaping the experience for your customer. As Peter Drucker famously said, “The customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him. Once reason for this is, of course, that nobody pays for a ‘product.’ What is paid for is satisfaction. But nobody can make or supply satisfaction as such — at best, only the means to attaining them can be sold and delivered.”

To me, this is why CX is often well served reporting into — or closely partnering with — Operations. True, you need to focus on marketing touch points and communication. You must have a quality product and platform. But if there’s inconsistent channel delivery, poor service, a lack of documented processes, or IT backlogs that prevent repeatable, systematic experience delivery, no product or marketing campaign alone will prevail.

Of course, if there’s a dedicated CXO or C-suite function for customer success, that’s your best bet. It’s almost a sure signal that the organization places equal value on experience relative to other business goals. Just make sure the CXO office and function has teeth in terms of ownership of key customer health metrics — symbolic roles alone won’t be enough.

2. Who is the Executive Sponsor of CX? What is their high-level view of CX and customer success (in 1, 3, and 5+ years)?

Depending on the answer to the question above, your CX executive sponsor is usually the C-suite executive that the function reports into. Ensure that the company has one identified (if there’s no CXO) to help champion initiatives and bring visibility of experience opportunities to the fore.

If the company you’re interviewing for is publicly traded, probe on the business appetite of balancing longer-term retention and experience improvements against short-term revenue and earnings.

3. Is there broad executive-level alignment on the scope and successful outcomes of CX efforts?

If you’ve asked the CX hiring manager or the Executive Sponsor how they define success of the role and of CX, your next step is to discern how aligned the organization is to that view. Ask the same question of your interview panel — those in operations, product, marketing, customer service, IT, and HR. While’s it’s not unusual to receive different points of view on this question, it is something that you’ll have to reconcile quickly in terms of where to place focus, where to start, and how to begin to socialize a more shared view of customer and business success around CX.

4. Does anyone in the organization “own” customer retention? What are the key metrics of customer (and business) success?

Replace “customer retention” with whatever outcome or metric is mentioned by the employer as most critical to business results — lifetime value, increasing share of wallet, growing market share, etc. What’s important to determine is whether there’s accountability, ownership, and attention to that metric within the organization.

In an earlier post, I discussed the importance of an organization taking a blended view of the health of their customer relationships. Far too often, organizations rally around certain legacy CX “beacon” metrics of NPS or CSAT, failing to either correlate those results to actual business performance or falling prey to score obsession — focusing exclusively on NPS at the cost of the other crucial customer signals of engagement, retention, or complaint levels. So while a CX metric like NPS or CSAT may be a component of overall customer health (which is likely owned and driven by the CX function), it’s important to ensure that the organization has the disciplined focus and resources aimed at the other key customer and performance signals that CX will ultimately help influence.

5. What does the picture of employee engagement look like?

While perhaps not a question you ask explicitly (although you could if interviewing with say, a CHRO), do your research on what employees say about working at the company. While this is helpful when considering a company regardless of the role, there’s a strong correlation between customer experience and employee experience (EX). Identifying common themes and sentiment related to employee feedback on Glassdoor or other employee-rated company review sites can help paint a picture of the culture, the level of engagement, and overall satisfaction of the employees that will serve as the crucial stewards of this company’s experience.

Educating the Organization

Once, at the end of interviewing for a CX role, the company’s CTO said to me, “Goodness. You’ve given me lots to think about — in a good way!” While I did not ultimately accept that role (as it was clear that they had not fully thought through how to scope and commit resources to CX), I took some satisfaction in knowing that I may have helped to educate that organization — and its employees — in thinking differently about how it aligned its resources, its focus, its measures of success, and its workforce.

Remember that everyone plays a role in CX success; view each interview as an opportunity to further help educate and champion a more informed, empathetic, and customer-centric way of operating.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

cx ninja. ultra runner. never met a carb i didn’t like.

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