Dozens of customers in line at a grocery or department store.
PHOTO: Paul Townsend

Customer experience is expected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator that customers consider most by next year, according to a report from Quadient. That’s months away. Scary, right? Not too surprising though.

Customer experience professionals naturally will be at the heart of the CX game for their brands as they try to retain customers into the next decade. What will it take for CX pros to help their brands navigate through CX expectations of their consumers and prospects? What skills and traits must they have? We went to leaders in the customer experience space for their thoughts on what the skills, traits and characteristics are that they look for in their workers. Her is what they had to say.

Detail-Oriented and Creative

With chatbots handling the “easier” inquiries, agents today are tasked with resolving more complex issues, which requires more training and skills, said Calabrio CMO Rebecca Martin. “The ideal customer experience professional,” she said, “needs to be creative and possess a deep, detailed skill set in order to tackle more difficult questions — all while delivering the personalized, convenient solutions customers expect.”

Negotiation and Influencing Skills a Must

Will Beattie, chief technology officer at SAIS Group, said that in terms of traits for customer experience professionals, the key is obviously empathy for the customer but they also need to be change agents with great influencing and negotiation skills. 

“Changing the CX in any organization requires working across departments,” Beattie said, “managing up and an unshakable tenacity for improving the status quo.”

Related Article: Getting Started with a Customer Experience Audit

Ability to Work Autonomously

Martin said customer experience professionals are exceedingly autonomous resources: they can navigate complicated issues, find the information they need and formulate solutions quickly, without burdening other agents or supervisors. “And as more contact centers employ remote workers,” she said, “the ability to work autonomously while delivering superior results becomes increasingly important.”

Desire to Learn, Coachable and Self-Driven

Their is technology all around and it's evolving rapidly. CX workers, if they are like most workers, will have to work across several digital platforms and tools and staying current on everything can seem daunting.  

They must also be coachable and self-driven — the most successful customer experience professionals take pride in hitting personal performance metrics and are self-motivated to leverage coaching, such as real-time performance feedback and smart benchmarking, to get to the next level. 

Related Article: 5 Ways to Recession-Proof Your Business With Customer Experience

Great Communication Skills

While skills like coding are helpful, even more important is the ability to be an active listener and clear communicator who can lead cross-functional teams on simultaneous projects, said Tony Sandhu, director of customer success, renewals and growth Comm100. “This is crucial,” he said, “because delivering great customer experiences today means focusing on all the different channels a customer could use to contact your organization, and a siloed approach just won’t work.”

Technical Fluency Across Organizations

Tomorrow's customer experience professionals need to deliver relevance in their approach toward customers, which means breaking out of silos and developing the technical fluency needed to work across their organizations, according to Jen MacIntosh, VP of customer experience at Coveo. “AI and machine learning-based frameworks can meet support agents halfway, but employees will need to adapt to a world in which support programs will increasingly live within the products themselves instead of as a separate portal,” she said. “By streamlining customer and employee processes across systems and channels, agents will be able to deliver better, faster service to customers.”

“With so many different technologies focused on enhancing the customer experience, it is important for CX professionals to be tech-savvy and understand how these technologies can positively impact their customer journeys,” said Andrew Park, VP of customer experience strategy at InMoment.

Related Article: How Your Marketing Stack Affects Customer Experience


According to Park, storytelling is a must. To create a great experience for your customers you have to be able to effectively share your story with your customers.

Lester of LogMeIn also cited storytelling as a key trait for a customer experience professionals. Too often, he said, we rely on being data-driven without a good story behind it. “Your NPS scores may have gone up and customer retention rates went up,” Lester said. "But numbers aren't storytelling, and that's what people remember. …How do you tell those great stories? How do you bring it to life through your actual customers?”

Customer Service Not Necessary (But It Helps)

While a background in customer service is not necessary for CX professionals, said Park, it could be extremely beneficial. Individuals who work in customer service interact with customers each day, so they have a solid understanding of how different roles within an organization impact the customer experience. “If a CX professional doesn’t have customer service experience,” he said, “then it is crucial that they spend time directly with customers to truly understand their desires and expectations."

Being a Visionary

Being a stellar CX professional and delivering quality experiences starts with being able to have a holistic view of the customer journey and a vision of what great customer experience means. “Precisely understanding all the touchpoints of a customer’s journey and the market opportunities each touchpoint presents is critical to delivering great customer experiences,” said Sandhu. “However, going a step further and using that valuable information to define and build a strategy that's innovative and succeeds at reducing customer effort is key to success as a CX professional.”

Designing for Experiment

Customer experience professionals should be very good at designing for experiment, according to Ryan Lester, senior director of customer experience technologies for LogMeIn. “We think about the customer experience as part of the world of marketing,” Lester said. “It's how do you set up a hypothesis, and then experiment with metrics that validate the hypothesis or disprove it? So having that mindset, which is more traditional, like an engineer's mindset than it is a marketer’s mindset. I think marketing is moving in that direction — design for experiment.”

Related Article: The Metrics Customer Experience Professionals Care About

An Ability to Break Down the Complex into the Simple

Customer experience professionals must be able to break down complex processes into more simple processes, Lester said. “In this modern world,” he said, “you'll make a change to a process. And all of a sudden, these weird things will start happening downstream in other parts of the processes, and you want to stop and then reassess why those changes happen. So it’s about being able to understand complex processes and breaking those down.”