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“Companies are under increasing pressure to deliver outstanding customer experiences in order to stand out and stay competitive. They seek customer experience (CX) professionals who can not only improve processes and interactions, but also contribute valuable insights to help teams across the organization enhance customer experiences, retain business and increase revenue,” said Randi Weitzman, Robert Half executive director of technology staffing services.

Below are the skills Weitzman and other hiring authorities look for when evaluating CX prospects:

Communication, Collaboration Skills

CX specialists need to be able to translate data analysis and provide recommendations to colleagues who work in other departments, like marketing and operations, Weitzman said. So potential hires need research, data tracking and analysis skills to understand the organization’s existing customer base and identify possible areas of improvement throughout the customer journey and then the communication skills to clearly make their case.

To determine if the CX candidate has the above skills, Weitzman recommended asking candidates about their CX work history and areas of expertise and focusing on what CX-related software — particularly programs for tracking and analyzing customer-related data — they have experience with.

“Many professionals are analytical and operationally focused, but the blend of the soft and hard skills is important — with the softer skills leading the way,” Amy Finn, director of candidate experience and marketing at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman added. “With the prevalence and growth of NPS, the analytical piece became more important in the last few years, but I would argue that the soft skills are still most valuable.”

Related Article: 11 Skills and Traits for Customer Experience Professionals in 2019

Keeps Calm Under Pressure

Demeanor is the most important trait Finn looks for in an interview.

“The CX leader handles some of the more fiery interactions with customers,” Finn explained. “A true CX pro never escalates, even if the customer is escalating. Having the ability to remain calm while making sure the person doesn’t feel patronized is a subtle but important skill. Without it, the customer may hang up the phone angrier than when they first called.”

Related Article: How to Structure Your Digital Team: 16 Critical Roles

The Must-Have Skill for CX Professionals? Empathy

Several professionals who hire CX staff cited empathy as a "must have" skill.

“CX professionals are increasingly focused on measuring empathy, both in terms of how their brand is perceived and in how front-line employees are engaging with customers,” said Fabrice Martin, Clarabridge chief product officer. “Brand loyalty is derived not only from a great product or service, but also a strong belief in a brand’s identity and values. Therefore, customer experience professionals must be able to identify the root cause of customer satisfaction and understand how customers feel when interacting with a brand.”

“My number one sought after skill is empathy,” added Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of GetVOIP. “Relating to customers as real human beings is my top priority. While this isn't a hard skill with tangible ROI, continually investing in customer experience specialists' ability to offer compassion will always pay off in the long run.”

Related Article: How to Walk the Empathy Talk

Ability to Understand Digital Communication Shifts

Today’s consumers want to communicate with brands like they talk to their friends — seamlessly and naturally, said Mike McCarron, vice president of customer success for Gladly. “Switching communication channels within a customer service interaction — from text to email to the phone and back again — should feel as easy as it does in a human-to-human conversation. The most skilled CX agents understand how digital communication has impacted customer service expectations. They’re able to assist customers on any platform, and can pick up wherever a customer’s last interaction left off.”

In Gladly's 2019 Customer Expectations Report, the company found that, when following up on a given issue, 86% of customers expect the next agent to be aware of previous conversations regardless of whether the communication channel has changed (up from 71% in 2017). However, only 24% experienced this in practice.

“The best agents understand this shift and are dedicated to enacting positive change,” McCarron said.

Problem Solving Capabilities

“We use many tools to measure CX, such as NPS surveys and anecdotal feedback,” Finn said. “Your CX star will take the resulting data, analyze it, identify actual issues versus complaints that are not necessarily a trend, and deliver the results to the internal stakeholders in a clear and logical way.”

“One critical skill for CX professionals to have in this new era is the ability to connect seemingly disparate threads to solve unique problems,” added Mike Ringman, CIO of Telus International. “This is an area where machines have made very little progress — they can't independently handle situations they haven't seen many times before because they need to learn from large volumes of past data. Humans do not, leading to the need for more highly skilled agents who have the knowledge and skills to be able to effectively leverage AI in order to solve more complex customer cases.”