The promising future of CX hiring

Bliss CX Firings

I came across this article on Yahoo Finance a few days ago. It’s from PR Newswire and the title is “How Many Customer Experience Professionals Will Survive 2017?” It opens, somewhat ominously, this way:

Customer Experience (CX) specialist, and TribeCX CEO David Hicks, recently noted that the statistics in an infographic about survival rates in airplane crashes were almost identical to the rate of job retention for CX practitioners.

Probably not the best analogy there, IMHO, but let’s continue. Hicks breaks it down two ways:

Two trends were found to be particularly similar: of the CX practitioners who said their focus was to encourage their companies to make large investments in CX, only 51% had survived in their role beyond year-2. Of those who described their focus as building proof-points to establish the benefits from CX, 72% survived in their role beyond year-2.

Interesting. Let’s discuss briefly.

The landscape of CX hiring

In my work and what I anecdotally observe? No. If anything, most companies (enterprise, mid-size, and SMB) are hiring more customer experience professionals. I almost see the inverse, in reality. But I do think Hicks has one key point here.

What’s the key point?

If you look at that second pull-quote, it’s an interesting philosophical breakdown of what someone should be doing in the early stages of a CX role; we discuss this on my customer experience podcast all the time. This press release we’re linking sets it up as two possibilities:

  • Encourage the company to make large commitments around CX
  • Build proof-points to show ROI from CX

In situation No. 1, about 1 in 2 people are losing their jobs after Year II. In situation No. 2, only 3 in 10 are losing their jobs. Obviously, then, situation No. 2 is preferable — which makes sense.

Why is that?

Oftentimes, the CCO role (or other CX roles down the hierarchy) aren’t immediately clear to other executives. That’s why I talk about one-company leadership all the time, and I’m also fond of this idea of “earning the right” to do the work. This study we’re discussing here? It looks like it’s based on actions before Year II is over. No one should be entering a CCO role or VP of CX role and trying to get large financial commitments off the bat. I’m not really surprised that only 51% of people who tried that approach are retaining their jobs. You need to proof-point the process first. Everyone needs to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how it benefits both (a) the company and (b) their silo. Only then will they begin to understand the work being put in, and ONLY THEN can you make a play for bigger fiscal commitment (headcount, etc.)

Anecdotal but potentially true

Here’s another pull quote from this press release:

But this appears to be more than just numbers. In Q4 2016, Hicks says he received an average of two emails a week from people who had been let go from their CX roles and were “now in transition”. What he finds striking is the similarity of reasons for their departure: “the company ran out of patience”, “the NPS numbers were not improving”, “the company had to cut costs and CX was an easy target”.

I have many things to say here, including:

  • Two emails a week isn’t that many, all told.
  • “The company ran out of patience” is a common refrain I’ve heard from people I know who were laid off, and that’s unfortunate; companies should have more patience around relationship-building aspects like CX. That said, it underscores that you need a 90-day plan focused on quick wins.
  • NPS is a great metric but it’s not the be-all and end-all of CX metrics. Consider introducing the organization to new things.
  • It’s hard to avoid the cost-cutting axe, but a customer-driven growth engine is far more sustainable over time than more old-school business plays.

So in sum…

I don’t think more CX professionals are getting fired. The career path is safe! But do you have a relatively short runway to prove yourself? That’s potentially true. It’s all about uniting the leadership silos.

10 comments to " The promising future of CX hiring "

  • Tabitha Dunn

    Excellent analysis, Jeanne. I’m seeing the same thing that you are seeing as well. Thank you for sharing.

    • Tabitha, so glad we are both seeing the same thing. As in any new role, there needs to be a connection of this work to the strategic intent and growth of the business. And the C-Suite needs to be engaged as partners.

  • Interesting perspectives and a lot of merit to each of them. Having a relatively short runway to prove ones self could be said of many other corporate roles in addition to CX. Too many corporations are of general the mind-set that everything must be a quick-win and short-term, if not immediate, payback. I was part of a corporation whose interest in CX was purely having (and bragging about) a metric (NPS in this case) and making sure it was continually on the rise (unrealistic to say the least) and upset if it ever dropped by a point or two. However, I would never be other than convinced that proving the value of your CX investment is a must and not an option. This needs to be harcore proof and not anecdotal, the challenge being that building proof-points takes time, energy and careful analysys which is a longer-term strategy. C-level involvement and engagement is paramount for this to work out and for CX to survive in any organization.

    • Hey Karl,
      I really believe and have seen and experienced, as have you, that if the C-Suite is not a partner in this work, they become a ‘customer’ of it …and the person in the role spends their time ‘pitching’ and asking for resources.

      The real work is the upfront work to engage and define and gain commitment on the long term nature, the accountability of the C-Suite as partners and the definitions of success. Without this work, the role is often put in peril..


      • My view…as long as the CCO or CX roles are viewed as “agents of change/transformation” rather than as embedded into the operating flow of the business, these professionals will continue to be vulnerable and the discipline viewed as discretionary.

  • Hi Paul,
    You and I are in agreement. This is about embedding competencies into the organization that over time, need to be absorbed and led as part of the operating flow of the business. I am very clear about that in my book and coach that with my clients. This is about embedding a customer-driven approach to how leaders lead, how they drive accountability, how they unite to determine how they will and will not grow.

    It is not about layering work on top of the “real work” of the business. I am an advocate of the functions of the business embedding these competencies and having a united C-Suite lead. What we know is that for a time, there is often a need to help with the process of embedding these skills, uniting leaders and redefining the lens for decision making.

  • Michael Callahan

    Anecdotal, and somewhat biased perspective. I’m guessing at least a few of these examples are folks who weren’t/aren’t true CX practitioners in the first place. So, patience and expectations aside, if you slap a new title on your back or discipline on your resume, and you lack the experience, expertise and true passion for reconnecting companies to customers, then 1-2 years seems like about the right amount of time to discover the emperor is naked. We interview people every day who indicate they are “seasoned” CX experts but turn out to be either customer service or marketing folks who jumped on a bandwagon. Hopefully, these terminations, while limited, also sends a message that CX is not a bumper sticker philosophy that one adopts and abandons as they wish.

    • Jeanne Bliss


      I am glad we are having this conversation. I coach chief customer officers and the C-Suite around the world, and encounter as you do, many people who are not ready for the role. For a person to thrive in this role, successful requirements are that they have already been proven as a mature senior leader of the company, have run a successful operation with an operational bent on growth that is customer and employee driven, and are a collaborative and guiding leader. These are the people I coach at the C-Suite level who are successful in these roles, true partners of the C-Suite and able to work with them to transform and grow the business.

      I too see many people asserting that they are CX experts. As someone who has been in this field over thirty years, like you, I am marveling. Agree that if people are not ready and mature leaders (thinking this role is about their advancement vs. the company’s) then they don’t advance the role and “kumbaya-ism” is all we get. And the role diminishes further.

      • Michael Callahan

        Jeanne, It’s now happening with data science and big data. I mean, I jokingly say to clients “I feel like I came down the mountain with tablets” and what’s written on them is largely non negotiable. I don’t think that more certifications and the like are the key, as I’m naturally anti establishment, but I’m open to helping figure out how we rescue a phenomenal role and a must have perspective from the dangers all of us are discussing.

        • Jeanne Bliss

          Michael, let’s talk! Agree…way too much shiny object syndrome going on here. It was my biggest concern when this started taking hold….


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