As the discipline of experience management (XM) becomes an integral part of more and more organizations’ strategies, the importance of knowledgeable, skilled XM professionals also rises. These internal experts serve as catalysts inside organizations, applying their subject matter expertise to run XM programs and steer their organization’s XM transformation to support business and brand objectives.
But what do these professionals really need to know to effectively contribute to the success of XM efforts? For individuals who ultimately want to become certified XM Professionals (XMP), they will have a blend of knowledge across a number of domains including experience processing, behavioral science, research methods, organizational culture, XM competencies, and how to apply XM across domains like customer experience, employee experience, brand experience, and product experience. Let’s take a closer look at how some of this expertise might look like in action.
Expertise that Supports Enterprise XM Coordination
Typically, members of an XM core team bring expertise across a number of areas that enable them to effectively coordinate XM efforts across the organization. In my research, I identified these main areas of focus:
- Enterprise XM Strategy and Governance. XM professionals need to be able to work with senior executives to lead the multi-year effort of XM transformation. This includes defining a common XM vision, strategy, and priorities for the organization. A big part of their job is to activate the commitment of cross-functional senior business stakeholders to advise on that strategy, guide resource allocation, model desired behaviors, help with obstacle busting, and hold people accountable for results. In a nutshell, XM professionals need to be capable and creative leaders of XM change.
- Insights, Metrics, and Reporting. A very important component of any XM roadmap is an experience monitoring program that distributes timely, actionable insights to the organization. XM professionals need the skills to coordinate everything from data rules and survey standards to metrics selection, analytical approaches, and reporting, all while working hard to ensure insights users will be successful.
- Standard Methodologies and Tools. In order to drive consistency and efficiency from early days through the expansion and maturation of an XM program, it’s important for XM professionals to introduce and institutionalize XM tools and approaches for the organization to use. This includes establishing company-wide definitions around XM and deciding how the company will use tactics like journey mapping, maturity assessments, and internal XM ambassadors. XM professionals should also be able to distill external thought leadership and trends to understand how they will impact the XM strategy and disseminate knowledge and approaches so that XM competencies can be adopted across the company.
- Central XM Storyline. Wherever an organization is in its XM journey, employees across the company need to have a shared understanding of why experience management is important and what success looks like. XM professionals need to be able to articulate the XM storyline, infusing success stories and key themes from experience and operational data into internal communications, training programs, and customer-facing messages.
- Portfolio Management. Once an organization’s XM strategy gains momentum, the number and type of XM-related efforts happening inside the company can grow quickly. Eventually, many of these are driven not by the XM core team itself, but by employees and teams across the business. XM professionals stay involved as portfolio managers with the skills to track the progress of the portfolio of efforts, make sure that distributed pursuits underway across the lines of business stay aligned with the overall XM strategy, and step in to provide assistance when the business can’t do it on its own.
Soft Skills to Raise XM Professionals’ Effectiveness
There is another set of expertise — first introduced in our research — which is both complementary to the technical skills and essential for XM professionals’ success in driving action with them. These include:
- Stakeholder Empathy. A significant contributor to the success of an XM professional is the ability to connect with and understand the needs of the stakeholders they partner with – from business unit leaders to account owners, front-line employees to product teams, people managers to ecosystem partners, and more. This involves building relationships across these groups and gaining a deep knowledge of the goals and decision criteria of the people who will be using XM insights to identify what’s needed to adapt the business or their behaviors to close experience gaps.
- Enterprise Intelligence. XM professionals cannot live in an X-data bubble. Rather they need to know how to access and integrate meaningful operational data with experience data to offer richer insights to the business. Mastering this starts with gaining deep industry knowledge and organizational awareness to know what operational data matters to the business and then tapping into the tools (and people) that can synthesize data together from across sources.
- Tailored Insights. Actionable insights are insights that are relevant, intuitive, and delivered in a way that they can be useful for making decisions on what to do next. To be successful at this, XM professionals need to tap into their stakeholder empathy and enterprise intelligence and combine that with a technical savviness around managing analysis and reporting to enable effective root cause analysis. This requires XM professionals have the technical expertise to leverage analytical tools and predictive modeling, data visualization, and communication channels (even if other experts on your team execute these actions) to put useful insights into the hands of users.
- Journey Alignment. XM professionals understand that people are on journeys to accomplish their goals, and along the way, there are some interactions with the company that help them do that. Everyone else in the organization is often more narrowly focused – on their role, their product, their project – and the individual customer/employee/product/brand interaction their work is connected to. They need guidance on how to put insights into the context of the holistic journeys customers are on. XM professionals who excel at Journey Alignment understand how to create and use journey maps and have a high comfort level with learning from qualitative techniques and unstructured data. They also need to understand their organization well enough to make connections across interactions and to spot the upstream and downstream impacts of actions being considered in response to XM issues or opportunities that are identified.
- Response Activation. Too often XM professionals assume that people will automatically know what to do with insights once a dashboard is built or a report is sent to them. But that is not always the case, especially in organizations just starting their own XM journeys or organizations introducing new insights or analytics models. If XM professionals have been demonstrating the other skills above, they’ll have made great headway in establishing the necessary organizational credibility to direct action. But they also need strong communication and collaboration skills to facilitate action planning discussions with stakeholders who will use insights to design or improve experiences. And those same skills will serve them well for capturing and sharing internal and external success stories that result from actions taken to encourage more of the same.
The bottom line: With the right expertise, XM professionals can make a tremendous impact in their organizations.
Aimee Lucas, XMP, CCXP, is an XM Catalyst for the Qualtrics XM Institute