Customer experience (CX) is entering its adolescence, and with that comes introspection, self-doubt, self-discovery, the opportunity to make some terrible life choices, and also the opportunity for reinvention.

Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS) has just celebrated its 21st birthday, but CX as a recognizable discipline at any kind of scale is a little more than a decade old. At Forrester, we laid out our manifesto for the power of customer-centricity in Outside In in 2012, and we have been building on those ideas through various iterations of our customer experience research ever since to define CX as a discipline, a profession, and a set of competencies, approaches, and measurement frameworks that drive change. But we still have a long way to go.

What’s Your CX Team Archetype?

Our recent global survey of CX professionals showed us that 66% of European CX teams are less than 10 years old, and 81% of European CX pros have less than 10 years of experience in the profession. Compared with mature disciplines like marketing and technology management or even the late ’90s wild child of e-commerce, CX is still a baby. This youth, especially in Europe, shows up in the maturity of teams and in their heritage. CX teams usually evolve from one of a few places, which somewhat defines their archetype as they start off. Much like the world of gaming where you might have to select a character type like thief, fighter, or wizard, your CX archetype defines your team’s starting skill set, competencies, and priorities. It’s the baseline from which you grow.

Imagine you’re at the start screen of a game and have to pick your CX team archetype:

  • Measurement. You own customer research, voice of the customer, and CX measurement and are all about championing what customers think.
  • Design. You bring design thinking, user experience, usability, and often digital design to the party.
  • Customer service. You handle customer complaints and are well placed to identify what needs to be improved.
  • Digital. You are from a more digital background, perhaps digital marketing or e-commerce, and initially focus on customer acquisition and sales.

There are other evolutionary paths for nascent CX teams. I’m not trying to be exhaustive here. I’m trying to make the point that CX teams don’t emerge fully formed like Athena from the brow of Zeus, replete with spear, shield, magic helmet, and a talking owl sidekick. If anything, they are more akin to Odysseus or Jason, embarking on a long and arduous quest to an uncertain destination, and are likely to have to fight some monsters along the way. And very much like their mythical counterpoints, CX teams must make some choices about their direction along their journey as they mature.

What Is Your Ambition?

Our theme for CX EMEA 2022 is “Out In Front.” It’s a rallying call to CX teams in our COVID-19, post-Brexit, polarized world of disruption, war, climate change, and uncertainty. No matter where you start from, as your CX team matures, becomes more rounded, and begins to take on some of the traits of the other archetypes, as a CX leader, you will eventually come to a fork in the road where your ambition must guide you. Ask yourself:

  • Do you want to be the measurement team? Or the design team? Or the service excellence team? Or the complaints handling team? Do you want to be the team that reports on what customers want or maps current-state journeys or designs point solutions to ease customer pain points? None of these things are wrong or inherently bad. They are all useful and productive. But do they fuel your ambition for the next decade of CX?
  • Or, just possibly, do you want to be the transformation team? The team that is out in front of its colleagues, its customers, its competitors, its industry? That’s at the prow of the Argo, navigating uncharted waters, eyes on the distant horizon? Do you want to be driving customer-centric transformation, championing value for customers, and having a lasting impact on your customers and your business?

I know which one I want.

The next decade of the CX profession will either see us as steady, stable, safe corporate citizens helping our colleagues understand our customers better, or it will see us in the driver’s seat of change as firms embrace journey-centricity. CX teams at firms like Accor Hotels, Nespresso, and Nissan are embodying that change. At CX EMEA 2022, you can hear their stories and more and immerse yourself in Forrester’s latest research, frameworks, and tools that will help you drive that change in your firm.

See you there.