How many Customer Experience experts really are experts?

When we are  headed into the unknown, our need for security drives us to latch on to anyone who claims that he has already travelled this path and can take us to the promised land safely.  When it comes to the land of Customer Experience and Social Media ( to name just two) it pays to be skeptical.

There is a big difference between knowledge and expertise. Knowledge tends to be in the domain of ‘know what’ and this can be acquired simply be being in the stands and observing the play.  Expertise on the other hand is in the domain of ‘know how’ and it is acquired by being on the field playing the game – again and again; learning what does and does not work and modifying your approach – again and again.  Put differently, you can probably write persuasively about tennis simply by observing it.  Yet, your persuasive writing does not mean that you are any good at playing tennis.

It is easier to churn out experts in some fields and harder in others.  Lets take direct marketing as an example.  Direct marketing has had at  least 50 years to develop, lot of approaches have been tried, the result of these approaches are in and as a result there is a genuine body of knowledge.  Training and certification is available.  And of course some people have been involved in it for tens of years.  Enough learning through doing to become experts: Drayton Bird is one of these experts.

Now compare that with the fields of Customer Experience.  It is new – about ten years of age.  There is a wide range of views (including mine) on what it is and is not.  There is no single established framework, method or toolset.  And most importantly there are not many companies (organisations) that can honestly say that they have been through the experience and have great results and learning to share.  Those that do, tend to keep the learning a secret as it is a competitive advantage.  Given this is the case how many genuine experts are out there?

Some people claim to be experts because they have written articles or books.  Expertise is relatively easy to assess if there is defined body of knowledge and existing experts to assess claims to expertise.  It is totally a different thing when it comes to a new field where there are no experts and it is really difficult to tell the difference between what sounds appealing and logical and what actually is so and works in practice.  Put differently, telling a convincing story that sells into the existing mindset does not make a person an expert in Customer Experience.  It makes them experts in marketing (figuring what people want) and writing.

All of which makes me wonder how many Customer Experience experts really are experts?  How many have been on the court and played out the whole match – not just once but many times?  Incidentally, I am not a Customer Experience expert and have never claimed to be one.  I have a passion for it, I have been on the court and played the game several times.  Yet, I know that I have lot more to learn.

What is the positive, liberating, side of this post?  If you are working in the field of Customer Experience then you are a pioneer and have a blank canvass to work on.  You do not need to restrict yourself or be restricted by people who claim to be experts.  In fact you have an opportunity to become an expert yourself.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

One thought on “How many Customer Experience experts really are experts?”

  1. Great Blog Post Maz

    Similarly, I always cringe when I hear someone saying they are a ‘Social Media Guru’ – Agh! As with any discipline that is in its infancy, people working within that field need to grow and learn as the market develops. In his book, ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell outlines the rule that to become an expert in any field you need to have practised or undertaken that activity for at least 10,000 hours. I refer to myself as a ‘Customer Experience Native’ because I have worked in this field for about 6 years now but that definatley doesnt make me an expert. And I’ve yet to meet anyone that comes close to studying and implementing CEM strategies for 10,000 hours! Maybe in 5 years time we will start to see a few individuals being recognised as leaders in this field (the Tiger Woods of CEM perhaps) but until then we’re all learning from our mistakes and succesess. I’m quite happy about that because, at the moment, the journey is fascinating:)


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