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Checking In with the CXPA

Release Date: January 12, 2021 • Episode #148

In a regular “check-in” with the Customer Experience Professionals Association, or CXPA, host Steve Walker welcomes Barbie Fink, current chair of the CXPA board, and recent board chair Annette Franz to discuss the organizations accomplishments and challenges during 2020 and what to expect in 2021.

Barbie Fink and Annette Franz

Barbie Fink & Annette Franz
CXPA Board of Directors
Connect with Barbie
Connect with Annette

Highlights

Defining a customer experience professional

Barbie: “I think for me the biggest change as we defined our mission was to really focus on who our audience is. And our audience is CX professionals. And we’ve defined CX professionals as an individual who acts as a catalyst in basically enhancing an organization’s results by understanding, designing and improving experiences around the entire customer relationship. And a big part of that is the relationship that organizations and individuals within organizations have with customers. Really understanding them as human beings that are bigger than the parts that they bring to the table when they engage with your company.”

Inclusion and diversity

Annette: “So, diversity and inclusion and how do we address that? And we’ve created a couple of volunteer committees where we’ve got members really looking at how we on board members, how we welcome members into the community and a whole host of other concepts and topics around diversity and inclusion in the association and how, as a professional, we take that out into our own organizations to ensure that we design experiences that are for diverse audiences and are very inclusive.”

Transcript

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Steve:
Like many professions, those dedicated to customer experience have an organization to look to for resources and support.

Barbie:
The biggest change, as we defined our mission, was to really focus on who our audience is – CX professional – and we define CX professionals as an individual who acts as a catalyst in basically enhancing an organization's results by understanding, designing and improving experiences around the entire customer relationship.

Steve:
Checking in with the Customer Experience Professionals Association. On this episode of The CX Leader Podcast.

Announcer:
The CX Leader Podcast with Steve Walker is produced by Walker, an experience management firm that helps our clients accelerate their XM success. You can find out more at Walkerinfo.com.

Steve:
Hello, everyone. I'm Steve Walker, host of The CX Leader Podcast. Happy New Year. Thanks everybody for listening. On The CX Leader Podcast we explore the topics and themes to help leaders like you explore all the benefits of your customer experience and help your customers and prospects want to do more business with you. The CXPA, or Customer Experience Professionals Association, but all of us that are involved in it, we just call it the CXPA, has been a frequent guest and a frequent topic that we cover here on The CX Leader Podcast. And it's no secret that at Walker we're extremely grateful to this organization. So we periodically like to check in with our friends at the CXPA and we're thankful to have two of the most important people at the CXPA join us on the podcast today. Barbie Fink is the incoming chairman of the board and starts her year – has just started her year as of the start of 2021. So, Barbie, thanks for joining us on the podcast.

Barbie:
Thanks, Steve. And hi everyone.

Steve:
And making her third appearance on The CX Leader Podcast is our friend Annette Franz. Annette just finished up her year as the chair of the board. And so it's kind of been our theme here, our New Year's theme, we kind of check… Want to check in on everybody what happened in 2020 and what's happened in 2021. So, Annette, thanks again for being back on the show.

Annette:
Yeah, thanks for having me. This is a great three-peat, so thanks for having me. And this time talking about the CXPA. So thank you.

Steve:
Yeah. Well 2020 was a crazy year, so congratulations Annette for making it through like all of us did. But why don't you just share a little bit about your background. I mean, I know you very well, but just for those of us who may not be as familiar, what do you do when you're not volunteering for the CXPA?

Annette:
Yeah, thank you. And you you mentioned, you know, you've been in this profession for a long time and as have I. Right. You know, I am right now the CEO of my own consulting firm, CX Journey Inc. But, you know, I started my career in this space back in the early 90s at J.D. Power and Associates. So it's quite the ride. And to your point to just interesting to the profession and the concept of customer experience evolved over the last thirty years.

Steve:
And Barbie, what's your day job when you're not volunteering for the CXPA?

Barbie:
So I am happy to say that I'm now retired after twenty six and a half years at Adobe, which is a wonderful company to work for. And when I started at Adobe back in 1992, the work that I did was technical support on the telephone, talking with customers every day. And as I navigated that and understood what customers really needed, a customer experience became a really big focus of mine and moved into leadership positions there. But I retired about a year and a half ago and I spend a lot of my time with the CXPA, which is an association that I love. And then the rest of my time I spend with family and playing and hanging out with my dogs and doing all kinds of arts and crafts and things like that that keeps me happy.

Steve:
Well, congratulations, actually, with the, you know, JD Power really kind of one of the inventors of the category and Adobe. And then, you know, coming up through the research side of it versus those that came through it from the technical support customer experience side. That's kind of what the profession you know, it's two of the typical paths. So, Annette, let me go to you first and just kind of give us a breakdown of what happened with CXPA in 2020 and in how the organization fared through the pandemic. And and just kind of your recap on 2020 from the perspective of the professionals organization.

Annette:
Yeah, we we survived the year, didn't we?

Steve:
We all did.

Annette:
You know what a year it was? Oh, my goodness. You know, it's really interesting because for our last board meeting, I took a took a little bit of time to just sit down and look at what were some of the highlights of the year. Right. You know, and and it's it was an interesting year. And I think probably the crowning achievements came toward the end of the year when we had our strategy, our board strategy meeting, where we typically all meet in person. But obviously, it didn't happen this year. We had a virtual two day marathon meetings to really, really just talk about what's ahead for the association and how do we get there. Right. And so I think the biggest stakes in the ground that we made was revisiting the CXPA mission, nailing down the vision and defining what a CX professional is. Right. And so that was really important other things that we did really were around some of the hot topics for the year, right? So diversity and inclusion and how do we address that? And we've created a couple of volunteer committees where we've got members really looking at how we on board members, how we welcome members into the community and a whole host of other concepts and topics around diversity and inclusion in the association and how, as a professional, we take that out into our own organizations to ensure that we design experiences that are for diverse audiences and are very inclusive. We also created – and this is one of my favorite projects – we created a committee this year around higher ed. And right now their goal is to really just catalog universities and colleges and different schools with CX programs or courses or whatever it is. So that'll be the starting point. And then going forward. I'll leave it up to Barbie and the future future board leaders to determine where that committee goes next. And Greg Melia, obviously our CEO, to determine where that committee goes next. And really, I think we were all especially in that strategy meeting that I was talking about. We all had some sort of commentary around CX needs to be taught or talked about much earlier on in the in an individual's life – I wanna say career, but life too, right. That people need to know about it way earlier than, you know, in their fifteenth year at an organization when they're suddenly hit over the head with it. So and then, of course, the typical other things that we had to deal with this year in terms of pivoting our all of our in-person programing to virtual. Pivoting, our CCXP, the exam to being virtual and a lot of other things like that. So we survived it and I think we learned a lot. And I think there are a lot of things that will carry over from 2020 going into the future as well.

Steve:
One of the reasons I've always said you belong to the professional organizations is a lot of us are sort of resource strapped. So to have a you know, to have a resource for DNI is a great resource, particularly for a smaller organization. And I really like what you're doing with higher ed. You know, it tends to lag. But, yeah, we should see degree programs and things that are coming out because customer experiences is definitely one of the fastest moving phenomena that's going on in the private sector today. So people coming out of business school need to know that. So, Barbie, how do you see these changes impacting 2021 going forward? What's the future look like for for the organization?

Barbie:
So, you know, I think for me the biggest change as we defined our mission was to really focus on who our audience is. And our audience is CX professionals. And we've defined CX professionals as an individual who acts as a catalyst in basically enhancing an organization's results by understanding, designing and improving experiences around the entire customer relationship. And a big part of that is the relationship that organizations and individuals within organizations have with customers. Really understanding them as human beings that are bigger than the parts that they bring to the table when they engage with your company. If you can recognize their overall goals, then you can also see how you can better support and engage with them to help them be successful. So the CX professional definition is really about being the catalyst that does that within an organization to drive the results that you want to see. Our mission is really all about supporting those customer experience professionals to share, to learn, to inspire and grow throughout their entire career. We spent a lot of time in the past 10 years really looking at the discipline of customer experience as a whole and really creating foundational material and information and content and learning around what that is. And when the CXPA first started, not everybody knew what customer experience really was. And I think there's still some questions out there. Rather than focusing on the definition of a customer experience is it's really all about supporting the professionals who are creating those experiences for customers looking holistically from an end and perspective across the entire customer journey. I would say that for me, the future is all about the individuals that make us who we are as an association, the way that we connect with each other, the way that we learn from each other, the way that we mentor each other. And then really looking at who is young and up and coming in the world and how do we influence them to bring the elements of customer experience into the work that they do? And then beyond that, how do we look at all of the different professions that exist and recognize the need to embed the discipline of customer experience into everything? So it's not just about having a singular role that is focused on customer experience, but it's an overall understanding of customer experience and everything that you do.

Annette:
Annette, I wonder if you might you know, in addition to COVID and the pandemic, what were some of the other factors that led you to revisit the mission and vision and really step back and take a strategic look?

Annette:
Yeah, you know, I think we needed clarity. We wanted clarity, we wanted direction. And we needed some focus. Right. Because we really wanted to make sure that we were heading in the right direction for the next three to five years, for the next 10 years. Right. So, you know, I'll I'll borrow a quote from and I don't even know it's credited to a lot of people, but vision without execution is hallucination. But it also if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there. [laugh]

Steve:
Yeah, I think that's Alice in Wonderland, actually.

Annette:
We needed to just put that stake in the ground and say this is where we're going. Right. And so so I think that was really that's really been the focus or the or the the catalyst for spending all of that time on that in the latter part of 2020. Because we did we really needed to just nail down the fact that, hey, you know what, we're our focus is on the people, on the profession and how do we you know, as Barbie mentioned in the in the mission. Right. How do we help them share their resources and their best practices? How do we help them learn? How do we inspire them and how do we help them grow and excel in their in their profession? And so that's really what it came down to, is really clarity and focus. And I think we are and will be better served for it going forward.

Steve:
Barbie, do you kind of see this as more evolutionary or more revolutionary as it applies to the industry?

Barbie:
You know, I see it a little bit of both because, you know, when there's a revolution, there's a sudden and drastic change that occurs. But there's also this evolutionary piece which is really about looking at how things change and develop over time. So I see a bit of both here. You know, for me, when I look at the past 10 years, I think that we have as an association, as a profession, done a lot of learning and growing and sharing and inspiring. But to really focus on those words in what we bring forward and to really connect that to the individual, I think is. It's really more acute in terms of how we're looking at this going forward. It's really much more of a foundational element than what I have seen in the past. And so that's the piece that I would say is a bit of a revolution.

Steve:
Let me… I'll stay with you for a minute, Barbie, but then I'll give you a chance to comment on this, too, Annette since you're sort of doing this as you transition the leadership. But what has been the reaction as you've rolled this out to some of the members? I mean, what what kind of questions are they're having or what kind of reactions are you getting, I guess?

Barbie:
So a lot of resonance for people. When we first published all of this to our community and we have a town hall about it, I started seeing posts on LinkedIn about how much it felt like it resonated and people started sharing that around the world, really. So in the town hall, there was lots of tagging that happened in those meetings and then the posts that I've seen about this and people taking it upon themselves to share it more broadly with the rest of the world and the rest of the people who may or may not be members on LinkedIn. That's that's been pretty inspiring, I think. And then to watch the reaction and to see that it feels right to our members has been a really important piece of all of this as well.

Steve:
Annette, what's your take on how it's been rolled out?

Annette:
Yeah, you know, I'll I'll echo that. It's it's been nothing but positive. I think people really appreciate that. We have nailed down what we should have nailed down a while ago. But the timing was right to do it now. And and you sparked a thought to when you when you asked about that, which was, you know, the other thing that we did in 2020 was we refined our bylaws. And I think that was an important thing to happen, especially at the end of 2020, because it really incorporated a lot of the process changes and some of the some of the diversity components and a lot of different things that really needed to be fine tuned and and really be right for the next 10 years of the association for sure. And I feel like, you know, coming into 2021, we're on the right track and I think we're set up for a great future.

Steve:
That's great. You know, and it's it's always exciting to work on bylaws for a not for profit organization. [laughing] But, you know, I'm only half joking there because it's such a you know, it's a critical foundational element of an organization. And again, it's not it's not fun work, but it it just it is so key to the success of the organization. How big is the board now today?

Annette:
Oh, gosh, Barbie. How many to be sixteen, fifteen.

Barbie:
Fifteen. And have you just grew it. Yes. And a few people are rolling off and we're bringing on a new board members in January.

Steve:
And you mentioned a CEO. There is some professional staff with the organization today, now?

Barbie:
Yes. We have Greg Melia, who's our CEO.

Steve:
Right.

Barbie:
Who is amazing, such an incredible leader who has a background in association management. So he has immersed himself in the world of customer experience, but his background helps us be so much more successful as an association. And then we have a small staff of people that focus on really key elements. They do amazing work as well. And we wouldn't be where we are today without our staff.

Steve:
You know, this is a hard hitting podcast we do here. Some I'm going to ask you a really tough question, Babrie, what's the best part of being a chairperson of the – I know you're not quite the chairperson – but what's the best part of being in the chairs at the CXPA and being a board member of the CXPA?

Barbie:
You know, it's all about human impact. It's all about the connection to individuals and people. And that extends beyond the CXPA. It extends to the customers that I interacted with when I did my work. It extends to the employees that I worked with who in seeing and being a part of the work, understood how they could have an impact. When I talked to our members, I hear what they're struggling with. I hear the things that they're facing. I hear the journey that they're on. When I mentor people who are tired of the association, I have a chance to learn from them, as well as being a mentor to them and seeing their amazing successes when they're able to do that. And, you know, I think what people really want to have a sense of in their lives overall is this sense of purpose. And I think the discipline of customer experience is something that gives people that. When they see that they can make a difference, a positive difference in the lives of other people, it means the world. And so that's what I see in all of this.

Steve:
Annette that it's got to be a little bit bittersweet here. You've you've invested a lot of time. And, you know, like all good volunteer leaders, you're going on to be the the best job on the board, which is the past year. But as you reflect back on your volunteer efforts, what kind of is the best part for you?

Annette:
You know, really, I think the the best part has been helping to shape the association. There are a lot of things that happen behind the scenes five years ago that a lot of folks don't even know about. Right. And being a part of that and being a part of sort of the evolution, I'll use the word evolution here, evolution of the association to where it is today has just been just been a fun ride for me and a really interesting ride and a challenging ride at times as well. But but being a part of shaping the association has been really important because the association is by member for member. Right. And it's so important to be a part of that is so important to make sure that we're always looking out for our members and for their best interest and always ensuring that they're a part of this as we as we grow and evolve the association. But but just being a part of this tribe, of this profession, that is still relatively newish for a lot of people and watching it evolve as it has as well, along with the evolution of the association, has been really an exciting part for me. So I'm thrilled to have been a part of this.

Steve:
My guests on the podcast this week are the incoming and outgoing chairs of the CXPA, that's the Customer Experience Professional Association. For those of you who don't know, Barbie Fink is just been elected and she's serving as the chair. And Annette Franz frequent guest on the podcast has just completed her year. And we've reached that point in the podcast where I ask every guest to give us take home value. And this will be sort of a special take home value of how the listeners out there could get more involved or contribute even more to the profession. So, Barbie, I'll start with you. What is your take home value for our listeners today on The CX Leader Podcast?

Barbie:
So I'm actually going to share two.

Steve:
Oh, you get extra credit for two tips.

Barbie:
Yes. So the first one is all about just connecting with people deeply connected with customers, understand who they are outside of the role that they play with your organization, how the conversation makes them meaningful, share what you heard, involve others in connecting with customers in that way. So wherever you are, whatever work you're doing, find ways of connecting deeply with your customers and then share what you've learned with other people in your organization. That is really going to make a big difference. In terms of the CXPA as we look to the body of work that we have ahead of us in 2021, when there are going to be all kinds of ways for people to get involved and to to look at the volunteer opportunities that will be on the website that some of them are and those will be evolving and changing pretty regularly throughout the course of the year. Our focus in terms of what we'll be working on is all around community and content and career and credibility. And there's many, many aspects of all of those pieces. And we definitely need help. We definitely need the voice of our members to be a part of that. When I talk with members, I hear a lot that they want to be engaged and involved. And so I just want to point out that thank you for all of the people that are part of our association.

Steve:
And Annette, what's your take home value for our listeners?

Annette:
Well, since this is my third time on the podcast, I'm going to be an overachiever and I have four takeaways. [laughing]

Steve:
Wow! Our people are going to be busy in 2021, our listeners.

Annette:
The good news is they're all related too, so. So number one is just become a member. If you're not a member yet become a member, I think you will find there is so much value in the resources, the connection, everything. Right. Number two is to check out – very connected to that – check out the CXPA resources. There are so many webinar recordings, blogs, articles, white papers, job descriptions, all kinds of resources that that are helpful. A discussion forum where you can, you know, talk to your peeps, talk to your tribe and share best practices and ask questions about how do I do this or why do we do that, those kinds of things. The third thing I would say is to check out the job board, especially coming out of 2020 and the massive unemployment that we've had in the last year. Check out the job board. It's a great resource if you're looking for a CX position. And then the fourth one is, as Bobby mentioned, volunteer. There are so many volunteer opportunities within the association. And remember, it's a for member by member association and that means that we can't do it without you. So please take a look at some of the volunteer opportunities and get involved. We can use all the help we can get.

Steve:
Annette, thanks so much for being a guest on the podcast again and for all your great work you've done for CXpa. I appreciate that.

Annette:
Thank you.

Steve:
And if people would want to continue the conversation, how they might find you Annette?

Annette:
You can find me on LinkedIn or you can just email me at annette@cx-journey.com. But certainly with regard to the CXPA, go see the CXPA.org. Check out the site there.

Steve:
And Barbie, congratulations on ascending to the role as the chair of the overall organization. And best of luck for a great 2021. Thanks again for being on the podcast.

Barbie:
Thank you so much.

Steve:
And if people want to get a hold of you, I'm sure they can find you at the CXPA.org website. But other ways that they might be able to find you online?

Barbie:
They can also be online at LinkedIN. I'm pretty active on LinkedIn, so I respond to all of the messages that I get there and always am willing to have a direct conversation with people. In fact, I'll be opening up my calendar for any of our members who want to connect.

Steve:
That's actually… I'm going to give a take home value tip for our audience, if you're not connected to the to Barbie and Annette on LinkedIn, go do that right now and they will accept your invitation and will keep growing our community. So and again, I would just reinforce if if you're involved in this business at all and you haven't been involved with CXPA, you need to do it and and make that one of your New Year's resolutions. Thanks again, Barbie and Annette. Thanks for being guests on the podcast and great success going forward in 2021.

Annette:
Thank you so much.

Barbie:
Thank you, Steve.

Steve:
And be sure you want to check out Walker's new report. Next level CX for B2B Companies, which focuses on helping B2B companies rise to the next level in CX excellence. You can download the report for free at Cxleaderpodcast.com/nextlevelCX. If you want to talk about anything you heard on this podcast or about how Walker can help your business's customer experience, feel free to email me at a podcast@walkerinfo.com. Be sure to check out our website, cxleaderpodcast.com to subscribe to the show and find all of our previous episodes, podcast series, contact information, you could even drop me a note and tell you what we're doing or suggest an idea for a future podcast. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker. We're an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success. You can read more about us at Walkerinfo.com. Thanks for listening and we'll see you again next time. And Happy New Year.

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