Majoring in Customer Experience
By Jeremy Watkin
My nieces and nephews have recently either entered college or are actively applying to universities, and I was struck with a thought. If one of them came to me and asked, “Uncle Jeremy, I’d sure love to follow in your footsteps and pursue a career in customer experience (CX). What major should I choose?”
While there are more and more schools offering degrees in customer experience or customer experience management, what if their school of choice does not? Sure, there are a variety of seemingly logical choices like business administration, marketing, computer science, psychology, and a variety of others but are these the best choice?
It’s with that in mind that I surveyed the CX Accelerator community to gather input on the topic. I first wanted to understand a bit about the educational background of CX professionals and gain insight into their individual journeys to careers in CX. I then asked them to recommend a college major or field of study. Let’s take a look at the results:
What was your major (and minor) in college?
Out of 35 total responses, 53 majors, minors, and graduate degrees were represented, and some clear leaders emerged. 30% have degrees in business administration, 9% in marketing, 7.5% each for psychology and communication, and economics represents 5.5%.
Other fields of study that had more than one representative were computer science, mathematics, engineering, history, and sociology.
Degrees also included global tourism, sports and entertainment management, performing arts, and others are proof positive that people who find themselves in CX come from an incredibly diverse set of backgrounds.
What major would you go back and choose knowing what you know now?
The response to this question was fascinating as 69% of respondents said that if they could go back in time they would select a different course of study. Some would make a small change like taking a few more business, economics, or psychology courses, or adding a minor in a relevant topic. Others would select a completely different major, altogether — most to better suit them for a career in CX. But what major would they choose?
Before I reveal the top choices, it’s worth noting that a few folks mentioned entirely different, seemingly unrelated fields of study like veterinary medicine, theater, or expanding beyond the walls of college and gaining additional real world experience. I suspect that even in those fields of study, there might still be some practical use for CX skills.
There was a clear trend toward four CX-focused fields of study that respondents gravitated towards...
- Mathematics and Data Science (7 mentions)
I would have studied more math - there is a lot more math in this job than you'd think! ~Yael McCue
Yes, there is a lot of math in the world of CX and understanding and quantifying the voice of the customer is just scratching the surface. The ability to take a dataset, ask questions, and manipulate it to find answers will serve any CX professional well. Especially when you consider that to gain buy-in from executives for CX initiatives, there must be data to support it. Also, consider the world of big data and the way making sense of huge sets of data has helped companies deliver more personalized experiences.
- Business Administration (5 mentions)
My field of study set a foundation for this work by developing a solid business acumen. ~Erica Mancuso
Given the high number of respondents who majored in business, it’s no surprise that others would gravitate in this direction. A well-rounded field of study that touches on management, marketing, finance, economics, HR, strategic planning, and more will go a long way in preparing you for a career in CX.
- Psychology (5 mentions)
I gained a clear understanding of motivation and behavior, combined with the ability to see connections between seemingly unrelated facts and situations. ~Eric Engwall
Customer journey mapping, a key exercise in the field of CX, is all about developing customer personas and mapping their experience with your company from start to finish. Key to this exercise is understanding customer thinking, motivation, and behavior. The field of psychology is perfect for this.
- Behavioral Economics (5 mentions)
Focusing on behavior, data, and psychology. Ignorant 18-year-old me thought that psychology only led to a career as a psychologist or in HR. ~Stuart Whyte
Behavioral economics is essentially psychology applied to economic situations. In a CX scenario, this might help you understand why a customer chose to purchase a more expensive item, or why they chose to cancel their service and go to another company, or what factors influenced their decision to continue to do business with your company. Perhaps this field of study would appeal to some of our folks who expressed interest in psychology.
There are a few key learnings that you should take from this article. While business was the most common field of study for those completing the survey, it’s by no means the only path to a career in CX.
Whether you have a background in marketing, data science, engineering, management, learning and development, communication, performing arts, and much more, you can be a CX-focused professional and make an impact on your organization and customers.
If you’re pursuing a career in CX, data science, business, psychology, and behavioral economics are some fields we recommend pursuing, but by no means are you limited to those. Find something you’re truly passionate about and study that!
Finally, thank you to all who participated. If you have found yourself in a career that’s focused on CX, leave a comment with the field of study you chose, how it has prepared you for success, and any changes you might make knowing what you know now. Better yet, let’s keep this discussion going in the CX Accelerator Slack community.
Infographic Courtesy of Erica Marois
Jeremy Watkin is a CX leader, contact center veteran, and Product Marketing Manager at 8X8. He is an avid learner, and is constantly giving back to the CX and Customer Service community through his writings. You can see his work featured on Customer Think, Customer Service Life, and now CX Accelerator!