Skip to content

The Essential Soft Skills for a CX Practitioner: Beyond the Technicalities

7 minute read

By Lawrence Heath, founding partner and lead CX strategist at Untangld and Sarah Jones, Experience Lead at TalkTalk

In the fast-paced arena of customer experience (CX), attention often gravitates towards technical prowess—data analytics, user interface design, and customer journey mapping. Yet, it's the soft skills, those nuanced and often undervalued qualities, that form the true bedrock of CX excellence. These skills—critical for securing stakeholder buy-in, nurturing customer relationships, and guiding successful outcomes—are what this article aims to spotlight, advocating for their rightful place alongside their technical counterparts.

So, what are the most important soft skills to possess as a CX practitioner? And more importantly, how can we ensure they are present and actively shaping the work we do day to day? 


At the core of exceptional customer experience lies not just a skill but a profound orientation towards empathy. Empathy in CX goes beyond the conventional understanding of putting oneself in the customer's shoes. It's about delving deep into the emotional and psychological landscape of the customer, recognising their needs and motivations, and it involves an active, engaged process of interpreting and responding to customer signals, both explicit and implicit. To bring empathy to life in the context of CX strategy, practitioners should employ a multi-dimensional approach. Whilst there are hundreds of ways of approaching this, four of our favourite considerations are below:

  • Embrace active listening and observational techniques: Encourage teams to practice active listening, focusing not just on what is said but how it's said. Combining this focus with observational techniques can unveil unarticulated needs or frustrations, providing a richer understanding of the customer experience.
  • Encourage customer journey immersion: Go beyond just mapping customer journeys on paper. Encourage teams and stakeholders to experience the customer journey themselves, in as many real-world scenarios as possible. These firsthand experiences foster a deeper, more authentic empathy, grounding strategies in genuine customer insights. When was the last time you had a conversation with a customer? 
  • Champion empathy training workshops: Organise workshops that simulate customer scenarios, challenges, and pain points. Role-playing exercises and empathy-building games can help teams develop a more instinctive response to customer needs. It’s also a fantastic way to generate ideas around possible solutions.
  • Let technology do some of the heavy lifting: There is an ever-increasing number of platforms available to modern CX practitioners that can do, or at least start, the “heavy lifting” aspect of collecting and interrogating large volumes of customer sentiment data. Whilst they can’t replace the human aspect (just yet), they can make it far easier and quicker to surface rich insight around the experience that unlocks the “why” around customer sentiment analysis. 


True transformation within organisations and the experiences they offer hinges on a collaborative effort, where integration across departments aligns with overarching customer-centric objectives. Yet, effecting meaningful change in behaviour and mindset poses a nuanced challenge, often impeded by the natural "righting reflex". This reflex, a well-meaning but potentially counterproductive urge to solve problems, can stifle the deeper, empathetic engagement essential for genuine understanding and lasting change. The potency of storytelling to correct this cannot be overstated. It's the bridge that connects the intricate world of CX strategies to the hearts and minds of stakeholders and the broader business. It emerges not just as a tool but as a pivotal force that can shape perceptions, emotions, and decisions. So, when thinking about engaging with the broader business and how to make your work easier to “buy”, consider these things:

  • Always ask what the narrative is: Storytelling taps into the human brain's innate love for stories. Narratives are processed by our brains differently than facts or data, engaging us more deeply and leaving a lasting imprint. By weaving customer experiences, challenges, and triumphs into a narrative, CX professionals can create a more engaging and relatable case for why the organisation should take certain actions. 
  • Consider how to use more interesting formats to bring the strategy to life: Whenever possible use multimedia and interaction to create immersive experiences. Showing how the narrative unfolds and what the opportunities are in an interactive format, is more powerful than just telling or presenting a 30-slide pack. Luckily there are now numerous digital tools from Figma to Chat-GPT that allow us all to create compelling visuals and increasingly engaging content quickly, cheaply and easily.  

By harnessing the power of storytelling, CX professionals can transform abstract concepts and strategies into compelling narratives. This not only enhances the clarity and appeal of their messages but also forges stronger, more meaningful connections with their broader teams. In an internal landscape too often crowded with data and jargon, the ability to tell a captivating story is what can set a proposal apart, turning passive listeners into active participants in a shared journey towards customer excellence.


In the rapidly changing realm of customer experience (CX), agility is paramount. It's the ability to adapt swiftly to new market demands, customer feedback, and technological advancements, ensuring resilience in the face of uncertainty. Here's how CX professionals can embed agility into their practices:

  • Implement Agile Project Management: Adopt agile project management frameworks that emphasise iterative development, team collaboration, and customer feedback. This approach ensures that CX initiatives can pivot quickly in response to new information.
  • Set Adaptive Goals: Establish goals that are specific yet flexible enough to allow for shifts in strategy. This approach helps ensure that long-term objectives remain relevant even as the landscape changes.
  • Utilise Scenario Planning: Engage in scenario planning to anticipate potential challenges and opportunities. This practice helps teams prepare for various outcomes, making it easier to adjust plans and strategies quickly.

By cultivating an agile approach, CX professionals can navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape, ensuring their strategies are as resilient as they are dynamic. Agility not only fosters a culture of continuous improvement and innovation but also positions organisations to thrive amidst the ebb and flow of customer needs and market trends.


At the heart of innovative customer experience (CX) strategy lies an indispensable skill: creativity in problem-solving. Unlike conventional problem-solving that often relies on linear thinking and established patterns, creativity in CX problem-solving involves looking beyond the obvious to discover novel solutions. It's about challenging the status quo, envisioning new possibilities, and crafting experiences that not only meet but exceed customer expectations. This creative approach to problem-solving is critical for developing unique, memorable customer experiences that stand out in a competitive landscape.

To foster a culture of creative problem-solving within a CX context, practitioners should always be doing a lot of the following:

  • Customer Co-creation Sessions: Engage directly with customers in the creative process through co-creation workshops or digital platforms. This approach not only harnesses the creativity of your customer base but also ensures that solutions are closely aligned with actual customer needs and desires.
  • Prototyping and Rapid Testing: Encourage a prototyping mindset where ideas are quickly turned into testable concepts. This practice allows teams to experiment with creative solutions in a low-risk environment, learn from feedback, and iterate. It’s a dynamic approach that values progress over perfection and fosters a culture of innovation.
  • Fostering a Safe-to-Fail Environment: Cultivate an organisational culture that sees failure as a valuable learning opportunity. A safe-to-fail environment encourages risk-taking and supports creative endeavours, knowing that not every idea will succeed but that each attempt is a step towards a groundbreaking solution.

By weaving these strategies into the fabric of CX operations, creativity becomes a driving force behind problem-solving efforts. This approach not only yields innovative solutions to complex challenges but also ensures that the resulting customer experiences are as effective as they are unique. Creativity in problem-solving thus becomes a key differentiator, propelling brands forward in their quest to deliver exceptional, memorable customer experiences. Through creative thinking, CX practitioners can transform ordinary encounters into extraordinary journeys, fostering deep, lasting customer relationships and driving sustained business success.

Ultimately CX is a symphony of skills, varied based on the practitioner's personal context. There is though a very real need to value the softer ones more highly and recruit based on them more often.

CX success is a multi-faceted endeavour, a harmonious blend of technical and soft skills. By emphasising the development and application of these soft skills, we not only enhance the effectiveness of CX strategies but also foster deeper, more meaningful customer relationships. In essence, the CX practitioner's role is multifaceted: therapist, storyteller, coach and creative, with each aspect contributing to the orchestration of exceptional customer experiences.

Herein lies a significant oversight in our professional development paradigms. We readily invest in teaching vocational skills—acknowledging that expertise in engineering, copywriting, or design is acquired, not innate. Yet, we hesitate at the prospect of teaching soft skills such as decision-making, collaboration, and adaptability. We erroneously dismiss these critical skills as innate "talents", relegating them to the periphery of our training focus. This underinvestment is a disservice to the potential of our CX practitioners and the broader field. Soft skills, much like any vocational skill, can and should be nurtured through deliberate, thoughtful training programs. Recognising and cultivating these skills are essential for the evolution of adept, versatile CX professionals.

Through a concerted effort to elevate these soft skills within our training and development agendas, we can unlock the full potential of our CX initiatives.

Keep up to date with the latest events, resources and articles.

Sign-up for the Engage Customer Newsletter.