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Closing the gap:
Bridging the skills gap is the key to delivering intelligent experiences

People in learning setting separated by gap

Closing the gap

Creating intelligent experiences requires technical and non-technical talent, data-driven decision making, and a customer- focused mindset that is led from the top.


Intelligent customer experiences draw on data analytics and experimentation to pinpoint moments in the customer journey that compel customers to take action and inspire their loyalty. Creating these experiences depends not just on advanced technology but also people with the skill sets required to put it to use. 

This includes engineers, of course, but many more capabilities are needed to create a truly intelligent experience. It requires user experience designers, product managers, data analysts and governance experts to ensure that the technology has a meaningful impact on the customer, that it serves the commercial aims of the business, and that it is applied cost effectively and on a repeatable basis. 

Even before the pandemic, competition for digital skills was high. But the widespread shift to digital channels during lockdowns and the ‘great resignation’ of 2021, in which workers sought more rewarding opportunities en masse, brought it to fever pitch. This effect is far from over: in June 2022, the number of tech jobs advertised by US employers was 60% higher than it was a year previously, while analyst company Gartner expects this ‘critical’ shortage of IT skills to continue into 2023. 

To deliver customer experiences that distinguish them from their competitors, businesses need a pipeline of talent for the various roles that are involved in their creation. And, to make the most out of this in-demand talent, they must foster a culture that empowers staff to serve their customers and establish working practices that bring teams together to deliver intelligent experiences. 

In June 2022, the number of tech jobs advertised by US employers was 60% higher than it was the previous year.

In-demand skills

Discover Financial, a global financial services provider with brands such as Diners Club International and Discover Bank, has transformed its customer experience function in recent years in pursuit of more intelligent and compelling experiences. 

A critical part of this transformation has been a move from a project-focused development model to a product-based methodology, explains Sheila Lodhia, the company’s vice president for application development.

As a result of this, product owners have become crucial to the business. “The product owners drive the purpose of the products and they are the ones making sure all the stakeholders’ interests are addressed, stakeholders like compliance and legal, for example,” says Lodhia. 

Designers, too, are vital for delivering intelligent customer experiences, she says, providing an outside-in perspective. “They need to be there at the time of building the experience, or even at a time when we’re thinking about what a product is going to be or what this experience is going to be,” Lodhia explains. 

“They have to be there at the start, really giving that customer view, not some internal view of how some marketer or some technologists think it should work.”

The shift to a product mindset has been accompanied by a data-driven approach to decision making, Lodhia says. “Without the right data, we may not even be building the right product or feature,” she says. “We’re using data to drive out those concerns and build the actual experience needed.”

Knowing what to build, too, requires access to specialised talent. “Our data analytics team has been great, enabling a real change to our organisation,” Lodhia explains. She adds that more advanced use of data also has implications for the skill sets required in roles such as legal and compliance.

People in learning setting separated by gap
The shift to a product mindset has been accompanied by a data-driven approach to decision making.”

Talent supply

Candidates for these roles, as well as technology and engineering positions, have been in high demand, Lodhia reveals. Discover Financial, like many other businesses, has witnessed a degree of attrition in its workforce, she adds. 

Ensuring a constant supply of talent has been a challenge, Lodhia says, but it has been eased by a creative talent acquisitions process, upskilling and internal training through its Discover Tech Academy and vendor partnerships. 

According to analyst company Forrester, businesses pursuing digital transformation must establish a ‘digital talent roadmap’ that lays out how they will identify, plan, execute and optimise talent acquisition. While HR colleagues should be involved in this roadmap, digital leaders should be in the driving seat, Forrester advises, as digital skills are pivotal to the success of long-term transformation goals. 

Robert Wadsworth, director for enterprise data at Kin + Carta, has built and run customer experience teams at organisations including the BBC and the Co-Op. He advises digital leaders to develop a pipeline of talent so that open roles can be filled quickly with the best available candidates. 

“It’s about building a trusted network,” he says, “and almost having a waiting list of people who you’d love to hire in the future when they become available, and when you find yourself with gaps in your teams.” 

This approach also helps employers bolster the diversity and inclusion of their customer experience teams, Wadsworth adds, as traditional recruitment practices may exclude diverse candidates.

Soft skills such as empathy and communication are often just as important as technical expertise.

Leaders should be open-minded about the candidates they recruit into customer experience positions, Wadsworth counsels. Soft skills such as empathy and communication, he says, are often just as important as technical expertise – although competition for these is intensifying too, according to research from the World Economic Forum

Above all, though, Wadsworth looks for energy and enthusiasm. “If you’ve got someone with motivation and energy, who wants to make a difference, you can teach them anything,” he says. “They’re contagious. Others tend to swarm around them because they’re interesting people. They’re changemakers, innovators and disruptors.” 

These people could come from any background, Wadworth adds: they could be nurses, police officers or government agency staff. “It’s just people who obsess over making things better for other human beings.” 

Collaboration and culture

There is more to the human side of intelligent customer experiences than recruitment, however. For one thing, the various functions that create and support such experiences must collaborate effectively, with a shared focus on the moments that matter that earn customers’ loyalty. 

This is one of the drivers behind Discover Financial’s adoption of a product-based development model, Lodhia explains. The approach helps employees from across departments focus on a single outcome, namely a product or experience that delights the customer. “We work in a very cross-functional way,” she says. 


In this model, employees from all departments must understand the value of each product from the start. Data plays a key role here, Lodhia says, providing

transparency and accountability while keeping teams focused on the outcomes that matter to customers. 


“I love how we use data to get to customers’ concerns and address those concerns with a product or capability.” 


The results speak for themselves. “We built a capability called Freeze It® to place the customer at ease by helping to prevent fraudulent charges to their credit card,” Lodhia says. “It’s very simple to use and, as a result, a very popular feature.” 


In Wadsworth’s view, the cross-functional mindset is second nature to the Gen Z employees now entering the workforce. Immersed in digital experiences for their whole lives, this generation understands how they emerge from their constituent parts and their thinking is more holistic and product-focused, he says. 

Customer experience must be championed by senior leadership if it is to be given the priority it deserves.

An organisation’s culture also contributes to the effectiveness of its customer experiences. A crucial dimension is data literacy, Wadsworth argues: the more people understand customer data and how to use it, the more creative and innovative they can be at solving customers’ problems and creating engaging experiences. 

Training is an important tool for developing a data-literate and customer- focused culture, as well as cultivating the skills required to execute intelligent customer experiences. Indeed, signalling to current and prospective employees that your organisation will invest in their personal development is an essential part of attracting and retaining talent. “Customer experience must be championed by senior leadership if it is to be given the priority it deserves.”

But culture is shaped from the top, and Wadsworth advises that the customer experience must be championed by senior leadership if it is to be given the priority it deserves across the organisation. 

“You need the chief customer officer, or at least somebody in the C-suite, who will champion the end-to-end customer journey,” he says, “someone who’s capable of joining the dots between what happens in the call centre, what happens in the parking lot of your retail store and what happens on Twitter.” 

Without this, Wadsworth warns, good ideas for customer experience improvements will not get the investment or cross-organisational buy-in that they need to become reality.

“Good ideas implemented in siloes hold little value,” he says. “But good ideas, carefully executed as part of a holistic experience with investment in the right places, can be a rocket ship.”


  • Know your strategy. Tight-knit teams focused on delivering products, driven by knowledge from customer data, with cross- departmental buy-in enables leaders to understand the key skills required but also spot any skills gaps quickly. 

  • Understanding the skills mix required to deliver great experiences is essential. It’s not just about technical skills, though. It’s also about having the right attitudes and outlooks to meet customer needs. Empathy, enthusiasm and energy for customers are traits that are in increasing demand. 

  • Lead from the top. Intelligent customer experiences emerge when a company’s channels are shaped by a singular vision and funded accordingly. That calls for a customer journey champion in the C-suite.

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This article originally appeared in Thread, Edition 3. Thread is Kin + Carta’s quarterly magazine that cuts through the complexity of digital transformation. Making sustainable change real, achievable and attainable. 

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