Women Leaders in Customer Service

Popular culture has embraced the idea that women and men are different. True as that may be, we tend to map these differences to gender stereotypes.

Stereotypes are generalizations we make to differentiate groups of people, and anticipate and respond to these differences, instead of having to figure it all out from the ground up.

Source: David Schneider, ‘The Psychology of Stereotyping’

A research by Zenger Folkman published two key findings:

#1 Women were rated better than men on 12 of the 16 leadership competencies. Data shows that more women were rated as better ‘overall leaders’ by their peers, managers, direct reports, and fellow associates.


#2 There are more men than women in leadership roles. Research data shows that there are more men in the upper rung of the hierarchy and more women in the lower rung of the hierarchy.


What’s intriguing about these findings is though women are rated better than men in these leadership competencies, we don’t see as many women in leadership roles. Why? Here are three key reasons.

– Most of the leadership competencies are closely tied to common stereotypes around men’s traits.
– It is difficult to change people’s conscious and unconscious beliefs about gender roles because we don’t realize we hold them.
– Our brain is wired that way.

Gender stereotypes are notoriously sticky, in part because we’re often unaware that we hold them ―Dr. Tiina Likki

Though holding gender stereotypes saves us time and energy in understanding and differentiating people, they may emerge more strongly under certain conditions such as culture roles or leadership competencies.

But that hasn’t stopped women from reaching new heights in their respective areas of expertise. Take for instance the customer service function. Customer service is the key differentiator for businesses in a highly competitive and digital world and it’s no exception to gender stereotypes. This calls for strong leaders in the forefront ensuring that great customer experience is the competitive edge you have over your competitors.

Here are a few women leaders, influencers, and strategists (in no particular order) who’ve broken the glass ceiling in the customer support space that we are so passionate about!

Take a bow, inspiration, and some advice too!

Kirsty Traill
VP Customer Support at Hootsuite

Kirsty is currently the VP of Customer at Hootsuite, the world’s most widely used social media relationship platform, where she responsible for Global Support of Hootsuite’s 16M customers, using customer insight to drive initiatives which deliver a superior customer experience, and developing strategic programs designed to maximize customer adoption, usage, engagement and retention and advocacy. Be sure to check out her talk — ‘Knowing Your Customer’.

Become the Voice of the Customer in your organization, and champion changes that will have impact on the Customer Experience and ultimately the bottom line. Dig deep into data to understand why customers are contacting you, and build a business case to address the top issues. Empathy for Customers coupled with a data driven mindset are a powerful combination. Also, remember your people are you biggest asset, and treat them accordingly.

Emilia D’Anzica
Customer Success and Advocacy Strategist

Partnering with companies who are seeking to build and optimize their enablement programs and teams – from cross-functional team alignment to effective customer success and advocacy strategies. Executive coach, focusing on customer success professionals. You can learn more about her at www.cgaadvisor.com

Don’t give up! Achieving goals takes time, persistence and dedication. Surround yourself with positive people who can mentor and coach you and be part of your journey. If you don’t know anyone, start attending meetups in your area that are related to your goals. Join online groups through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other mediums to keep you motivated and on target. In my experience, the customer success community is a welcoming one that is constantly seeking to elevate the profession and people who make it so remarkable. If you need a little extra support, hire a coach with Customer Success experience. They will guide you and support you as well!

Sue Nabeth Moore
Customer Success Leader, Consultant 

Considered as one of the 7th most influential women to follow in 2018 by Gainsight in the Customer Success world, Sue is one of the main Customer Success pioneers and evangelists in Europe. She helps companies ensure their sustained win-win growth through CS strategies. I’m passionate about evangelizing customer success and bringing CS professionals together in Europe. She is also the Founder of meetups in Paris and Lisbon and  the co-founder Customer Success Europe (merged with Customer Success Network). Here’s some of the great work she’s doing.
Keynote Pulse
Influential women in customer success
Customer Success Conversations Podcast – CustomerSuccessManager.com
Customer Success in Europe – Women in Customer Success Podcast

Remain passionate, keep a curious and open mind, share and learn as much as you can, join peer networking and communities, be bold. Customer success is an exciting business role being shaped by amazing men and women pioneers. Seize the opportunity by making your contribution to help fully emerge this strategic business driver.

Nicolle Paradise
Senior Director of Customer Experience

Nicolle is a Keynote Speaker and Practitioner on Customer Experience and Leadership. She is also the Head of Experience @ TEDx San Francisco and a Board Advisor.

One of the greatest opportunities for leaders and emerging leaders is to “think like a customer and communicate like a CFO.” Thinking like a customer is about delivering value according to how they want to optimize your product and how they define success (hence, customer success). Communicating like a CFO is about calculating the financial ROI that customers are receiving from your product and thus, communicating why their renewal would or would not help them be successful (also, customer success). Our industry often focuses on the former and I’ve found that the greatest opportunity for growth, both for customers and companies, is to include the latter.

Allison Pickens
Chief Customer Officer at Gainsight

Allison Pickens is a broadly recognized thought leader on Customer Success and on scaling teams during hypergrowth. She is VP of Customer Success & Business Operations at the leading Customer Success software company, Gainsight. Her organization includes all post-sales functions: CSM, Support, Onboarding, Services, Customer Marketing, and Operations. She started her career in management consulting for Fortune 500 companies while at Boston Consulting Group and later worked in private equity investing at Bain Capital. At both companies she worked with organizations on driving change and scaling effectively. Allison decided that she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work at Gainsight when Bain Capital Ventures led the Series B fundraising. Allison is a frequent speaker and blogger on customer success and encourages her team members to “carry the torch” for the customer success industry.

Christina Crawford Kosmowski
VP, Global Head of Customer Success & Services at Slack

A technology veteran, Ms. Kosmowski has spent nearly two decades holding leadership positions in the enterprise software space. She is currently the Head of the Global Customer Success & Services organization at Slack, where she is responsible for ensuring customers realize the type of business value from Slack that drives lifetime customer loyalty. Before Slack, Christina had a 15 year tenure at Salesforce, where she had overseen several functions, including renewals, consulting, support, and customer success management. In that time, she helped the company grow from 200 employees and $30 million in revenue to over 25,000 employees and $8 billion in revenue.

Jeanne Bliss
President, CustomerBliss & Cofounder Customer Experience Professionals’ Association

Jeanne Bliss pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer and is an architect of the customer experience movement. Since 1983, she’s been a five-time Chief Customer Officer, coached 15,000 global executives on how to earn admirable growth by improving lives, delivered 1,500 keynotes, written four international best-selling books on Customer Experience, and co founded the Customer Experience Professional’s Association.

Connect your work to the growth of the business, strategically align with the power core of your organization, be strong and believe in your superpower!

Annette Franz
Founder and CEO, CX Journey Inc.

Annette has 25 years of experience in not only helping companies understand their employees and customers but also identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience and developing strategies to ensure those outcomes. She co-hosts the weekly #CXChat on Twitter, serves as an executive officer on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), mentors other professionals in this field to help them advance their careers, and is a speaker and an avid writer; she is also an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council.

Annette’s consulting work involves two types of engagements, workshops and strategy consulting. Workshops are typically journey mapping workshops, where she facilitates client journey mapping sessions, engage them in her journey mapping process, and teach them to fish. Strategy consulting typically involves soup-to-nuts CX strategy work, oftentimes with CCOs or CX executives who have never done this work before and need guidance on where to begin and how to build out the roadmap.

There’s a ton of advice that I could give to women in CX, but here are a few things to keep in mind: Be informed. Educate yourself – about the profession, about the business, about your customers. And know that without the CEO’s commitment to the work that lies ahead, you won’t get far. Start there.

Jeannie Walters
CEO and Founder, 360Connext Experience Investigators™

Jeannie Walters CCXP has been writing, speaking, training, consulting and coaching leaders on her trademarked customer experience approach and methodologies for more than 20 years. Everyone is welcome to join her mission ‘to create fewer ruined days for customers’.

Remember the customer in all you do in the organization, not just when you are serving them directly. Speak up on their behalf, asking, what will this new process/action we’re taking mean to them?

Blake Morgan
Customer Experience Futurist, Keynote Speaker, Author 

Blake Morgan is an internationally recognized leader on customer experience. She is the author of “More Is More” and a new book on customer experience coming in Fall 2019 (HarperCollins).

She has given over 55 speeches on customer experience, contributed to Harvard Business Review and taught at Rutgers Executive MBA program. She also has a Forbes column.

Use whatever makes you different to your advantage. I have leveraged my female traits, perhaps seen by some as a weakness, to gain a huge advantage. I am often the only female in a room or speaker line up of men, and I don’t try to blend in with them. What makes me different is I am sensitive, and that makes me in tune with other people’s needs, I’m a good listener, and I use my vulnerable side like an actor to engage with the audience during a speech. Don’t see feminine traits as weak, but as strengths to help you in business and in life.

Sue Duris
Co-Founder/Director of Marketing and Customer Experience, M4 Communications

Sue Duris is a customer experience and digital marketing strategist having spent more than 20 years leading marketing, product, and customer experience (CX) initiatives in SaaS and telecommunications organizations. Her focus is in building and optimizing CX programs through journey mapping, voice of the customer, and metrics to drive growth. She is a strong believer that employee experience (EX) drives CX and invests time in designing employee and customer retention, loyalty and advocacy programs. She writes and speaks on marketing, CX, and diversity and inclusion topics.

She frequently writes for M4’s blog that talks about marketing and customer experience insights for strategic growth. These are best practices that organizations can implement today that will help them grow tomorrow. One of her most popular posts is How Win-Loss analysis can enable CX success.

It pays to be diverse — not only from a moral, but also from an economic, standpoint. McKinsey tells us gender-diverse companies are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability and 27% more likely to create longer-term value than those that are not gender-diverse.

In fact, it’s a great time for women to have a significant voice at the corporate strategy development table.

Where women can contribute the strongest is in CX and driving deeper understanding of the customer, their needs and pains, and what their preferences are. Customer expectations continue to rise and with that so does the need to personalize the experience. Customers want us to be able to understand them and know how to make their experiences better. Corporate survival depends on it. Approach customers with empathy, actively listen, and be curious about them and their needs. Be obsessed about helping them achieve their desired business outcomes and be successful.

Nienke Bloem
Customer Experience speaker in the blue dress

Has the scars and the stars when it comes to Customer Experience and guides CX managers and companies on their road to Customer Centricity through speaking, masterclasses and a fun CX Game.

Use both facts and figures as emotions to bring the customer alive in companies.

Ingrid Lindberg
Founder and CXO at Chief Customer

Ingrid is an author, speaker, and serial CXO. She has more than 20 years of relevant, real-world experience and perspective that others don’t, inspiring hearts and minds from the C-suite to the call center. Prior CXO of Cigna, Prior CXO of Prime, prior president of Kobie Marketing.

Don’t try to cram your sparkly self into the stereotype of what you think you should be like. I’ve learned that bringing all of me (the funny side, the caring side, the smarty-pants side) to the table, and really, truly being myself is what has mattered. When you’re real, people connect with you. When you’re trying to be or behave a certain way, people see that too – and it isn’t as inspiring. So – wear your funky shoes, put the nose ring in (if you want it!) and speak your mind. You were hired. Now, show up.

Martine Niermans
CEO of Q10 Consultancy

Martine was at the start of a very successful Tech scale up. She has a successful career in marketing, event management, sales, operations and CS leadership in companies like Amsterdam RAI, Apple and Bynder. She now helps set up and drive CS organisations with her customers. She evangelizes CS at conferences like Pulse, TCSA, CS Unplugged Europe, Women in Tech, and SuccessCon and is an expert commentator at BNR Radio.

My advice to women in Customer Service is always trust you gut and be confident.
We have this amazing gift which we call our gut. And even though we all have tried to ignore it now and again it always proved us wrong in the end. So if you have learned this valuable lesson already, next time listen to it in everything you do. It will make you grow tremendously. Obviously it is very important to be confident, it has a direct link with the gut story, cause if you are confident and trust your gut, you will make decisions easier and defend these decisions. Believe me, they are usually the right ones, especially in customer service, cause we are nurturing creatures. This is how nature made us. Not just for our kids and family but it is also a second nature to us to care for our customers and employees. Use these core instincts. It will bring you to where you would like to be.

Maria Martinez
Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer at Cisco

Maria Martinez is Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer at Cisco. As a member of the executive leadership team, Martinez oversees Cisco’s $12.5B Services and Customer Success organizations that are responsible for helping customers transform their businesses through Cisco’s broad portfolio of software, subscription and services offerings. Under her leadership, Martinez is also helping to drive Cisco’s overall sales and go-to-market transformation to deliver greater business outcomes for customers as they transform their businesses.



Catherine Blackmore
GVP of Global Customer Success at Oracle Marketing Cloud 

Catherine is a thought leader and innovator in the area of Customer Success. She has published numerous blogs, eBooks and whitepapers on the structure, programs, and operational framework for Customer Success organizations and is rated among the top 50 influencers to follow in customer success.

Helen Vaid
Global Chief Customer Officer at Pizza Hut

Helen Vaid is the Global Chief Customer Officer of Pizza Hut, Inc. where she handles the transformation of the Pizza Hut in-restaurant and digital customer experience by overseeing development of capabilities that help customers have a seamless experience wherever they are and however they interact with the brand. Most recently she served as Vice President, Digital Store Operations & Experience at Wal-Mart.

Rhonda Basler
Director, Customer Engagement at Hallmark Business Connections

An avid business trend watcher and strategic thinker, her customer advocacy expertise stems from over 15 years’ experience in data-driven brand marketing.

Basler started her career working in both inbound and outbound customer service contact centers. Her leadership role in developing Hallmark’s new customer care solution began two years ago at the SOCAP national conference. What started as preliminary research has blossomed into a game-changing solution for contact centers.

As the business-to-business unit of Hallmark Cards, Inc., Hallmark Business Connections leverages more than 100 years of Hallmark heritage, creativity and innovation in the business arena to provide meaningful, memorable and measurable solutions that strengthen business relationships with employees and customers.

Mary Poppen
Chief Customer Officer at Glint, Inc 

Mary Poppen is Glint’s chief customer officer, responsible for driving and scaling the company’s ability to delight its customers. Mary has over 15 years of business consulting and leadership experience. She has published research and speaks frequently on the topics of performance and process improvement. In addition, she is a well-recognized customer experience thought leader and presents at global events and conferences on this topic. Mary is also a member of the International Women in Leadership Association.

But that’s not all folks! If you know of a women leader you’d like to see here on this list, drop us a comment and I’ll get in touch with them.

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