Support Talks: Recruiting Top Customer Experience Talent

Craig Stoss Craig Stoss · 5 min read

Recruiting a customer experience talent is always a challenge.

Hiring is important for every role at a company. The time and effort to interview, onboard, and train are costly. If a hiring mistake is made, the impact on the team, and company, can mean delays in projects, reduced morale, or at worst a disruptive pivot of a team.

Recruiting top Customer Experience talent has added complexities because these hires likely impact customers directly. Kristina McDougall, Founder of Artemis Canada, has been working in recruiting for over 20 years and has watched CX develop as a function with many roles. I asked for her insights on recruiting in general, some key considerations for hiring customer experience talent, and how technology can (or cannot) help.

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In your experience, is recruiting for Customer Experience-focused roles different from other roles?

Kristina: CX has really evolved over the past decade. The SaaS model has blurred the lines between marketing, sales, conversion, on-boarding, training, support,and retention. Since CX is part of all of these functions, it is important to understand how each company defines CX and how collaboration works across the business at every customer touch point.  Like many other roles, you have to unpack a lot before you really know what a company means when they say CX.

Likewise, you need to understand individual candidates’ CX experience. Roles with similar titles have vastly different responsibilities, deliverables, and metrics in the market. Strategies and skills differ broadly depending how you define your customer: Direct to consumer, SMB, Mid-market, and enterprise are all different. A recruiter needs to understand those differences and how that changes the hiring profile in leader and individual contributor roles.

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Are there any talents in CX Leaders that remain constant?

Kristina: As said in the previous point, roles can differ pretty drastically, but there are some constants. Data is a big one. The need to measure results in meaningful ways and to demonstrate how the bottom line is impacted by various CX activities is key. And because CX touches just about every other function, collaboration across teams is also critical. So we also look for ability and evidence of engagement with other disciplines, gaining buy-in, and presenting new ideas. With Customer Experience talent, communication style, and ability to upsell/renew without being or seeming “salesy” are also skills we tend to look for. Solutions and service orientation (but with an eye on revenue) is a really important skill.

Any favorite questions you ask these candidates as you vet them for your clients?

Kristina: I focus on how the candidate builds trust with clients. CX is a trust-building job and so understanding the candidate’s perspective on trust and how they foster it with others will be important to any role in this area.

In the last question, I mentioned service-oriented. That is really important to CX. Does the candidate understand their customers, both internal and external, and how they service both groups?

Not just for CX, but we always ask candidates to describe their ideal role. We want to get a sense for the management style they prefer, the scope of the ideal role, how they prefer to collaborate with peers across the business etc. We understand that ideal fit is rare, but we can look at where things align and whether obvious gaps can be addressed.

What misconceptions or errors do you see when it comes to job descriptions or business needs?

Kristina: We see companies getting excited about people with experience in larger, big-brand companies. However, what they more often need are builders who might come from start-ups that are not well known. In many cases, the big company person is ill-prepared for the work that needs to be done in a start-up or scale-up. They will struggle without the infrastructure of a big organization. All experience is not equal, and when designing a job description, you should consider those profile details.

Domain is another interesting qualification. CX roles will sometimes require technical know-how in the specific organization industry (eg. finance, construction, healthcare). This ensures that reps and leaders can understand, empathize and gain trust and credibility with the customer base. More often they will require experience in a similar role, using similar systems, or working in SaaS for example.

Leaders should ask themselves what someone is more likely to learn in the first 3-6 months of a role if they are to be exceptional. It is often worth investing in system and product training in a passionate domain expert. Hiring someone who is smart enough and excited enough to learn is key. Accessing domain experts also opens up the pool of talent for CX beyond other tech companies, bringing diversity and depth to your talent pool.

What are your thoughts on remote work? Do you see clients taking advantage of a wider candidate pool?

Kristina: Top candidates are definitely asking for a remote role as either a strong preference or as a requirement. The recruiting company has to consider the viability and openness to remote to recruit top talent. More than a few days/week in the office is a tough sell right now. 

Companies that permit remote work will have an advantage. These organizations are not only attracting the strongest people, but the flexibility enables them to recruit from a less-constrained pool of candidates. Wider geographies equal more diversity and more people to recruit from.

CX especially is well-suited for remote work. Clients are often in different time zones, so you can hire based on client geographies rather than corporate HQ. In addition, since most of their work is external, there’s often less internal peer collaboration needed than something like development, for example.

There are still advantages to working in person. Our experience shows that collaboration, learning, mentoring, and coaching of teammates are facilitated more easily in person. Data shows that layoffs affect remote employees disproportionately more than those who worked in-office, which indicates that there is a benefit to face-time with peers and leaders.

Artificial Intelligence tools are creeping into the recruitment and hiring space. Where is (or isn’t) their place in the hiring process?

Kristina: AI can leverage data in the research phases of recruitment. It simplifies accessing, consuming, and evaluating job and company information for individuals and candidate profiles and resumes for companies.  But there is a danger in making assumptions about ideal fit in tech companies that differ tremendously across culture, stage, etc.

Candidate experience requires a good balance of authentic human interaction and simplification of any tedious steps. Meanwhile, things like scheduling of interviews, preparing candidates and interviewers in advance, and background checks are great targets for automation.

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Craig Stoss Craig Stoss

Craig has spent time in more than 30 countries working with support, development, and professional services teams building insight into Customer Experience and engagement. He is driven by building strong, effective support and services teams and ensuring his customers are successful. In his spare time Craig leads a local Support Thought Leadership group. He can be found on Twitter @StossInSupport

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