Human resource departments have started to display a preference for recruiting customer success agents whose backgrounds are in the same vertical and/or role as the customers they’re interacting with, rather than direct customer support experience.
A recent report from Totango found that 68% of customer success agents who have experience in other departments hail from sales, marketing, services and project management.
When recruiting success reps, why draw from disciplines that aren't directly related to customer success? Wouldn’t people with proven track records in the customer success department have the highest likelihood of being the best customer success team members?
This recruiting trend certainly seems counterintuitive at first, but when we dig deeper, it clearly makes perfect sense.
The excellent customer experience (CX) is now table stakes for all enterprises, and despite the extraordinary advances in artificial intelligence (AI), bots can’t cut it alone.
Tools are awesome, but people still want human interactions, human concern, and human empathy when they contact a company. According to PwC, nearly 80% of American consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service define a positive customer experience.
That being the case, it’s no wonder that customer success roles are increasing. LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report ranks the role of Customer Success Specialist as the sixth fastest-growing role in the US, with a 7x increase since 2015 and 34% annual growth.
As a result, we’re seeing top customer success agents coming in from a different door than they have in the past.
PwC reports that 46% of all consumers will abandon a brand if its employees are not knowledgeable and that only 46% feel that they speak with employees who understand their needs. Customers don’t want to be transferred to another rep and don’t want to have to repeat their issue each time they are passed to someone new.
That’s why people like Josh Starr, senior FP&A consultant at DataRails, a company that specializes in data tools for finance teams, are recruited as customer success agents. Starr has a background in both finance and engineering, and at one point, he wanted to become a CFO.
He thought his current position would be a small detour on his mapped-out career path, but to his surprise, it turned out to be the perfect fit, marrying his specialist engineering knowledge and specialist finance knowledge.
“Maximizing my skills with the personality makes working at DataRails my most enjoyable professional experience by far,” says Starr with satisfaction. “The ability to make good use of both my hard and soft skills that I’ve acquired over the years is really what makes the role enjoyable for me. I feel that I’m able to fully bring forward my best attributes and leverage them not only to make the most of my time at work but also to maximize the interactions with and the experiences of my customers.”
And empowered problem-solvers like Starr are the top type of person that customers wish to interact with. The best customer success agents have specialized knowledge and experience of the verticals they represent, as well as soft skills to connect with clients, and the right tools that deliver information about the customer so they can respond to their true grievance without making them repeat it.
Experiences like Starr’s are only set to increase. The digital ecosystem blurs the nominal lines between verticals and departments, so as we push deeper into the digital world there will be an ever-growing need for individuals with skills, knowledge, and experience that cross theoretical borders. For example, we’re seeing today that data and analytics cross silos to wash the entire organization, and employee skillsets need to do the same.
It’s the recruits who don’t mind rolling up their sleeves and getting things done who are in high demand, but if you have strong STEM skills, soft skills and creativity, then all the more so. This is what today’s employers are after.
This phenomenon didn’t come out of the left field, mind you. Last year’s PwC CEO Survey found that a lack of employees with the right mix of technical, digital, and soft skills has been holding back innovation and increasing people costs. At the same time, lateral movement within organizations is rising.
As lives and careers get longer, employees demand more variety within their professional lives.
We’ve been hearing about the need for sales and marketing to work more closely together for a long time, but now there’s a growing understanding that customers aren’t aware of crossing any departmental boundaries. To the customer, there is one single process that begins with discovery, through research, purchase, setup, troubleshooting, upgrading, updating, repeat purchases, and so forth.
There’s no reason why a brand should create artificial categories for different interactions between the same customer and company. Walking the customer through the entire sales cycle, and bringing value to every stage, requires empathy that can only come from a relevant industry background.
This is what Christian Flasshoff and Luiza Sinisterra do for Cognite, where they are customer success managers. Flashoff came from a background of banking and consultancy, Sinisterra from Control and Automation Engineering, and both are delighted with the opportunities their positions afford. “I now get to be the interface between technology and business teams in order to provide the best outcome towards customers,” says Sinisterra.
“I wanted to work hand-in-hand with leading experts in the software engineering, data science, and industrial engineering field,” adds Flashoff. “At the end of the day, I solve challenges for our clients.”
There are two trends coming together – the demand for improved CX from expert agents who can follow the entire customer lifecycle, and the rise in individuals with cross-role skills and a desire to try different roles. This synergy reinforces the need for customer success employees with experience beyond customer support and points the way for HR managers to direct their customer success recruitment efforts.