The hiring process for customer experience teams is broken. Fixing it comes down to three strategies—for leaders and job seekers alike:
- Defining the five roles that make customer experience
- Applying those roles to the metrics within your organization
- Getting the right people onboard (even if you don’t hire anyone new)
I’ve been calling myself a customer experience specialist for years, fully embracing the catch-all nature of the term. Having an ill-defined role is thrilling at first, but ultimately exhausting and unproductive.
(As a job seeker, I’ve wasted hours sifting through ambiguous job descriptions. And, as a former hiring manager, I’m guilty of throwing together vague job postings just to get another body into the room.)
A quick search for customer experience jobs returns wildly misleading titles with misaligned expectations.
It’s time we put more thought into the hiring process for customer experience (CX) and fix the broken, perhaps non-existent, system.
If you want to keep this article on hand when hiring, grab our Quick Guide to Customer Experience Roles for a breakdown of the top five customer experience roles, along with keywords and recommendations:
Create CX roles to fit your growth plan
Customer experience specialists are like puzzle pieces. None of them should be the same. And yet, they should all work together to build something larger.
Use the following breakdowns to craft more defined roles for each member on the CX team.
Customer experience specialist: Dreamer and doer
The role requires creative thinking and a real talent for communications. Tasks will involve suggesting ideas based on customer feedback, working with managers and other teams to shape those ideas, then executing. Customer experience specialist responsibilities will still be in the inbox, but they should be thinking about how to get ahead of issues rather than just resolving them.
There’s already enough cloudiness in CX, so let’s look at an example to drive the point home.
Lisa is a CX specialist. She notices more and more customers asking questions about a product description on the website. She tags these conversations and presents the findings to her manager. Then, she collaborates with the product and engineering teams to re-write the description based on customer feedback. Once implemented, she tracks customer response via the inbox to make sure her rewrite decreased confusion.
Here are some keywords to help you build better job descriptions for this role:
To get the most value from this position, you’ll want someone with at least two years of work experience. Ideally, previous work will include various forms of communication.
If hiring for a startup, hire someone who has worked at a startup (or another fast-paced environment) to minimize onboarding time.
Customer experience manager: Coach
Customer experience managers lead their team members to accomplish day-to-day and big picture goals.
They create the CX team vision and roadmap, attend internal meetings, manage people, track metrics, organize projects, and remove blockers.
Debra is our example customer experience manager. She holds a CX team meeting each morning, assigns tasks, and checks in on progress. Then, she heads to an internal meeting about a product redesign, where she suggests making the menu bar more intuitive for customers.
She pulls data from the inbox to track team members’ stats, measuring it against the goals she set. She notices one team member is not hitting their daily conversation goals, so she sets a meeting to discuss how she can remove any blockers.
Use these keywords to help define this role:
- Goal setting
- Big picture
Customer experience managers will be most successful if they have over five years of work experience. Skills should include managing other people, overseeing large projects, familiarity with spreadsheets, metrics, and goal setting.
If hiring for a startup, definitely prioritize those with startup experience, so they understand the unique demands.
Customer experience associate: Backbone
The customer experience associate is a junior-level team member who executes on tasks and interacts with customers.
In this example, Jason is our customer experience associate. He spends most of his day in the inbox, talking to customers, creating tickets based on customer needs, and escalating issues.
He edits the customer experience specialist’s copy for the new product description. Then, he tags relevant conversations in the inbox to track the success of the new copy.
Our keywords here are:
Customer experience associates are typically entry-level positions. Those with prior experience in people-heavy environments, focused on serving or anticipating needs, will thrive.
Customer experience analyst: Numbers geek
Customer experience analysts create and track metrics to quantify the customer experience.
They organize and analyze customer data to improve the current experience and predict future needs. Spreadsheets are essential to this role, along with the ability to present your findings in visually compelling ways that each department can understand.
Natalie, our example customer experience analyst, spends her day pulling historical data from the inbox to determine how sales correlate with customer interactions.
She’s also looking at website data to see which page customers stay on the longest. She’ll present her findings so the marketing team can see which content is most engaging.
Additionally, she’s testing a hypothesis to find out if delivery time affects repeat sales. Her report includes analysis on delivery data and sales numbers, broken down by customer.
Keywords for this role:
Successful customer experience analysts have minimum three years work experience in a similar role (general work experience won’t cut it here). An MBA, prior work in business analytics, or financial modeling, will be useful.
Previous projects should include specific examples of how they used analysis to improve customer experience.
With a role as pointed as this, onboarding won’t include specific job training. So, it’s important that candidates come ready with a plan for what to track and how to extract data, along with a proven record of executing this in the past.
Customer experience expert: Guru
Customer experience experts have a proven track record for building excellent customer experiences.
These are high-level professionals with tons of varied experience in the field. They write books, give seminars, and contribute quotes as well as original articles to publications like Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and The New York Times.
Marcy is our customer experience expert example. She was hired as a consultant to offer advice on how to streamline operations and improve customer experience.
First, she watches how the team currently works and interviews each member. Then, she puts together a presentation with her insights and plans for improvement. She gets the team set up on a new inbox that better fits their needs, and introduces productivity software to keep everyone on task.
Finally, she trains the current CX team on how to be more efficient and increase customer happiness, while pointing out which roles to hire for next.
Likely, this person will have over ten years of proven success in customer experience. They may have “Customer” in their former titles, but “Marketing,” “Operations,” or “VP” are probably in there too.
Seek out experts who have consulted for, or were founding members of, companies similar to yours and have a proven record of success.
Customer experience managers: Determine the right metrics for CX team growth
You’ve likely already harnessed the power of analysis to understand customer satisfaction and pain points. Now, expand that knowledge to understand where your company is going and which roles needs to be added to your team to get you there.
Let’s focus on three data points to further hone in on the perfect addition to your customer experience team.
1. Growth rate
When we speak of growth, we’re referring to overall customer growth. The amount of conversations in the inbox is irrelevant here.
Depending on your company, this information may be presented at every all-hands meeting, kept in an accessible spreadsheet, or entirely hidden from sight. If you’re struggling to find it, ask a Product Manager or CEO to see numbers for year-over-year or month-over-month customer growth.
Since spreadsheets scare me, I recommend using those numbers to create a simple chart to see the rate of growth overtime.
For startups and small businesses, steady growth falls under 15% year over year.
Customer experience specialists at this level can be more junior. There’s time for training and room to build up experience.
Growth rate looks a little steeper at this level, around 15-25% annually.
When hiring customer experience specialists here, focus on candidates who have done similar work at a company with a similar growth rate. They should have a sense of big-picture strategy but still be willing to get their hands dirty.
When your chart appears more vertical than horizontal, you’ve entered into hyper growth. More likely than not, these are startups with 50-100% annual growth.
Customer experience specialists will need experience in fast-growing and chaotic environments. The role will be very hands-on, involving both strategy and execution.
2. Roadmap performance
Individual teams’ goals should always come from the top. Use this same logic to align your company’s roadmap with the customer experience team’s hiring needs.
Take a look at your previous team goals or outcomes and key results (OKRs) to determine current strengths and weaknesses.
Answer the following:
- What projects were successful?
- What projects didn’t go as planned?
- What goals did you meet or exceed?
- What goals did you fall short of hitting?
Summarize these findings to define the skill set of your current customer experience team and to figure out what’s missing.
Next, look at your company’s projected roadmap. Center on plans to enter new markets, add new products, or iterate on features.
Seek out candidates who have experience or interest in the company’s future plans.
If the marketing team has aggressive goals for social ads, consider hiring a customer experience specialist who has previously managed communities.
If there’s a huge redesign ahead, a customer experience specialist who has run UX studies will be invaluable.
3. Customer type
Round out your hiring needs by looking at your customer base. Different customers require different experiences. Use this data to understand what kind of customer experience specialist can best serve your clientele.
Business-to-business (B2B) customer experience caters to high touch clients with an analytical mindset.
Customer experience specialists at these companies should be data-driven and focused on building relationships.
Business-to-consumer (B2C) customer experience thrives on consistent branding throughout a variety of mediums. The relationships here are one-to-many rather than one-to-one.
Customer experience specialists at B2C companies should have great writing and communication skills, with the ability to think creatively on a larger scope.
Get the right people in the room
Hiring new candidates
Hiring isn’t mystifying when you know who and why you want to hire.
Use the keywords, metrics, and roadmap above to create one-of-a-kind job descriptions to find the exact person you need on your team. Customer experience is such a new field that many job seekers don’t even know to search for it. Attract the right people by placing strategic keywords throughout your posting.
Keep those keywords in mind, again, as you scan customer experience specialist resumes. Use the Quick Guide to CX Roles to show a recruiter exactly what you want. Or, print it out for reference as you go over resumes with your team.
Defining these roles is one of the surest ways to streamline the hiring process, save time, and build a solid team with an eye towards growth.
However, before you go drafting up that killer job description for a customer experience specialist …
Transforming associates into specialists
Are any of your current team members good fits for new roles? Have a conversation with them about what you’re seeking, and how it aligns with the company’s growth plan. Then, ask how they want to contribute.
You may find that a customer experience associate is eager to take on more responsibilities. Don’t let the fear of neglecting inbox coverage or small tasks stop you.
I downsized from four to three customer experience team members during a time of customer growth. Each member took on more responsibility, not necessarily more work. We got smarter about who owned what, and we leaned into our unique skill sets. We were more efficient than ever.
If you have the time, train associates to take on larger projects within their specialty. You can pair them with the right people in other departments, too.
Marketing, product, sales, and engineering teams all have expertise that can overlap with CX. If your company is expanding in one particular direction, it’s a great idea to have an associate shadow this team to bring in that perspective.
Working with who you’ve got
Speaking from experience, I know that money and resources are rarely available for the customer team. More likely than not, you’ll need to work with what you’ve got.
It’s still possible to get the resources you need. Use the strategy above to carve out your ideal hire and define the role. Then, look around you.
Your product manager may be able to take on some CX analyst tasks. Someone on the marketing team could provide templates for customer communications. Ultimately, the entire company is involved in the customer experience. Leverage that lingo to loop in different departments to serve your needs.
Customer experience specialist job seekers: Read between the lines
Lastly, job seekers, you’ve got an important role in all this, too. If you’re really meant for customer experience, you know how important it is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
In this case, your customer is the hiring manager.
Define your specialization
It may be clear what your specialty is, but if you’ve been struggling to define your career path, the job descriptions and business types above are a great place to start.
Enter the right keywords to limit your job search. Hiring managers aren’t the only ones who need to save time.
As a jobseeker, it can take hours to weed through totally irrelevant positions that are of no interest to you. Especially with the ill-defined customer experience specialist definition floating around, you’ll want to use other keywords to strengthen your search.
Target the right companies
Tackling customer experience at a huge corporation is a completely different job than CX at a startup. Figure out your ideal environment, then close in on it.
Look at the company’s growth rate, product focus, and customer type. Match this with your personality and skill set to understand where you can offer the most value. Apply solely to those jobs, and you’ll make your job search much more productive.
Add the right keywords to both your customer experience specialist cover letter and resume to catch the eye of the hiring manager.
Pitch your role
When you get the interview, pitch your unique value proposition.
This will help the hiring manager see your potential contribution to the company in a more tangible way. Anyone can do the job, but not everyone can chart the growth of a company and align their skill set to it.
By the way … the Quick Guide to CX Roles is just as valuable for jobseekers as it is for hiring managers. Keep it on hand as you job search to stay focused within the wild world of customer experience job postings.