Why is CS hiring so hard? Tips for finding your people

Hiring CS team members

As subscription models and recurring revenue become the norm for both SMBs and enterprise solutions, customer success is becoming an essential part of businesses across the globe. It’s clear to corporate leaders that strong onboarding and ongoing engagement help convert tentative new relationships into happy customers and established revenue streams; and risk management protects hard-earned customer trust and shines a light on opportunities for expansion.

But despite being a key driver of value in most businesses, customer success is still an evolving industry and the concept of a department dedicated solely to customers is relatively new. According to Totango’s 2022 Customer Success Industry & Salary Report, more than 75% of customer success teams have been operating for less than five years. And while the report does indicate companies are expanding their CS teams, many of those teams remain relatively small: 72% of teams employ between 1-30 people, and 45% employ fewer than 10. As corporate expectations grow and hiring remains challenging for CS, automating the customer journey on a digital platform can do much of the heavy lifting for understaffed teams. 

Let’s get aligned

In any profession, finding well-qualified candidates can be taxing, especially after seismic challenges like the pandemic, an economic downturn, and the cultural phenomenon known as “the great resignation.” But CS recruiting has its own special challenges as a nascent industry where job titles, reporting structures, and inter-departmental collaborations vary considerably from one company to the next. In a world where attracting a viable pool of applicants may literally require a specific set of keywords, a typical CS job description, which encompasses a diverse and cross-functional set of skills, may go unnoticed by both recruiting algorithms and busy job seekers. To combat this problem, take time to research and write job descriptions that align with both your team needs and industry best practices. And, despite the temptation to express the corporate culture with fun monikers like Chief of Chatting, stick to recognizable job titles. Keep the work at hand as a focus and trust that the vibe of your team will be clear during the interview process.

What do we want?

Speaking of the team, hiring presents a great opportunity to reassess the skills and expertise that will help you meet your goals. For example, does the work at hand call for adding another CS specialist or would your team be better served by an individual with expertise in a specific industry? While this flexibility will help you find a better fit, it won’t make filling the spot any easier—44% of our survey respondents found that broadening their CS search to “relevant industry experience” made hiring moderately challenging. 

To make it easier, give recruiters more input on what CS is, the careers and paths to advancement it offers, and criteria for an ideal candidate. Building strong recruiter relationships will help you both understand which skills are most suitable, and perhaps spur some creative thinking about where to look. And before you start interviewing, consider using a job assessment tool to determine the skills, culture fit, and trainability of all candidates. When adding new team members there’s always an additional onboarding load—but hey, CS teams are good at that!

Show them the data

Of course, attracting top CS talent also depends on compensation. Of the CS professionals surveyed, 32% said offering competitive salaries was a significant challenge, and 42% of respondents reported that hiring experienced CS professionals was a moderate challenge. Ultimately, the ability to offer appropriate salaries to top candidates comes down to making the case internally about the value the CS team brings to the company. Do your research on pay ranges and gather the hard data on your team’s performance regarding CS-identified opportunities, upsells, churn mitigation, and CSAT ratings. Ideally all of this information is at your fingertips in one CS platform like Totango, which acts as a single source of truth for all customer-facing interactions. As you prepare to make your case for a bigger budget for CS salaries, don’t forget to reach out to internal collaborators like sales and marketing—their anecdotal data adds perspective that can’t be found on a chart.  

As the 2022 Customer Success Industry & Salary Report shows, CS is making great strides as both a protector and generator of recurring revenue. As CS matures as a profession, the scaling and hiring challenges will normalize. Job titles will be established and understood, the career path will become clear, and candidates’ skills and experience will grow. Meanwhile, you can help your team by adopting an “always hiring” mindset to build strong networks, identify talent, and encourage applicants to join the team when opportunities open up.

Blog data from the 2022 Customer Success Industry & Salary Report, and US employment data from Statista. To find out more about how Totango’s modular, iterative approach to customer success could help you drive customer outcomes and business value, sign up for a live demo.

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