The customer experience (CX) drives sales, loyalty, engagement and consumers’ emotional experiences with brands. Most customers had fewer options throughout the pandemic than any other time in their lives, but that is changing now.

Brick-and-mortar stores are once again open for business, shelter in place rules and curfews have ended, restaurants and bars are open with no restrictions and crowds are now allowed to gather. Consumers once again have a wide variety of choices available to them.

Having the best CX talent is key to offering customers an optimum experience across all of a brand’s channels. How can businesses attract and hire the best CX talent in the post-pandemic world?

“Regardless of what product your CX team is supporting, they are responsible for delivering a value-add service to every single customer they encounter, and that service can make (or break) a large component of your company’s reputation,” said John Monteith, VP and chief of staff of the customer success org at Seismic, an AI-powered enablement, training and coaching solution provider.

“If delivered well, a great CX can serve as a long-standing and powerful differentiator against your competition. If done poorly, it can cause a customer to churn from an otherwise great product. Because of this, finding the right person to not only succeed in a CX role, but to truly thrive, is a critical practice.”

Hiring From Within

Along with the morale boost and loyalty that comes from hiring from within, brands can save the time, effort and monetary expenses involved with locating potential job candidates.

Advertising for a position, sourcing candidates, interviewing and conducting background checks all cost money. On top of that, it takes up to two months to locate and hire a new employee, according to a LinkedIn report, and external hires are typically paid more than internally promoted employees (University of Pennsylvania).

It takes externally hired job candidates more time to get acclimated and comfortable at a new company, and up to 30% of employees that are hired externally end up leaving within the first month (Employ Inc.). Additionally, external hires are more likely to be laid off or fired within the first two years of employment.

Hiring internally, along with upskilling and reskilling, shows employees that a brand is interested in their career development and provides them with opportunities for growth within the company. A LinkedIn Learning report revealed that 94% of employees would stay with their employer longer if the company invested in their career development.

“Clearly define a career path and opportunities for growth,” said Monteith. “Due to the demanding nature of any customer-oriented role, in order to retain and grow good talent, it is critical to paint a clear picture of career trajectory and growth opportunities.”

Employees with customer service experience within the company are likely to be prime candidates for CX roles, as they are used to working directly with customers in situations where customer happiness and satisfaction are the prime goals. Other customer-facing roles may serve as training for the eventual position of a CX professional.

“Front-line employees (e.g., a floor salesperson at Best Buy), concierges and flight attendants could also make excellent CX apprentices because they already have real experience interacting with customers and a more robust understanding of the actual customer journey (especially if you are hiring from within),” said Ximena Hartsock, founder and CEO of BuildWithin, a Department of Labor nationally approved apprenticeship intermediary.

Related Article: How Turnover Is Impacting Your Marketing Team

Recruiting the Right Applicant

Bill Staikos, SVP, evangelist and head of community engagement at Medallia, a global leader in experience management, spoke with CMSWire about the importance of recruiting the correct applicant.

“In a post-pandemic, great-resignation world, CXs have changed drastically and organizations need the right tools and talent onboard to navigate these circumstances. When looking to hire for CX teams, one tip is to seek individuals who have digital and analytics experience, as these backgrounds can bring in new perspectives while adding tremendous value to CX teams.”

Monteith said that CX requires employees that show up every day to give everything they have to please their customers. “Find out what drives your candidates, where they find motivation and how they can maintain enthusiasm for the long haul.”

Candidates that are innately service-oriented are well-suited for CX positions. “During the interview process, seek to understand the entire picture of their career and select those who have always gravitated towards a services-oriented position,” he suggested.

Having the best CX talent largely depends on the leaders they report to, so brands should take a closer look at their own leadership. “All of the core values that embody a good CX professional must be present in all levels of management and leadership in the CX organization as well,” said Monteith.

“Your leaders must have the same drive and be willing to jump into any situation required of them to support the team at large. Servant leadership is a must in a CX organization if team cohesion and retention are core values and goals of the organization.”

Finding the right applicant for a CX position also depends on them being a good fit with the company. Do the values and mission of the brand align with those of the candidate?

Learning Opportunities

“Ask your candidate if they have a mission for their professional and personal life,” said Monteith. “Once the initial novelty of a new role wears off, a CX professional will begin to assess their role against their core values, and the closer their mission and values align to those of your organization, the better chance for a long-term, successful relationship.”

Prioritizing the Right Soft Skills

Customer-facing brands understand why they must have a customer-first culture integrated into their policies, procedures, mission and core values.

“Every single person in a CX role is dedicating their career to ensuring that their customer portfolio is realizing value,” said Monteith. “Given that customers are the lifeblood of any business, ensure that your entire organization aligns to this principle, otherwise your CX team will burn out and move on due to lack of cohesion with the core values of their career.”

After the last two tumultuous years, customers are mentally and emotionally exhausted, and CX employees must have a high emotional quotient (EQ) to connect with them. Voice of the customer, which drives CX, also requires soft skills like empathy, active listening, effective communication and self-awareness.

Soft skills — which concern social, emotional and communication abilities, as well as character and personality traits — are extremely useful for building relationships in general and lend themselves to building better relationships with customers. Soft skills are different from technical or hard skills specific to a profession or role.

“When hiring for CX talent, CX foundational skills such as empathy, communications and flexibility are transferable and can be found across other positions and professions including teachers, nurses, counselors and social workers (these folks also usually really enjoy working with people),” said Hartsock.

Related Article: Voice of the Customer: What Is It and Why Does It Matter for CX?

Focusing on Onboarding and Continual Learning

Joe Alim, head of product and CX at Compt, an employee perk stipend software provider, told CMSWire that one of the biggest mistakes brands make with attracting and hiring CX talent is that they often treat CX roles differently than they do others.

"This happens especially with roles that may have more of a repetitive element to them, like with customer onboarding and support, where employers expect employees to mindlessly follow a script/process and generally treat them like coin-operated robots."

Each position within a company is different, and the employee onboarding experience needs to reflect those differences. "Just like with most other employees,” said Alim, “those in CX should have a clear path and resources for their professional development, an understanding of how their role impacts the business as a whole and a real say in how they do their jobs."

Onboarding, along with reskilling, upskilling, mentorships and apprenticeships, enables CX professionals to learn how to continually improve their roles within the company.

“The customer journey is incredibly long, and the best CX professionals have a deep understanding of the entire CX from start to finish. Whether you’re hiring from outside the company or helping an existing employee upskill, apprenticeships offer a unique (and often untapped) avenue to finding CX talent,” said Hartsock.

Final Thoughts

CX is a top priority for the majority of customer-facing brands as consumers explore the myriad of options that have only recently become available. As such, hiring the best applicants for CX positions and giving them the tools they need to succeed can be the catalyst for creating exceptional CX across all channels.