The Best Role for a Second Customer Service Hire

Illustration by Erik Blad
Illustration by Erik Blad

In Ask Help Scout, long-time customer service professional Mat “Patto” Patterson answers readers’ most challenging customer support delivery, leadership, and career questions.

Dear Patto,

I lead Support & Success at my company, and we're getting ready to start scaling up our business teams early this year. I handle the full customer life cycle — everything from pre-sales through onboarding, support, and renewals! I’m getting ready to hire someone to help me, but my question is: What is the best role for that second customer service/success hire?

So very busy,
Georgia

Dear Georgia,

Busy is right! Reading your list of responsibilities reminded me of The Cat in the Hat balancing everything from a cake to a fishbowl while standing on a ball. Small companies can be like that, and it’s often customer service folks who end up taking on every “well, someone just needs to do it” job.

In the story, of course, juggling one item too many brings the Cat and all the items crashing down. I’m glad that your company is looking to hire some help before that happens to you. Who should that next hire be? I see two main options for you.

The first option is human cloning (or as close to it as science — and the law — currently allows). If you can find another Georgia-type person, someone who can learn to do all the same things you do, you will buy yourself time and space to step away, plan, and prepare for the next stage of growth. That’s what I did when I faced a very similar situation. You can’t keep doing it forever, but in the short term it can really keep things moving.

The second option will cost less in salary but more in time: hiring a more junior person and training them up. You’d start by giving them the parts of your work that are fairly simple but time consuming and still important. Training up a junior will be more upfront time and effort, but you can develop their skills into exactly what you need and eventually reclaim a lot of your time for the work only you can do.

Which option is best? To decide, sit down with your manager and really dig into where you spend your time. What parts of your role do you want to hold onto as you grow? What should eventually be a separate team? Do you have capacity to train a junior now, or do you need someone to come in and be immediately productive? How long could “two Georgias” keep up, given your company’s trajectory?

Whichever way you go, now is the time to start documenting processes and getting information out of your head and into places where someone else could learn from it. The sooner you can do that, the easier it will be to hand off work to whoever joins your team.

Good luck Georgia, and keep serving those customers,

Have a question for Patto?

Have a question for Patto?

Mathew Patterson
Mathew Patterson

After running a support team for years, Mat joined the marketing team at Help Scout, where we make excellent customer service achievable for companies of all sizes. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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