What Skills Should You Look For When Hiring a Customer Success Manager

Danni FriedlandCustomer Success1 Comment

What Skills Should You Look for When Hiring a Customer Success Manager

You know it’s time to bring a Customer Success Manager on board – but how do you know where to begin or what you should be looking for?

It’s such a new profession and interviewing for a CSM role differs from company to company which makes it hard to know what to look for.

The term hasn’t been coined that long ago – not long enough for you to get tons of real “experts” or people with a vast career in the field. This means you will have to base your decision on something deeper than a resume.

You may be in need of a retention expert, or maybe you’re actually looking for a conversion expert. The fields of expertise differ on every company depending on its field and size. The one thing that all CSMs have in common is the value given to customer relationships.

We know it’s not always easy to find a winning CSM. One that will be the right fit for your company.

What’s curious about this is that most companies don’t know what they’re looking for and most candidates don’t know exactly what their role in the company implies.

All they know is that the company wants someone who can deliver value for their SaaS product to their users – they want a Customer Success Hero.

Topping an interview and finding an outstanding CSM takes more than simply looking up for “The most common CSM interview questions” in Google.

You must think outside the box and focus on finding rare qualities and skills in potential candidates that will help you find the perfect Customer Success Hero for your organization.

What Skills Should You Look For When Hiring a Customer Success Manager? Click To Tweet

Look out for these qualities on your next CSM interview

DNA

When looking for a CSM, you might find your desk with a stack full of CV’s, your email with incoming cover letters and numerous referrals.

But none of these show you the DNA of the candidate.

The person you want leading the CS team in your company must be obsessively focused on meeting team objectives.

They must have a drive to proactively deliver the company’s value and be able to relate directly to the company’s goals.

Look for someone who thrives when challenged. Someone who is focused on the outcome but doesn’t get discouraged by the process.

You might want to look into their behavioral background. Ask them about the projects and teams they have lead, initiatives they have taken, problems they’ve faced, etc.

Ask them about the projects and teams they have lead, initiatives they have taken, problems they’ve faced, etc.

Besides a professional background, you can notice extracurricular activities, places they have lived, languages they speak – these all point out to higher chances of a candidate with cross-cultural understanding.

The person you want leading the CS team in your company must be obsessively focused on meeting team… Click To Tweet

Empathetic

CSMs must be able to relate to people in order to anticipate how their customers think.

They should be able to understand what the customer is going through to find the core of the problem and to be able to find solutions.

Whether it is to educate or to onboard a new user, being empathetic is a key factor to engage with customers with real care.

Being empathetic is what will make a customer success manager send the extra email, do another follow-up, or simply know how to motivate and empower your users.

Prioritization abilities

The goal of a customer success team revolves around making the customers happy.

But as you may have guessed, dealing with users and clients brings in a lot of feedback. And you can’t do everything at once.

As CSMs get the most user feedback, they must communicate the user’s needs to the Product team and other departments in the organization.

A good CS manager needs to know how to prioritize the customer’s feedback so the Product team will be able to rank tasks according to the level of importance and deliver ultimate results with existing resources.

Leadership & Teamwork

Not only do CSMs support the organization by providing the best resources but most importantly, they are problem solvers.

Great managers know how to delegate – however, they are also amazing hands-on workers.

Taking matters into their own hands, they are able to work directly with the chief and the product team to later communicate it with their own team.

Your new CSM would need to be able to initiate actions, inspire the team to do their best work and also motivate developers and product to help them as well.

You would not believe how important the last bit is – if your Customer Success Manager and Product team don’t get along – your CS Manager may become frustrated and useless in a matter of seconds.

You would not believe how important the last bit is – if your Customer Success Manager and Product team don’t get along – your CS Manager may become frustrated and useless in a matter of seconds.

Not only do CSMs support the organization by providing the best resources but most importantly, they… Click To Tweet

Going above and beyond for your customer – the extra mile.

Winning CSMs will understand and anticipate a customer’s need and always be Proactive.

They have a clear agenda on possible upcoming inquiries and customer actions that will guide their work beforehand.

Also, by  prioritizing customer accounts, they should also be able to deliver on-time support and avoid risking on a few seconds of delay that might lose the company another conversion.

The skillset

Time-Management

When dealing with customer health and delivering value to our clients, CSMs must know how to manage and assess priorities within the accounts. In order to communicate with other teams within the company and reach out to customers on time, they must have an organized calendar.

In order to communicate with other teams within the company and reach out to customers on time, they must have an organized calendar.

Ability to collaborate with anyone

CSMs must work together with different teams in the organization.

This way, there will be a full understanding of the product and its solutions ultimately providing true value for your customers.

A critical skill CSMs must have in order to collaborate with other teams is the understanding of different roles within the organization and how they can complement the CS team to achieve customers’ goals.

A critical skill CSMs must have in order to collaborate with other teams is the understanding of… Click To Tweet

Multi-disciplinary

No need to hire someone with a background as a CSM.

If you find yourself unable to find someone with a long list under “Experience as a CSM”, don’t worry, it’s no game-changer.

Great CSMs come from a number of different professions. Their experience in consulting, sales, R&D or marketing will bring cross-understanding skills to the CS team in your organization, later on developing into Customer Success Management skills.

Understanding the Industry

In order to have great communication between the customers and the company, CSMs must understand the company’s purposes as well as the client’s in case they are looking to meet a business purpose.

Get analytics

Another important factor Customer Success Managers should take into account is to also easily recognize friction points in the funnel, or any behavior that might indicate a user is having a problem.

Sometimes, it is necessary to dig into Google analytics, Intercom or Mixpanel reports to discover the problem.

A tool like Jaco might be the key to understanding the solution as well.

Your CSM has to be able to work with data, qualitative and quantitative to get a deeper understanding of the user experience.

Understanding of Product’s Technology

You want someone who is able to lead towards effective user adoption by not only understanding the customer but also the technology from the user’s perspective.

This way, it is easier to help users along every step of the process and show the intended purpose of your product in the simplest manner.

Interview questions and the answers you should wish for

Ask the right questions that will showcase the qualities above

Your interviewee should not be expected to know everything about your company – he/she will learn it while working for you. But if he/she tried – it’s a big sign of their commitment and character.

For example, you can ask if they say your transactional emails, did they do the onboarding, did they check the company’s social media channels and so on.

You should mainly focus on the DNA that shows how he/she can create and optimize the CS team.

You have to make sure you hire the right people on the front lines of the organization for long-term success.

By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to differentiate between a suitable candidate and a winning CSM.

By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to differentiate between a suitable candidate and a… Click To Tweet

Here are a few examples of questions that will portray necessary qualities you want to be looking for in your interviewee:

  • What was a bad experience you had to go through with a client? What caused this situation? How did you handle it?
  • Give an example of a time you went an extra mile in order to make a customer happy. Was it worth it? Why?
  • How would you be able to tell if a product is not suited for the customer? How would you handle it?
  • Bring a few case studies to the table and see how they handle it.
  • Try and see their process – how they review user session recordings. How they prepare for user interviews, how would they prioritize based on feedback, etc.
  • Ask them about projects they lead in the past.
  • How will they establish trust with new users?
  • What are 5 ways they would try to increase retention in your product?
  • If you are looking for a good assignment – ask them to write a “delighting” email campaign for your users. 3-4 Emails should be enough.

As we previously mentioned, looking into the candidate’s resume is also important as it may showcase cross-cultural and behavioral experiences besides their professional history.

Without leaving this behind, focusing on how they approach solutions and how they answer to your questions will help you find someone with that extra incentive that will lead to ultimate results for your CS team.

Summary:

Customer Success is a growing, multidisciplinary field.

It’s still so new that there is no “right way” of hiring, and there’s still not a lot of literature around it.

Your next Customer Success Manager will probably be taking the role for the first time in his/her life.

That’s why the mindset and skills will probably be more important than the experience they have.

So always look beyond the resume and hire based on DNA.

One Comment on “What Skills Should You Look For When Hiring a Customer Success Manager”

  1. Allen Guthier

    As an experienced CSM/PM, I would also add one rare, but essential skill: training.

    Oftentimes, helping customers resolve issues or increase adoption within the enterprise simply comes down to clearly explaining the product’s features and benefits. This can happen on the phone, through screen sharing, or even face-to-face training sessions. If a candidate can stand up in front of the interviewing committee and clearly and eloquently explain a technical concept of their choosing, they are much more likely to be able to do the same thing for one of your customers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *