What Traits to Look for When Hiring a Customer Success Manager

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December 4, 2018
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What are some of the key traits of a strong Customer Success Manager

With an ever-growing number of Software as a Service (SaaS) companies, the need to have dedicated staff keeping the clients happy is also rising. A quick search on LinkedIn Jobs shows around 800 results for companies hiring for the relatively new role of Customer Success Manager in London alone.


I’ve personally screened, interviewed and hired a large number of CSMs over the last few years, and during that time developed an ideal profile for someone to be a success in the role. Over and above many skills required to be good in any role, e.g. communication, willingness to learn etc. I would always look for the below traits in a CSM candidate.


Proactive

For me, this is the underlying trait for the whole Customer Success field.  It’s a role that constantly requires you to be on the front foot seeking out opportunities to have a conversation with your clients.  Someone who likes to sit back and field incoming questions is better suited to a role in the Support team.


Interview questions to ask

“Would you be happy if you’d not heard from the client for X days?”


“Your diary for the afternoon is empty.  What do you do?”



Inquisitive

Only by trying to understand the clients’ business and what their objectives are, will a CSM be able to identify how a client should best be using your platform.  By asking questions a CSM can learn what the common reasons are as to why and how a client uses the platform.  Being inquisitive is also good for a CSM learning the platform.  To be able to advise clients on how to get the most out of the platform, you need to know it inside out yourself.

Interview questions to ask


“When did you last go out of your way to learn something new?”


“You hear something in a meeting you don’t understand, what would you do?”



Honest

Key for any role, not just Customer Success, but being honest both internally and to the client is the only way to get Trusted Advisor status.  Lying to cover your back, or intentionally mislead a client is just not acceptable.  The truth will always come out.

Interview questions to ask


“When was the last time you owned up to having made a mistake, and what did you do about it”?


“What tricks do you use to gain a business advantage?”



Willingness to say ‘I don’t know’

Closely linked to ‘honesty’ having the courage to admit you don’t know something is a desirable trait and not a weakness.  Making up an answer to avoid your blushes won’t get you far.  A client would rather you acknowledge you don’t have the answer right now, but you will go and find out. We can’t all know everything.  


In a real example, I was interviewing a candidate for a CSM role, and when we asked her a semi-technical question, she thought for a couple of seconds, before ultimately saying she didn’t know the answer.  In an interview situation, that was a brave, albeit correct, response, and we ultimately hired her.

Interview questions to ask


“What’s your typical response when a client asks you something you don’t know?”


“Would you say you knew everything about your last company’s software?”



Cares about the client

Could be seen as a cliche, but having a genuine interest in the client will ensure you always put them first.  You don’t have to suddenly become their world number 1 fan, but having empathy for them both on a corporate and personal level ensures you go that extra mile for stellar service.


Interview questions to ask

“Describe your worst day at work, and your best”


“What are your feelings towards a frustrated client?”


Multi-Tasker

There are many aspects to the CSM role and you need to be able to spin a lot of plates at the same time. A classic example is learning one of your clients having a severe technical issue, whilst you're just about to walk into a meeting room to train six users from your latest client.  You also need to be working alongside a number of other internal teams, Product, Marketing and Sales, and you will no doubt have more than one client to handle.  Being organised, and a good project manager will all help in keep colleagues and clients happy.


Interview questions to ask

“Do you prefer to focus on one key task, or having a few floating around at the same time?”


“When things are very busy, how do you go about making sure all tasks are covered?”


Calmness

Underlying all of the above is the ability to remain calm and confident in all situations.  Things will go wrong at some point, and a certain self-assuredness will go a long way in making a client feel like you are in control.  When stress levels are high, be it from a nearing renewal and a silent client, or a frustrated user on the phone, you can’t flap about. Having a clear picture of what the situation is, and the actions needed to resolve it is key to being a great CSM.


Interview uestions to ask

“What’s the most stressful position you’ve been in?  How did it make you feel?”


“What does an ideal Monday morning look like to you?”


If you’re currently hiring for a CSM and need help with understanding the key requirements for the role, I’d be happy to help.


Written By

Simon Cooper

Simon has over 10 years helping clients achieve their goals through the use of software.  Having previously lead Customer Success teams in London, Europe and New York City, Simon now owns Kupr Consulting working with B2B SaaS companies to improve their Customer Success teams and processes.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sfcooper/https://twitter.com/kuprhttps://www.kuprconsulting.comAll Articles

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