Michael Jones

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When a subscription-based business loses a customer, it’s more than a disappointment; it could result in reduced monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and increase the cost of acquiring a customer (CAC). The need to keep these numbers in the right place—up and down, respectively—has led to the emergence of the customer success manager.

A customer success manager quite literally fills in the gap between a customer and their success using a company’s (typically software) product, creating a proactive role to help reduce customer churn. As this is a newer role—especially outside the SaaS industry—many companies are struggling to find the right people for the customer success job.

If you’re struggling to hire the best customer success team, it may be because you don’t know what to look for. And if you don’t know what to look for, you may be asking the wrong interview questions. Check out the customer success interview questions below, organized by six assessment questions to help you find just who you’re looking for.

1. Do They Have Customer Advising Experience?

Customer success managers handle customers once they leave the sales funnel and start using your product. Even with a significant amount of pre-sales education, some customers don’t know how to integrate your products and services into their business operations or lifestyle.

The customer success manager needs to know more than your products; they need to know products commonly used by customers. For example, if you offer a project management product, customers may be using third party applications to supplement the core functions.

Interview questions to ask:

  • How do you think our target demographic uses our products?
  • How does our product interact with other popular options in our industry?
  • Are you comfortable supporting customers handle our products as well as third-party products?

2. Can They Handle Step-by-Step Hand Holding?

Customer success managers handle many product demos for customers; being able to explain step-by-step processes is an essential part of the job. The step-by-step instructions may be provided in-person, over the phone, through chat, or in an email.

Interview questions to ask:

  • Have you written step-by-step procedures for customers?
  • Do you have examples of this?
  • Can you walk me through every step in a common process? Use product documentation for your own products or pick a multi-step process such as finding and opening a file on a computer.

3. How Do They Handle Frustrated Customers?

Frustrated customers are another mainstay of the customer success manager’s job, and one with which they should be familiar. These customers stay in an in-between place where they’re either too angry, or not quite angry enough, to contact customer service.

Instead, they seek out alternatives to your company or simply stop using this type of product entirely. Recapturing these customers provides valuable retention benefits.

Interview questions to ask:

  • Tell me about a time when you had a difficult conversation with a customer. What was the situation and how did you handle it?
  • How do you typically de-escalate a situation with an angry customer?
  • What methods do you use to ensure the customer is successful with their purchase and happy with their experience?

4. Can They Work with Integrated Solutions?

Customer success managers often use a combination of integrated solutions to get the data they need to identify customer contact opportunities. Extensive training time leads to an unproductive customer success manager and a significant amount of downtime.

Interview questions to ask:

  • What software solutions have you worked with in the past, particularly CRM, contact center, and unified communication solutions?
  • How long does it take you to pick up basic functionality in unfamiliar software?
  • Have you worked with mobile-based solutions? Which ones?

5. Can They Identify Potential Upsell Opportunities?

It’s easier to sell to existing customers than to convert new sales opportunities, but only if your customer success manager recognizes opportune times to offer additional products and services.

Interview questions to ask:

  • Do you have sales experience?
  • How do you identify up-selling opportunities?

6. Are They Adaptable and an Effective Time Manager?

Customer success managers need to be able to manage daily activities such as proactive outreach, inbound customer requests, and unplanned fire fighting. They need to be able to effectively manage their time while also being able to shift gears quickly in a fast-paced environment.

Interview questions to ask:

  • Have you created your own work flows in the past?
  • Are you comfortable going off-script in customer interactions?
  • What tools and habits do you use to manage your day-to-day and week-to-week tasks?
  • How do you handle multiple competing priorities? How do you determine the most pressing or critical priorities at a given time?

Know what to Ask in Your Next Customer Success Interview

Customer success managers are slowly making their way out of the SaaS circle and into many businesses to help with customer retention and account marketing. Asking the right interview questions helps you assess how comfortable the candidate is with an evolving position and whether they have the right customer-facing chops to handle proactive customer service and support.

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