How to evaluate and assess Customer Success candidates

How to evaluate and assess Customer Success candidates

A job that did not yet exist 10 years ago, but has become one of the most widely-used buzzwords in many (SaaS) startups & scaleups. Customer Success has become the new growth engine for most SaaS companies.

It is the ultimate determining factor when it comes to whether a company will be able to survive in its competitive landscape or not. We live in a world where a customer-centric approach is of utmost priority.

However, when hiring individuals for Customer Success Teams, we rarely know what we should be on the lookout for. Why? Because it’s a profession that only emerged in the past decade. So we cannot rely on factors such as education or previous work experience. And this makes evaluating candidates for these roles as hard as it can get.

Customer Success is a skills job. That’s something many tend to find a bit scary because nobody is really entirely sure what skills they should look for. Or as a matter of fact – how to assess these skills. 

In this blog, you will find out:

The role of Customer Success in SaaS companies 

Head of Customer Success

“CS is a department that is important when fostering long-term relations with clients, a CS team should be able to listen, understand and educate clients right from the start and long after. This can be achieved through a sincere interest in what a client wants and needs. All the while CS should be aware of the clients’ challenges and struggles, to make sure that they know we are able to help them.”

Jesper van Gelder, Head of Customer Success at Equalture

Customer Success is all about making sure that your customers get the most out of your product. If your customers can successfully use your product, they will continue using it and your business will succeed. 

72% of businesses indicate that Customer Success is their top priority.

Obviously, the CSM position and the duties associated with it are not the same within every organization. We have noticed that often CS sometimes tends to involve more sales, and sometimes more CS. In one company, a Customer Success team needs to work more closely together with the sales. Whereas, in another company, a CS team is primarily responsible for taking already signed customers through the product or the first-time use of the product and answering any other questions they may have. 

What’s interesting is that research shows that, in fact, in 44% of cases the CS team spends more than half of their time working with Marketing. Moreover, in 47% of cases more than 50% of their time working closely along with Sales.

So, how are you supposed to know what makes up a good Customer Success candidate? If it’s all so product and company (and even team size) dependent? After all, finding the right (and the best) Customer Success team is extremely important for your company. They are the people that make sure that your customers realize the true value and achieve their goals while using your product.

If you know what traits, skills to look for and how to do it in the right way – hiring a candidate for a CS role doesn’t have to be a struggle. Before we continue with the practical stuff, let’s take a dive into what you should be on the lookout for when hiring for a  Customer Success Manager (CSM) role.

When hiring a Customer Success Manager – it’s all about skills

There are two main aspects that should be taken into consideration when it comes to ensuring that you hire the right person:

  1. Industry and product/service knowledge. This is, of course, something that can be learned on the job. That’s why it should not be the main focus when hiring.
  2. Skill set. And no, I don’t mean hard skills – I mean soft skills. This is something that cannot be learned as easily.

So, you should look for someone who’s able to explain your product to people. Someone who’s willing to deal with some support tasks. Probably also someone who is charming and likes talking to people. That sounds fairly simple, right? If that’s your train of thought – you couldn’t be more wrong

Why? Because attracting new potential clients is one thing. Yet ensuring that they stay on board – now, that’s a challenge most companies are struggling with the most. 

What skills you should look for in a Customer Success Manager

It’s certainly a question we get asked a lot, especially our CS team. (After all, our product is all about helping employers find the best fits in an objective manner by focusing on their skills). To be fair, there is no one magic recipe as to what makes up a great Customer Success Manager. However, there are 3 main skills that we have noticed are necessary for Customer Success roles in general: cognitive flexibility; communication skills; and problem-solving.

Cognitive flexibility 

Cognitive flexibility determines to what extent we can flexibly adapt our behaviours and thoughts to new and unexpected situations in a constantly changing environment. As you can imagine – this is a crucial skill in many job roles, but even more so within Customer Success. 

For example, a Customer Success Manager needs to be able to change strategies based on different customers with different needs. After all – no one person is the same and neither are the needs each person has for using your product. 100 happy customers is great. 1 unhappy client is all it can take to hurt the reputation of your company.

That’s exactly what Customer Success Management is all about – figuring out how to help and navigate different people through different situations they might face. It’s all about the extent to which a person is capable of considering multiple aspects of a situation at once. As well as seeing it from different points of view.

Reading tip: When to hire for cognitive flexibility (and more importantly: when not).

Want to test your own Cognitive Flexibility?

A visual of one of the games that is non-cheatable and measures a specific skill/personality trait.

Communication skills

I could preach to you for hours how important communication skills are within any team. But can you imagine having someone in your customer success team that is not good at communication? Or collaboration?

Communication skills are the core of the skill competencies that a Customer Success Manager cannot function without. As one of the main responsibilities of a CSM is to communicate with customers on a daily basis, this person needs to be able to be comfortable talking to anyone. Regardless of their background, current conditions, personality. And that requires quite a bit of soft skills in combination, of course, with cognitive flexibility. When working so closely with customers, it’s important to actively listen (and understand) their feelings about a pain point, situation, or a need they might have.

Long story short – a good Customer Success Manager should genuinely be interested in other people and prove it by listening closely to and empathizing with others. As well as collaborating with other colleagues and departments.

P.S. Candidate communication skills are something that can easily be assessed during the interview process. 

Problem solving skills & style

Now, this is a definite must-have skill that can really make or break whether someone will be successful in a Customer Success Manager role. CSM is all about the ability to be able to solve, sometimes even very complex problems on the spot.

To be fair – it’s even more about the ability to anticipate problems and figure out potential solutions to these problems even before they occur. Because let’s be honest – there are always challenges that occur during the various phases of the customer lifecycle. That’s why Customer Success Managers are considered the ultimate problem solvers. (We’ve prepared a list of 10 interview questions that can help you determine candidate problem-solving skills!

However, it’s important to know the difference between problem-solving styles which can either be intuitive or more systematic. For example, if your product is new to the market and you have yet not faced any major fallbacks in terms of problems faced by customers, you might be better off having a CSM who has a more intuitive problem-solving style. A person with an intuitive approach to solving problems is likely to be more comfortable with frequently making intuitive decisions, and solving novel problems without prior experience.

Gamified psychometric tests to hire the right Customer Success people

Aptitude tests, or otherwise referred to as psychometric tests, are created with the aim to evaluate a candidate’s suitability for a job, as well as an organization. How? By assessing the cognitive abilities, values, and behaviours of each candidate. These tests have been proven extremely useful when hiring for CS positions, as CS is a primarily soft skills-driven job.

Here at Equalture, we develop gamified psychometric tests that help companies make better hiring decisions. Our games not only assess your CS candidates but also your current CS team. All in a fun, objective, data-backed and reliable way.

If you truly want to ensure the success of your business, it’s obvious you need to hire the right people for your Customer Success team! However, do not forget that Customer Success is not only about answering customer questions. It’s about understanding & acknowledging the needs of your customers!

Cheers, Anete.

Our inspirational blogs, podcasts and video’s

Listen to what they say about our product offering right here