Customer success managers pour themselves into solutions for the most convoluted problems while also orchestrating a great journey and experience for the people they serve. Couple this with the CSM's accountability to a robust bottom-line, and you have the winning formula for their company's sustainable future in an uncertain world.
The following 10 interview questions address these and other topics that a hiring manager or recruiter may consider when interviewing their next customer success manager.
Question #1: How do you solve problems?
- Why It Works: An open-ended interrogatory, this question is an opportunity for the candidate to concisely articulate their big-picture problem-solving skills. While there likely are a multitude of ways the customer success manager has solved problems in the past, their ability to boil down their actionable philosophy into a pithy answer fortifies their value.
Question #2: What processes have you improved to expedite service delivery or cultivate more value-add relationships?
- Why It Works: In a hypercompetitive, digitally savvy world, opportunities to speed service abound. As well, while relationships are dependent somewhat on technology, particularly amid the COVID-19 crisis, they ultimately rely upon people's warmth and genuineness. The customer success manager should be able to reach easily into a repertoire of examples to prove they are human-centered, capable of assuaging processes to create invigorating customer journeys that bolster and extend relationships.
Question #3: Describe a time when you inherited a displeased customer and how you turned them around to become a delighted advocate for your organization. As well, how did that relationship impact your company's bottom line?
- Why It Works: This layered question enables the candidate to tell a riveting story-beginning with one of the biggest challenges customer success managers face: converting unhappy clients into raving fans. It provides a platform to exude the who (type of customer), the what (current situation), the where (client's location, either geographically and/or in their lifecycle within the organization), the why (reason for their displeasure) and the how (relationship-rectifying methods the candidate used to turn the relationship around)?
And, as a value-add bonus, it offers a platform for the customer success manager to solidify the financial value behind their performance. It also creates an opportunity for the candidate to show how they connect the dots between their initiatives and the growth of the company.
Question #4: What types of quotas / goals have you been required to meet? Were you successful? Can you provide examples of those quota-achieving initiatives, including the challenges you faced and hurdles you leapt over to get there?
- Why It Works: Multi-layered, this question also is straightforward. Done well, a customer success manager's job is intertwined with account executives' or sales representatives' roles and challenges in regard to financial goals and outcomes. An above-par CSM will be able to specify quotas and results, as well as the battles they won and relationships they cemented to achieve those results.
Question #5: Describe a time when you had to navigate a labyrinth of business units, subject matter experts, decision-makers and/or other stakeholders to achieve a customer's goals.
- Why It Works: What can be unique in the case of a customer success manager's situation is their reliance upon a matrix of other teams and stakeholders to achieve their goals. For example, a CSM for a software and managed services enterprise who works with large hospital customers will be collaborating cross-departmentally with subject matter experts and software adoption team members to achieve the customer's complex enterprise goals.
This type of role, therefore, requires a CSM who manages relationship complexity with determination, savvy and a sense of urgency, while also remaining attuned to the bottom line and overarching goals, both for the customer and for their own organization.
Question #6: Describe how you unlock opportunities to innovate and solve problems?
- Why It Works: While reflexively responding to problems as they arise is crucial to maintaining a meaningful customer success, it is equally important to be proactive, anticipating your customer needs before they occur. In other words, a candidate who can prove, through storied examples, that they have looked ahead to their clients' future problems, and then innovated solutions to those issues, will ultimately expand the relationship, deepen the financial commitments, garner more referrals, etc.
Question #7: What makes your relationship skills stand apart from other customer success managers? What unique or unconventional strategies do you employee to provide service beyond the status quo?
- Why It Works: The responses to this two-part question likely will intertwine. In other words, in order to stand apart from other customer success managers, it is likely that the candidate has been creatively employing unconventional service solutions. As well, while the story they tell should be compelling and illustrative of their specific initiatives deployed, their response also should underscore how they respectfully maneuver within corporate guidelines.
Question #8: Have your unconventional strategies become standard company offerings? If so, please provide an example.
- Why It Works: This question helps to uncover a candidate's ability to influence others within the organization to buy into their ideas. Rather than one-and-done innovations, they've created new ways of service delivery that are fully embraced by others in the organization.
Question #9: Tell me about a time where a clients' success outperformed your expectations? How did you help make that happen?
- Why It Works: It may seem obvious that a great customer success manager proves their muster by the results their customers achieve. The candidate's ability to zero in on measurable outcomes; e.g., eight-fold network performance increase or 10s of thousands of dollars in annual savings, helps illustrate that ability.
Question #10: How do you extend the client relationship to ensure loyalty and retention?
- Why It Works: To truly embody the title of customer success manager, a candidate should be able to describe specific processes and communications strategies they have employed to grow and maintain long-term customer relationships.T
To further equip you with interview strategies, Glassdoor has pulled together the leading methods into one helpful toolkit, steps that are applicable to organizations of all sizes.