Updated: May 4, 2021
There are many skills and experiences that companies check for when hiring for a Customer Success Manager role. The list is extensive and can include anything from: relationship management experience, communication and presentation skills, technical savviness, ability to lead multiple projects at a time, proactiveness and SO much more...
But what are companies really interested in? What are they expecting you, as a CSM, to accomplish for which they have set up all of their interview questions, presentation and test rounds?
The entire hiring process centers around ONE thing!
Your ability to help the company grow through identifying opportunities and bringing them to fruition.
The CSM's 360 degree view:
The essence of the Customer Success Manager's role is to be in the center of everything. The center of outgoing information, as well as incoming information.
Internally within the company, CSMs know about any upcoming feature releases, changes, developments and so on; relaying that information to their customers. Externally customers should feel comfortable and confident enough in their relationship with their CSM to share their concerns, their wins, their frustrations and any expected changes within their company, strategies or intentions to renew.
Essentially, the CSM is one of the only roles within a business that has a holistic view of all internal and external factors that can impact the partnership between a business and its customers. So companies rely on CSMs to utilize their knowledge, piece together information and identify all opportunities that come about as a result of that 360 degree view they posses.
What are "Opportunities"?
To be successful in business, a company needs to be continually innovating and looking for ways to grow, improve and contribute to the success of their product or offerings.
Opportunities include any actions, strategies, initiatives, discussions, trainings, etc that can potentially contribute to the growth, improvement and ultimately success of the business.
External Opportunities - these are opportunities outside of your company and include either your customers or other service providers that can influence the way your company works. Some examples are opportunities to:
Expand product usage through additional trainings
Up-sell or cross-sell the right products at the right time!
Increase product usage by helping customers overcome challenges, learn best practices and implement new strategies
Prove Return on Investment (ROI) by navigating customers to dashboards, reports, business reviews, etc.
Improve customer experience through technical development or support
Identify and save "At Risk" accounts
Innovate and expand through partnership
Internal Opportunities - these are opportunities that don't usually affect CSMs directly in their work or success metrics but are incredibly important to ensure the success of customers and of the company. Including opportunities to:
Add self-serve materials for recurring customer questions and/or to improve understanding of product functionalities
Share knowledge with other CSMs to help "crowd source" ideas to increase success and retention
Create use cases or success stories to better understand the customer journey (in partnership with Marketing)
Expand and develop current products or services through customer product requests or ongoing product challenges (in partnership with Product)
What are CSMs expected to do with these opportunities?
CSMs are expected to identify when an opportunity presents itself and pull in the relevant person to ensure the opportunity comes to fruition. CSMs are NOT expected to have all of the answers or (alone) take actions to bring all opportunities to fruition.
Let's take for example a common technical scenario when working with SaaS customers... When a customer says they are having trouble manually uploading their data lists to the system, the CSM has two opportunities:
Train the customer on how to upload the data or connect the customer to a support representative who can troubleshoot the issue and resolve it.
Loop into the conversation an integrations manager or a support rep who can speak to the customer about connecting their system through the API so that the data lists can be automatically updated in the system without any manual interference.
In this example, we have a short term opportunity (training the customer) or a long term opportunity (connecting the customer to the API). The latter will increase usage, create stickiness and increase customer satisfaction and success both for the customer and for the business.
Another example is a campaign run through the platform that completely exceeded expectations! A CSM can choose to celebrate with the customer alone OR can see this as an opportunity to help the business grow by:
Looping in the marketing team to potential write up a customer use case that can be published to attract new customers and/or help existing customers learn how the platform can be utilized.
Sharing the details with other CSMs so they too can help their customers exceed expectations.
Suggesting any add-on products or upgrades that will help the customer continue in their success and exceed even more expectations!
Here again, the CSM has a short term opportunity to celebrate with the customer but also can take actions that have a long term affect on the company.
Bringing it all back to the hiring process:
Companies have developed lists of required skills and experience for open CSM positions, as a way of increasing the likelihood that a candidate will identify and follow through with the numerous opportunities that pass their way.
These lists can be relatively extensive and can vary between companies but remember that they are all trying to uncover the same thing! Your ability to help the company grow through their customers.
To increase your chances of getting hired when interviewing for CSM positions, come with suggestions, insights, and questions that illustrate that you are always on the lookout for opportunities.
Utilize previous work experience (especially in CSM and/or customer facing roles) to show good communication and relationship skills that help you "expose" the opportunities.
Provide examples of using data to find opportunities and measure the opportunities that come to fruition.
Think long term impact vs. short term impact. What opportunities have the greatest affect on customers, revenue, customer experience, potential for sales and so on!
In summary, as a CSM, companies want you to be their eyes and ears! Trust that you will spot opportunities that will help the customer and the business, advocate when something needs to change and provide feedback when something is going amazingly well and customers want more!
In your interview process, and later as a CSM, continuously look for opportunities you can turn into guarantees!