Customer Success Managers wear many hats. They primarily brainstorm and design strategies to ensure customers get maximum value from purchased products and services. However, there’s much more to it.
CSMs hold core roles in every customer-oriented organization as they predict customers’ challenges and suggest proper solutions. They also distribute vital product information in an easy-to-digest format, collect and handle negative feedback, and up-sell or cross-sell without being salesy.
Indeed, much is asked of a CSM, and not everyone can perform this demanding job. Finding and hiring a professional with all the required skills is a big task, and you may need some help in the matter. To support you on your journey of making a new hire, we have compiled ten key customer success interview questions to ask applicants.
Key Responsibilities and Skills of a Customer Success Manager
Before we start with the interview itself, let’s first take a look at some of the duties of CSMs, and the skills these professionals need to tackle them successfully. It will allow us to better comprehend the entire application process and navigate the questions accordingly.
Reassuring distressed customers
Being the first point of contact for customers, CSMs typically receive multiple distress calls from people experiencing issues with the company’s products and services. To establish the source of customer contention, good customer success managers should listen deeply to people on the other side of the phone. They should be able to use their skills of active and empathetic listening and conflict resolution to calm customers as they work on finding a proper solution.
Advocating customers’ needs
CSMs should diligently work with the team and all concerned departments to find solutions for all customers’ pain points. To truly ensure success for customers, CSMs need to understand their goals, wants, and expectations from top to bottom. Therefore, these professionals should be empathetic and customer-focused first and foremost.
Onboarding new customers
A good CSM should equip customers with enough product knowledge to make them self-sufficient. This empowers customers to use the product effectively and meet their goals using the product. A comprehensive onboarding process is there to boost customer success instantly, which is a leading driver of success in the long run. To do this, CSMs need exceptional product knowledge and superior communication skills.
Tracking product renewals, upselling, and cross-selling
CSMs must follow up with customers to expedite product renewal, especially in SaaS businesses. A CSM should also tactfully upsell and cross-sell to current customers during their daily interactions to ensure the business is fully meeting the customer’s needs. Naturally, CSMs need to be confident and have persuasive skills to achieve this.
Fostering long-term relationships
Since CSMs mostly meet customers one-on-one, they have a great responsibility of developing and nurturing relationships in the long run. A customer success manager fully dedicated to seeing customers succeed will help increase retention. Having long-term customers is pivotal to any brand’s success. It goes without saying, relationship management is a critical CSM skill.
Meeting internal goals
Last but not least, CSMs need to keep up with trends and customer demands to ensure business success. They must have exceptional industry knowledge and innovation skills to meet the changing needs and perform all their tasks efficiently. Flawless time management and task prioritization skills are also crucial here, as CSMs perform so many tasks for meeting internal goals and need to measure success over time.
Moreover, because CSMs work with other departments daily, they should be equipped with outstanding interpersonal skills to resolve potential conflicts and manage different teams on their way to achieving great results for the entire company.
Customer Success Interview Questions to Ask New Hires
Now that you better understand the role and key traits of customer success managers, it’s time to narrow down your choices and make a final pick. Here are ten questions to help you out:
Q#1: How would you reassure distressed customers who are about to cancel their subscription plans?
Skill tested: active listening and conflict resolution.
Ideal answer: I would actively listen to customers’ concerns without disputing their claims, trying to get to the bottom of the reported problems. All along, I would make customers feel heard and convince them to give my team a chance to find a proper solution before canceling their plan.
Q#2: Describe a scenario where you went above and beyond to help a customer.
Skills tested: customer focus and empathy.
Ideal answer: In my previous job at the SaaS company, I had a customer call me on a Sunday morning because the platform stopped working for the entire team at a critical time. While IT typically handled all technical problems, I decided to check the customer’s subscription plan just in case. It turned out the customer exceeded the monthly limit. To resolve the issue, I quickly liaised with IT and upgraded the limit temporarily. The customer was pleased that we actually cared about the business and gladly upgraded to a higher plan the next month.
Q#3: What is the differentiation point of our company’s software services?
Skills tested: product knowledge.
Ideal answer: Unlike other customer success platforms, Quala blends customer data with insights from frontline employees to add certainty to customer success actions, such as workflows to serve, retain, or upsell.
Q#4: How do you make the onboarding process more beneficial for new customers?
Skills tested: communication skills and resourcefulness.
Ideal answer: If possible, my team and I get on a Zoom call with the customer and go over all product features, focusing on the most-needed elements. I typically share learning materials — how-to videos and articles — for further reference and invite participants to ask as many questions as they have.
Q#5: Assuming I am one of your customers, convince me to buy a higher or extra subscription plan.
Skill tested: confidence and persuasive speaking.
Ideal answer: I was delighted to learn you won two big clients last month — kudos. That got me thinking you’ll find our enterprise plan more effective in handling your increased workflow smoothly. Our pro plan still fits the bill, but you may easily exceed the storage space now that you’ll be handling extra data.
Q#6: How would you handle a long-term client who’s asking for a discount you can’t afford?
Skills tested: customer relationship management.
Ideal answer: I would suggest other free offers like retraining the team to get more value from the current software subscription.
Q#7: How do you prioritize multiple tasks?
Skills tested: time management and task prioritization.
Ideal answer: My secret lies in tracking all tasks as they show up and organizing them in order of priority. That way, I never miss out on anything and deliver results on time. I’ve also used automated systems at other companies to help the team manage the tasks timely and would be happy to lead an evaluation if helpful to the business.
Q#8: How do you solve internal conflicts among your team and inter-departmental disputes?
Skills tested: team management and conflict resolution.
Ideal answer: Talking is the best antidote to conflict. Anytime there’s friction in my team, I call for a sit-down and iron out the issues. When the dispute is inter-departmental, I talk to the respective department heads and chart a way forward.
Q#9: Which metrics would you use to measure success rates?
Skills tested: industry knowledge.
Ideal answer: I would track and analyze key customer success metrics such as net revenue retention (NRR), customer health score, customer churn rate, average revenue per user (ARPU), monthly recurring revenue (MRR), customer retention cost (CRC), and net promoter score (NPS). Importantly, I would also gauge the engagement of key customer stakeholders in our one-on-ones and Quarterly Business Reviews to ensure the customer satisfaction level matches what the metrics say.
Q#10: What would you add to our products, services, or culture to make us better?
Skills tested: innovation and technical acumen.
Ideal answer: I have read the comments on your platform and gathered that most customers would love to have short follow-up videos for each of your long-form blog posts. As the CSM, I would be delighted to make how-to videos explaining the more sophisticated functions of your software.
These ten customer success interview questions will aid you in evaluating potential hires. Once you pick a candidate, you may want to consider adding a customer success platform to help out your new CSM. Quala quantifies what customers say and teams hear to ensure the success of your entire company.