Hiring a Customer Success Manager: 10 Skills to Assess • Toggl Hire
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How to Hire A Customer Success Manager: 10 Skills to Assess

Post Author - Elizabeth Thorn Elizabeth Thorn Last Updated:

The best way to ensure that your customer is happy with a product they purchased is to hire someone who ensures they have the tools and support needed to get the most out of it. This is the role of a customer success manager — a critical person in any business who teeters between sales and customer support.

However, hiring the right customer success manager means finding someone with the right skills, experience, and personality to ensure long-term customer satisfaction. What exactly should you be looking for when hiring a customer service specialist, though? Let’s learn more about what a customer success specialist does and how you can hire one for your team.

TL;DR — Key Takeaways

  • A customer success manager is a person who helps customers of a business get the most out of a product or service they are using. They have various responsibilities, from onboarding and helping customers learn about the product to encouraging upsells and more.

  • Their performance can be measured using different KPIs, such as churn rate, NPS score, CSAT score, expansion revenue, time to value, and others, depending on your business’s needs and the type of customers you cater to.

  • Many skills can contribute to success in this role, such as communication, problem-solving, empathy and active listening, teamwork, working well under pressure, and more. Hiring for skills instead of experience can help you find the right customer success manager.

  • To hire your own CSM, adopt a five-step plan: decide where the role fits within your team, write a job description, test the candidate’s skills, get on an interview, and finally hire and onboard them.

What is a customer success manager?

A customer success manager (CSM) is a person who helps customers get the most use out of a product or a service. This role is common in various industries, but you’re most likely to find it in SaaS companies.

For SaaS companies, customer success managers are like a bridge between sales and customer support, but don’t get that confused with customer service — customer success and customer service, while similar, are different roles.

A great customer success manager should know enough about the product’s features to be able to troubleshoot if the need arises, but they also need to be able to sell the product’s best features to increase adoption and long-term retention.

Customer SuccessCustomer Service
Customer goal achievementIssue/contact resolution
Drives customer value from productDrives customer satisfaction
Long-term perspectiveShort-term perspective
Revenue generatingCost center
Cross-team effort between sales, support, service, and productOwned by a single function
Zendesk’s breakdown of customer service vs. customer success

Typically, once a customer signs a contract for a new product or service, they speak to a customer success manager. This ensures a proper onboarding process in which customers see the value of a product sooner rather than later. In some businesses and industries, this person might be referred to more broadly as an account manager.

What does a customer success manager do?

Some of the most common responsibilities of a customer success manager include the following:

  • Onboarding new customers

  • Helping new customers improve their knowledge about the product

  • Troubleshooting customers’ issues

  • Providing training and support throughout the customer lifecycle

  • Introducing customers to new features as part of up-selling and cross-selling

If your business has a larger customer success team, the individuals on that team should be there for the customer as soon as they become paying customers to help improve customer satisfaction and customer lifetime value.

But their job doesn’t end there.

A customer success manager stays with a user for as long as they’re a customer of your business. Throughout the length of the customer’s contract, customer success managers are usually on standby to answer any questions and ensure customer retention.

Additionally, customer success managers contact customers to expose them to new features as they become available. Because they’ve formed long-term relationships with customers, they can act more organically as a salesperson, nudging customers towards new products, upgraded features, etc.

Ultimately, the role of a customer success manager in your organization depends on your needs — sales, support, or anything else that will improve customer loyalty and reduce churn. Whichever you choose to focus on, customer success management is all about giving the customers exactly what they need so they can stay with your business as long as possible.

How is performance in customer success measured?

You can determine the performance of customer success professionals with several metrics.

Churn Rate

Churn rate refers to the percentage of customers who stop subscribing to your product or service in a specific time period. The average churn rate for SaaS is anywhere from 10-14% annually. If customer success managers are doing a good job, fewer customers churn.

Top tips to enlarge those brains Top tip:

Before blaming customer success for high churn rates, make sure you check the overall quality of your product and how it solves your target audience’s pain points.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS is a common metric derived from customer surveys. In a Net Promoter Score survey, customers rate their likelihood of recommending you to someone they know on a scale of 1 to 10. The average NPS score for the SaaS industry is 31.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

A CSAT survey asks your customers how satisfied they are with your product on a scale from 1 to 10. A good CSAT score varies based on industry, but anywhere between 75-85% is a good spot to be in for most businesses.

Customer Satisfaction Rate
The higher your customer satisfaction rate the better!

Time to Value

This metric refers to how quickly the customer gets value from your product. There is no ideal number here, but the sooner customers reach this point, the better. Ideally, they should at least understand the value of your product well before they become a customer — at the very beginning of the customer journey.

Expansion Revenue

Finally, expansion revenue refers to how much additional revenue you can get from existing customers by upselling and cross-selling additional features. A good expansion revenue is about 10-30% per month, but it can vary depending on your industry and product.

What makes a kickass customer success manager? 10 skills to assess

Before we give you a cheat sheet for hiring an amazing customer success manager, let’s make one thing clear. There’s a difference between skills, personality tests, and competencies.

Skills are practical, learned abilities that one can demonstrate in a role. For example, handling a dissatisfied customer on a call is a customer service skill.

Competencies are broader and encompass skills, knowledge, behaviors, and abilities. They include someone’s capacity to perform in a specific role. For example, building and maintaining customer relationships as a CSM is a competency.

Personality traits are innate characteristics of an individual — how they behave, react, and think. It’s about who the person is at their core and what you can generally expect from their behavior. For example, having teamwork skills is a personality trait.

Having said that, here are the most important skills of customer success managers and how to test them.

Qualities of a great customer success manager
Great customer success managers embody these qualities.

1. Communication skills

People with great communication skills succeed in the role of a customer success manager. That’s primarily because the role requires a lot of communication with customers and supporting internal teams. Written, audio, video, you name it — customer success managers talk to a lot of people, and they need to be able to do it well.

How to test for this skill

Assess the candidate’s communications at the start of the application process, from the way they fill out their application to any email communication and video calls. Of course, you should test these skills in interviews, too. You can also use Toggl Hire’s soft skills test.

2. Active listening skills

To establish and maintain a good customer relationship, you need to have more than customer data — you need to be able to actively listen to the customer’s needs and pain points. Great customer success managers know how to actively listen to uncover the problems your customers may be facing.

How to test for this skill

To evaluate candidates for active listening skills, you can present hypothetical situations during the testing and interview phases of the hiring process. When interviewing, role-play situations to see how they handle common customer complaints and objections.

3. Problem-solving skills

A customer success manager is typically responsible for solving some sort of problem for a customer. In these situations, other team members usually won’t be able to help, so being able to solve problems on the spot is a key trait for success in this role.

How to test for this skill

Ask candidates job-specific questions, such as how they encourage upsells or achieve customer goals after a large, serious complaint. Ask behavioral questions, role-play situations they’d encounter on the job, and offer problems or brain teasers to test their critical thinking.

4. Working well under pressure

In larger SaaS companies, there could be multiple customers with issues on a daily basis, and with the support team swamped, a CSM has to come to the rescue. So, working well under pressure is a skill that can go a long way in retaining customers and improving customer loyalty.

How to test for this skill

Rely on skills tests to ask the right questions before someone reaches the interview stage. This ensures they have the skills needed to adequately respond to customer issues. Then, during the interview process, ask them behavioral questions about their past experiences when they’ve had to work under pressure.

Customer Success Manager Skills Test
Platforms like Toggl Hire can help you create skills tests for CSM roles.

5. Being a team player

To be great at their jobs, customer success managers have to collaborate with other team members daily — sales, marketing, product teams, developers, you name it. A solo player won’t make it far in this role, making this one of the people skills necessary to thrive in day-to-day work as a customer success manager.

How to test for this skill

Ask the right questions in the skills tests or in-person interviews. These can be behavioral questions, like how they’ve previously integrated into a team to achieve a common goal, or role-play questions to assess how they might behave in a situation that’s common within your business. You can also do a simple reference check with previous employers and inquire about their job performance.

6. Extensive knowledge of the product or service

To do their job well, a customer success manager needs to know exactly what they are talking about. They should know your product inside and out and be able to answer technical questions just as well as your sales team or customer service managers.

How to test for this skill

Unfortunately, you can’t test for this skill properly before a candidate is hired and onboarded. You can, however, ask them questions about your product to see if they’ve done research before hopping on an interview call.

7. Demonstrating versatility

Customer success managers often wear the hats of both sales and customer support. They should have detailed knowledge of various sales strategies, customer support methods, onboarding techniques, and more. When you compare candidates for a job, look for the candidate with a good balance of sales and support skills.

How to test for this skill

Ask different types of questions in the skills test at the beginning of the hiring process. If you think this person will have a support-heavy role, include more questions focused on customer support. If you need someone with a stronger set of sales skills, make that the focus of your skills assessments.

8. Putting the customer first

To build strong relationships with customers, the best CSMs make it one of their main responsibilities to provide customers with a resolution at all costs — even if it means putting in some extra time, doing extra work, or nudging the product team to ship something faster.

How to test for this skill

The best way to test this skill is to ask behavioral questions about how the candidate tended to customer needs in their previous roles. Ask them about a situation when a customer had a demanding request, and they had to go out of their way to solve their problem.

9. Patience and empathy

A great customer success manager should be able to sit and listen to customer complaints and then show empathy before getting onto the problem-solving stage of the process. While solving the actual problem is the end goal, they need to demonstrate patience and understanding of a customer’s problem.

How to test for this skill

Similar to other skills on this list, you can assess patience and empathy by asking questions about previous experiences a candidate has had. Ask them about an instance when they had to show empathy and patience towards a customer in an interaction and how they did it.

10. A positive attitude

Even when facing challenges and dealing with a dissatisfied customer, a great CSM should be able to win customers’ trust and turn their frown upside down. This is one of the key soft skills for succeeding in this role, as many times, they’ll hear the worst of feedback directly in their face.

How to test for this skill

Ask candidates about previous situations when they were faced with an upset customer and how they resolved the situation.

To save time and filter candidates, you can ask the same questions during a pre-interview skills test (along with other important hard skills related to the role) to ensure that by the time you get to the interview stage, you’re only interviewing qualified candidates with both the soft and hard skills needed to success in the role.

Bonus: 5-step guide to hiring customer success managers

Now that you know what a customer success manager does and what skills, experience, and personality traits they need to have, you’re likely ready to hire one, right? If so, here’s a quick five-step process for hiring your next CSM.

1. Decide where a customer success manager fits

Most customer success managers are hired to solve an existing need in a business. Before you hire one, determine what it is that you want to improve in customer success. The best way to do this? Ask for customer feedback.

What does a customer success manager do?
Customer success managers take over as soon as the customer has converted.

Armed with real customer data, you’ll see if you need help with churn, upsells, onboarding, or something else.

2. Write a targeted job description

Once you know exactly what you need, write a customer success manager job description. Don’t copy and paste job ads you see online on LinkedIn or job boards.

Instead, create a customer success role description that outlines the expectations, necessary soft and technical skills, success metrics, and more needed to succeed in your business. Remember, no two businesses are the same, so get specific with what your ideal candidate looks like.

Customer Success Manager Job Description Example
Here is a sample customer success manager job description you can use as a base.

The ideal candidate profile is a detailed internal document that covers education and experience, hard and soft skills, cultural fit, ethical behavior, and compatibility with the rest of your team.

Before doing anything, carry out a job task analysis and list out everything that your ideal candidate would do in a typical day or week. Include the key tasks they should be able to complete as well as their long-term responsibilities.

3. Put the applicant’s skills to the test

Instead of asking for resumes and cover letters, start the application process with a skills test. With a tool like Toggl Hire, you can test for various technical skills, as well as soft skills, in a short, 15-minute test. Candidates get immediate feedback, which helps them improve professionally, and you’ll be able to filter top-performing and highly qualified candidates to continue the hiring process.

4. Get face-to-face (or video-to-video)

Once you’ve narrowed down the best candidates, invite them for an interview. This is a customer-facing role, so soft skills are crucial. Communication skills, active listening skills, empathy and emotional intelligence, and persuasion skills are just some of the many things you can spot in an interview process.

5. Hire and start the onboarding process

Once you’ve chosen the perfect candidate, it’s time to extend an offer and cross your fingers they accept. The most important part comes next — the onboarding process. Most customer success teams use every new hire as an opportunity to get a fresh look at their product and the entire customer journey. So, give them enough time to explore your sales process and overall customer experience.

Hire the best CSM for your team with skills testing

Finding great customer success managers isn’t easy, especially if you’ve never had one on your team before. However, once you identify the necessary skills and qualifications to improve customer satisfaction, hiring becomes a little bit easier. And with skills testing, it becomes effortless.

With Toggl Hire, you can browse a variety of hard and soft skills tests to find the ideal customer success professional for your team. For recruiters and hiring managers, this means saving hours per candidate and having a shortlist of the very best with just one simple assessment.

Ready to hire your next customer success manager quickly and easily with Toggl Hire? Get started by browsing our skills test library so you can make hiring a breeze.

Elizabeth Thorn

Elizabeth is an experienced entrepreneur and content marketer. She has nine years of experience helping grow businesses and has experienced first-hand the impact of skills-based hiring in today's global, digital world.

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