In the digital age, customers have all the power to compare and switch up the companies that supply their products and services. For this reason, the role of a Customer Success Manager has never been more important for retaining customers and minimizing churn.
If you’re not convinced, recent studies show that an increase of just 5% in customer retention rates can lead to a 75% increase in profits. If that’s not a compelling business case for hiring a new Customer Success Manager, we don’t know what is!
In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to hire a Customer Success Manager. After we’ve looked at what makes an awesome Customer Success Manager, we’ll take you through the steps you need to follow to get a customer success expert into your business.
- What is a Customer Success Manager?
- What Makes a Kickass Customer Success Manager?
- 5-Step Guide for Hiring Customer Success Managers
What is a Customer Success Manager?
Let’s define exactly what a Customer Success Manager is and what they bring to the business.
Put simply, a Customer Success Manager (CSM) helps customers get the most out of the products or services they have purchased from a business. You’re most likely to find this job role within software companies, but it has begun to creep into other sectors in the last five years too.
For most organizations, the Customer Success Manager role sits somewhere between sales and support. Typically, Customer Success Managers are introduced to a customer straight after they have signed a contract and help them onboard onto their new software system.
This is where the support part of the role comes in. Their job is to guide the customer through the onboarding process, helping them to increase their product knowledge, troubleshoot issues, and provide general training and support.
But the Customer Success Manager’s responsibilities don’t end there. They actually stay with the customer through the lifetime of their contract, offering further support and guidance on how best to use the entire software system.
This is where the sales element comes in. Customer Success Managers are often encouraged to seek out and promote cross-selling or up-selling opportunities by highlighting new ways the customer could leverage their products or services.
Depending on the needs of an organization, the role may incorporate more of the support elements or be more focused on promoting lifecycle sales. Given so many software packages are subscription-based, the ultimate goal of a Customer Success Manager is to ensure the customer gets exactly what they need so that they carry on renewing their subscription long into the future.
What Makes a Kickass Customer Success Manager?
Given the Customer Success Manager role can be quite varied, being a CSM rockstar requires a broad set of skills.
It’s also a role that directly faces out to customers, so a full range of soft skills is required to represent the organization in the best light.
Here are the top five attributes all Customer Success Managers have in abundance:
- They’re Awesome Communicators. Like any customer-facing role, CSM’s need to be great two-way communicators. Customer Success Managers spend all their time listening to the challenges customers face and then need to communicate back effective solutions.
When you’re wanting to hire a Customer Success Manager, ensure you prioritize candidates who can articulate themselves well in person, over video, and in a written format to tick all of your communication boxes!
- They’re Strategic Thinkers. Customer success is a long game, it doesn’t happen overnight. Especially when focusing on the sales elements of the role, the best CSM’s have the capability to think long term when it comes to their customers.
While it’s easy to get caught up in answering the latest questions, excellent Customer Success Managers take the time to understand the customer’s long-term goals and translate them into value propositions their software can deliver.
- They’re Technically Astute. Jumping back to the support side of things, Customer Success Managers need to be effective troubleshooters. Therefore, they need to be technical enough to know their product or service inside out.
While CSMs aren’t writing lines of code, the best ones know how their products or services work behind the scenes and can position themselves as experts in what they do. That positioning is super important to build credibility and really helps supplement the following key attribute.
- They Build Great Relationships. Delivering a great product is all well and good, but as many of us will know, the key to a great customer experience is building solid relationships. The best Customer Success Managers cultivate great relationships with customers to fully understand what they need both now and in the future.
Building great relationships is key to securing long-term business too, so the very best CSM’s are experts at delivering customer retention for their organizations.
- They’ve Got Versatility. Given the hybrid support and sales responsibilities, Customer Success Managers have to be versatile. No two days are likely to be the same, with customers coming to you with problems to solve which are unique to their business.
Customer Success Managers need to be able to think on their feet and stay calm under pressure when they don’t immediately have the answer. If a CSM is too one-dimensional, they’ll struggle to manage the expectations of their customers, causing them to look elsewhere for their product or service.
5-Step Guide to Hiring Customer Success Managers
Now that you know precisely why Customer Success Managers are so important and what makes a great one, we bet you’re raring to hire a Customer Success Manager into your business.
Like with all things in business, it pays to take a targeted approach and follow a simple process. So, here are the five steps you should take to ensure you maximize your CSM hiring process!
#1 – Decide Where a Customer Success Manager Fits In
As we’ve mentioned previously, different businesses use Customer Success Managers in different ways. With the role incorporating aspects of both traditional support and sales roles, you need to define exactly what a Customer Success Manager means to you.
To do this, start by asking yourself four key questions:
- What do our customers say we do well?
- What do our customers say we can do better?
- Where can we improve our after-sales process?
- Where can we improve our support process?
It always serves best to start with real customer feedback. After all, they are the ones who are paying you for your products and service, so their opinion matters most of all.
Next, reflect internally on what you do well and where you could improve. Be honest with the areas of your business that fail and where you could better support your customers.
Once you’ve answered these four questions, you should start to see gaps that your new Customer Success Manager can plug.
Step 1 Objective – Understand what a Customer Success Manager can bring to your business by analyzing what parts of your sales and support processes need improving.
#2 – Write a Targeted Job Spec
Now that you know the exact gaps your new CSM will fill, it’s time to get the recruitment process started.
You’re now fully armed with the information you need to write a targeted job spec that not only captures generic Customer Success Managers requirements but the specific things you need that individual to deliver for your customers.
You don’t want to make the job spec too long, but remember to include the following:
- An overview of the organization
- What’s expected of the role
- The critical skills that individual needs
- Any previous experience required
Remember to show off why your organization is a great place to work by highlighting key value propositions, past achievements, and future growth plans.
If you’re hiring a Customer Success Manager for the first time, think long and hard about the hire’s seniority. Do you want to bring in a junior you can shape to your business, or do you want a senior CSM who can hit the ground running?
The more targeted your job spec, the better chance you have of finding a kickass CSM!
Step 2 Objective – Take your requirements and put them into a clear and concise job spec which also shows off why your organization is a great place to work!
#3 – Put Applicant’s Skills To The Test
Many of the attributes a Customer Success Manager needs to succeed simply cannot be taught. While being a great strategic thinker is definitely something that can be worked on, it’s inherently an attribute a candidate either has or they don’t.
Once your job ad is out there, relying on stale resumes will not give you a true representation of whether a candidate has the skills you need. That’s why it pays to ask candidates to complete a skills test.
At Toggl Hire as we’re all about skill testing and the value it brings to the hiring process. With a tool like Toggl Hire, you can create an instant Customer Success Manager skills test, based on our library of over 5,000 quality-checked questions, all of which are submitted by industry experts!
In just a few clicks, you’ll have your own unique skills test created and sent out to candidates. Each test is unique, with a range of multiple-choice, free text, and numerical questions designed to showcase how well a candidate can actually do the job.
It’s an excellent experience for the candidate, too, allowing them to show off their skills and receive instant feedback on their performance.
That’s enough of a sell from us, why now watch this 1-minute video to see how Toggl Hire works?
Step 3 Objective – Assess your candidates on the skills they actually need to do the job to create a shortlist of high-quality, potential Customer Success Managers.
#4 – Get Face-to-Face (Or Zoom-to-Zoom)
Great, you’ve now got a list of candidates who not only love your job spec but have shown they have the skills to succeed as your next Customer Success Manager.
It’s now time to execute the rest of your hiring process by getting to know your candidates either in person or virtually through a video call. There are loads of guides out there for conducting interviews, so find a structure and style that works for you.
Remember, being a Customer Success Manager is all about communicating well and building great relationships, so look out for those attributes when meeting your candidates.
At this stage, you’ll also need to iron out all the formalities such as salary expectations, working hours, office location, and their available start date – all the boring stuff, right? We joke, of course! While these things can seem a bit formal, they are super necessary to ensure the role works for both parties and you get precisely what you need from a future hire!
Not got time to interview loads of candidates? If you liked the sound of our skills tests, you’ll love our Video Intros. They give you and the candidate the opportunity to get to know each other on your terms through a pre-recorded question and answer process.
Simply create your Video Intros, send the link to the candidates, and wait for their video responses to flood in. It’s time-effective for everyone involved and allows you to see how well a candidate communicates in person without having to meet face-to-face. Why not check our Video Intros here?
Step 4 Objective – Get to know the candidates in your recruitment pipeline. Use this opportunity to assess their soft skills and get a feel for how they’ll fit into your business.
#5 – Execute the Hire & Start Onboarding
Now it’s time to actually hire a Customer Success Manager! Once you’ve made your mind up on the candidate you’d like to join your team, it’s time to break the good news and make an offer.
Especially for a role like a Customer Success Manager, use the onboarding period to get a fresh perspective on the first impression that you, your product, and your organization make.
Use the experience to get another opinion on your product or service mix, and if applicable try and get some good insight into how it compares to other organizations.
Of course, it’s not all take take take, so ensure you fully support your new hire into their role, especially if they’re working remotely.
Expect there to be a period of time until your new hire is fully up and running, but given you’ve provided a targeted spec, assessed their skills, and supported their onboarding, we’re sure you’ll have nailed the process and will have gained yourself a kickass Customer Success Manager!
Step 5 Objective – Once you’ve decided on your new hire, use their onboarding process to learn any lessons you can about your business’s strengths and weaknesses!
Boosting customer retention is a great way to secure the profits of your business and provide the platform for growth. While predominantly in the software industry, the role of a Customer Success Manager is becoming increasingly important to provide support and maximize future sales opportunities.
If you’re in the market for a Customer Success Manager, the hiring process can be tricky. But, if you put some structure around your job specifications, use skills tests to find the best candidates, and execute a smooth onboarding process, you’ll get a CSM who can ensure your customers maximize their chance of success!
James Elliott is a Strategy Manager and Writer from London, UK. When not working on the day job, James writes on a variety of business and project management topics with a focus on content that enables readers to take action and improve their ways of working. You can check out James’ work on his website or by connecting on LinkedIn.