Once you’ve developed a stellar product or service, you need to be able to not only find customers who want to buy it but also retain them and keep them happy in the long run.
Customer satisfaction and retention are critical for business outcomes and are two of the most important predictors of growth – and customer success managers are directly responsible for both.
Customer success management is crucial for many businesses, especially SaaS companies and other online businesses that rely solely on customer relationships.
To be successful in this role, customer success managers need to have a broad range of skills, such as communication, empathy, relationship building, and customer data analysis. They'll be able to build and follow customer success plans, and should also be proficient with a number of software tools, like HubSpot CRM and Zendesk CS.
In this blog post, we will discuss:
- What the role of a customer success manager entails
- Customer success managers’ main responsibilities
- The top 20 essential skills for customer success managers
- How to hire the right customer success manager for your organization
- ✅ How to use skills testing to hire the best customer success manager
We’ll also give you ideas on how you can test for each skill.
The article concludes with a quick step-by-step guide on how to hire the right customer success manager for your organization.
Let’s dive in.
The role of a customer success manager
Customer success managers facilitate the communication between a business and its customers. They help ensure that customers get the most out of a product or service, remain satisfied with their purchase, and stay loyal to the company.
Customer success managers work closely with customers to help them achieve their desired outcomes. Otherwise said, their work is entirely centered around customers’ expectations, needs, and goals.
To be successful in their role, customer success managers need to be constantly in touch with not only customers but also different teams within the organization, such as sales, marketing, customer support, and product development.
Essentially, they make sure that your entire business is working in alignment with what your customers expect and want from you.
To do this effectively, they need to be able to address complex issues in a customer-centric way, analyze customer data, build strong relationships with customers and team members, and have a deep understanding of the customer journey and different customer success methodologies.
What are the main responsibilities of a customer success manager?
Customer success managers are responsible for a number of key tasks and initiatives that keep customer satisfaction high.
In their day-to-day work, they need to:
1. Onboard new customers and help them get started with the product or service
Onboarding customers is a crucial part of the customer journey.
According to a survey by Wyzowl, 55% of respondents have returned a product because they weren’t sure how to use it.
Customer success managers need to make sure that customers know about the product’s features and capabilities, how to use it to achieve their goals, and how to get maximum value from it.
2. Answer customers’ questions and address their concerns
Customers will always have questions, no matter how user-friendly or intuitive a product may be.
Although customer success managers aren’t directly responsible for customer support, they'll likely need to answer customers’ questions during important transitions throughout the client journey, such as onboarding, renewals, and upsells.
3. Conduct customer check-ins and proactively address customers’ needs
Customer success managers need to constantly check in with customers to see whether they need help with anything – and provide them that help if they do.
This proactive approach enables customer success managers to identify potential issues early on and prevent them from becoming bigger problems down the road.
4. Monitor customer health and identify customer churn risks
Customer health refers to a customer’s engagement with a product or service, their overall satisfaction, and the likelihood they will renew their subscription or contract.
Customer success managers must continuously monitor customer health metrics and take action when necessary to prevent churn, which is when customers stop doing business with your company.
5. Analyze customer data and provide feedback to different teams within the organization
Customer success managers need to have a deep understanding of customer data and be able to provide valuable insights that can help improve the product, marketing campaigns, and sales strategies.
6. Work closely with the sales team on upsells and cross-sells
Customer success managers need to identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling and work closely with the sales team to achieve these objectives.
7. Take on special projects as needed
Customer success managers need to be flexible and adaptable since their job duties may change depending on the organization’s needs. They may be asked to take on special projects from time to time, such as designing and conducting customer surveys or organizing customer events.
Top 20 must-have customer success management skills you should be looking for
Customer success managers need a broad skill set to succeed in their role.
In this section, you’ll find a list of the top 20 vital skills for this position, along with ideas for how to test for each skill during recruitment.
Customer success managers are the link between customers and your business, so they need to be able to effectively communicate with customers and team members.
It’s important that they understand the needs of their customers, guide them through the onboarding process successfully, show them how to get the most out of the product, and explain complex technical concepts to them in layman’s terms.
They also have to communicate customers’ needs to other team members and make sure they can reach a positive outcome.
Empathy is another key customer success manager skill.
Customer success managers must be able to understand and address customers’ concerns, questions, and issues.
They need to be patient and helpful to build strong relationships and know how to handle customers’ frustration and dissatisfaction to de-escalate tense situations.
Empathy is difficult to test for, but you can use guided interview questions, such as:
- Can you give me an example of a time when you needed to help a dissatisfied customer?
- What do you do if a customer is angry?
- Describe a conflict you dealt with in a previous role. How did you resolve it?
- What was the biggest challenge you faced in your previous job? How did you deal with it?
- A coworker tells you that they’re the victim of harassment. What do you do?
- Describe a situation in which you needed to deliver bad news. What did you do?
3. Relationship building
Customer success managers must be able to build strong relationships with customers and coworkers.
They need to be able to gain customers’ trust and loyalty by making them feel heard and valued. To accomplish this, they require strong interpersonal skills, listening skills, and verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
To assess applicants’ relationship-building abilities, you can observe their interactions with you and see whether they’re able to build rapport and trust.
You can also use the same questions as for empathy (above) or give them a Communication test since the three skills are closely related.
4. Active listening
Customers want to feel heard when communicating with a business. Active-listening skills enable customer success managers to understand customers’ needs and problems.
Customer success managers also need to be able to give their undivided attention when other team members are explaining something to avoid misunderstandings.
To assess candidates’ active-listening skills, you can study their interactions with you and other team members and watch how closely they pay attention to the information you share with them.
5. Customer service
Customer success managers need to be customer service oriented since they’re the first point of contact between customers and your company. They must provide an excellent customer experience by being helpful, responsive, and professional at all times.
6. Time management
Customer success managers must be able to manage their time efficiently to meet deadlines and achieve results. They have to be effective at prioritizing tasks, planning ahead, and staying organized.
Additionally, you could give them a timed task during the interview and observe how they handle it.
7. Problem solving
Look for customer success managers who can solve customers’ problems efficiently by mobilizing the knowledge and resources they have at their disposal. They need to be able to troubleshoot, find the root causes of problems, and come up with solutions that work.
Customer success managers have to make decisions quickly and confidently. They should be able to weigh pros and cons, consider risks, and make the best choice for the customer and the company.
9. Strategic thinking
Coming up with long-term solutions that will benefit both the customer and the company is essential for this role.
Customer success managers need to be able to see the big picture and have a clear vision of where they want to take the customer relationship.
Strategic thinking can be assessed with interview questions such as:
- How do you plan your week or your month?
- How do you communicate with coworkers about strategic team goals?
- How do you set up medium- and long-term goals for yourself?
- What do you do when you fail to achieve a goal? Can you give an example?
10. Attention to detail
Customer success managers need to be detail oriented. It’s crucial for them to be able to pay close attention to customer feedback and data to identify trends and issues early on and act on them quickly.
11. Critical-thinking and analytical skills
Customer success managers need to be able to think critically and analyze customer data to identify customer trends and issues.
It’s critical that they can draw conclusions, make recommendations, and come up with innovative solutions that will improve customer satisfaction.
You can also use a selection of critical-thinking interview questions for shortlisted applicants.
Writing is a key skill in almost any customer-facing role.
Customer success managers need to be able to write and edit emails, knowledge-base articles, instruction manuals, and user guides. They should have the ability to communicate clearly and concisely to provide customers with the information they need.
To assess candidates’ writing skills, you can simply analyze their emails. Are they clear and concise? Are they error-free? Are they well structured and easy to follow?
Additionally, you can ask them to write a short essay or a brief how-to guide for a made-up product that’s similar to your company’s.
13. Verbal reasoning
Verbal reasoning is one of the top skills across many fields, including customer service, and it complements candidates’ writing and communication skills.
Customer success managers need to understand customers, reach conclusions, and express themselves clearly in their day-to-day job. To achieve this, they must be able to identify relationships between words and determine the validity of statements based on the information provided.
14. Accuracy and precision
Customer success managers need to be accurate and precise in their work to avoid mistakes. They must be capable of double-checking their work, paying close attention to detail, and diligently following procedures.
To assess candidates’ accuracy and precision skills, you can give them a task that requires attention to detail or use an online Attention to Detail test.
Customer success managers need to be able to project confidence even when dealing with difficult situations so that they can build trust and lead customers to the most suitable solutions.
One way to assess candidates’ confidence level is by asking them behavioral questions about times when they had to handle difficult situations with customers.
Teamwork is essential for this role. Customer success managers need to work with other team members daily to provide the best customer experience possible. Therefore, they must be able to communicate and collaborate with others efficiently.
Given how dynamic their role can be, customer success managers need to have a natural curiosity and be willing to acquire new skills and knowledge.
To assess candidates’ learning skills, look at their past performance and the different jobs they had: Were they often promoted? Did they seek out opportunities and challenges? Did they undergo a career change in which they had to learn many new skills?
18. Stress tolerance
Stress tolerance is vital in customer-facing roles.
Difficult customers are usually not a frequent occurrence, but the success of your customer service team will still depend on whether customer success managers can solve their queries on the spot – and this requires solid stress tolerance.
You can easily assess stress tolerance during an interview by simply observing the candidate’s interactions with you since interviews are stressful situations on their own. Are they nervous? Do they manage to perform well under pressure?
19. Technical skills (Hubspot CRM, Zendesk CS, Salesforce CRM)
Customer success managers often need to use a range of software tools to stay in touch with customers, analyze data, and spot issues. Depending on the tools you’re using, you might want to test your candidates’ proficiency with them.
To succeed in such a dynamic role, customer success managers need to be self-starters and be able to stay motivated on their own.
They should take initiative, be proactive in their work, and be constantly on the lookout for new solutions and ways to improve existing processes.
One way to assess candidates’ level of initiative is by giving them a hypothetical scenario to evaluate how they’d handle a specific situation. Alternatively, you can use TestGorilla’s Motivation test or DISC test.
How to hire the right customer success manager for your organization
In this section, we’ll give you a quick step-by-step process of how to hire the right customer success manager for your business.
- Perform a job analysis: The first thing you need to do is to define the exact skills and experience you’re looking for.
- Write a job description and a job ad: Then, you need to write a detailed job description based on the results of your job analysis (for internal use by your HR team) and a job advertisement that you’ll publish on job boards and LinkedIn.
- Use skills tests to filter applicants: Once you collect enough applications, you need to filter them. The best way to do this is by using skills tests, which enable you to measure and compare candidates’ skills objectively. In the list of skills above, you can see some ideas about tests you can use on top of our dedicated Customer Success Manager test.
- Invite the best candidates to an interview: After identifying the best candidates, it’s time to invite them to an interview. At this stage, you can ask them in-depth questions about their previous experience and about customer management and retention.
- Make a decision and extend an offer: The last step is to decide who best meets your criteria and extend an offer to them.
Hire the best customer success manager to help your organization grow
Customer success managers are tasked with the challenging responsibility of delivering a frictionless customer experience across the entire customer journey.
To do this successfully, they need to be attentive to customers’ needs, understand their product inside out, find innovative solutions to problems, and know how to lead customers toward achieving their goals.
To accomplish these things, they require a multitude of skills, such as communication, critical thinking, attention to detail, stress tolerance, and relationship building.
Therefore, if you’re hiring a customer success manager, you need to assess these skills objectively.
One of the best ways to evaluate candidates’ skills is by using pre-employment skills assessments, which can help you identify the best talent, reduce the risk of making a bad hire, and limit unconscious bias.
With TestGorilla, you’ll find the recruitment process to be simpler, faster, and much more effective.
Get started for free today and start making better hiring decisions, faster and bias-free.