Good customer success specialists build and maintain customer relationships, improve customer satisfaction levels, and drive revenue through cross-selling, upselling, and more.
However, hiring the wrong candidate for the role can be disastrous. They can make costly errors, drive away valuable customers, and cause permanent damage to your company’s reputation.
Unfortunately, this isn’t rare. Many recruiters and hiring managers don’t know where to source the right candidates and make common mistakes that lead to mis-hiring. But don’t worry – you don’t have to be one of them.
In this guide, we explain how to hire the best customer success specialists. You’ll learn which skills and attributes to look for and how to assess customer success skills quickly and objectively. We also share some top tips on places to find good talent and common pitfalls to avoid so your company can build a fantastic customer success team.
Here’s what you need to consider before hiring a customer success specialist.
Ensure that you understand what customer success specialists do and how this differs from other customer-centric roles. For instance, customer success specialists are responsible for building long-lasting relationships with customers and helping them find value in your product or service.
On the other hand, customer service agents help with resolving queries, providing technical assistance, and addressing grievances. Carefully evaluate business needs before starting your hiring process. Otherwise, you could end up hiring someone who doesn’t add the right value.
Check that the timing is right so you can get the most value from your customer success specialist. For example, early-stage startups tend to focus on product development and gaining initial traction, so they’ll benefit more from a good salesperson than a customer success specialist.
However, once a company starts building a stable customer base, customer success specialists are critical to managing and retaining them. Further, it may also be time to hire customer success specialists if you want customers to upgrade or purchase new products and services. Finally, invest in customer success when you need to stand out in a competitive market.
Closely assess which skills your existing customer success team has and where the gaps are. For example, imagine you’ve recently entered a new market and no one on your customer success team can speak the native language of this demographic. You’ll need to hire someone who’s proficient in that language and can bridge the gaps in your team.
Think about potential expenses for the role so you can plan and decide on a salary that aligns with your budget. For instance, you may need to pay for a company laptop, travel expenses, relevant tools and software, and more.
Consider offering a competitive salary – one that’s the same as or more than the average – to attract top talent and increase your new hire’s satisfaction with their role. Research salaries for similar customer success roles by checking industry reports, job ads, and self-reported salary information on job sites like Glassdoor.
These are the fundamental hard and soft skills required to succeed in customer success.
Product and industry knowledge: Candidates should deeply understand your company’s product or service and industry so they can provide guidance, answer questions, and help customers make the most of your offering.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software: Applicants must know how to use HubSpot, Zendesk, and other tools to manage customer interactions and track data.
Communication software: Familiarity with tools like Qualtrics and Net Promoter Score (NPS) can help gather customer feedback. Candidates must also be adept at using email, voice and video calling, and other tools to interact with customers.
Data analysis: Success in this role requires proficiency in tools like Google Analytics and Microsoft Excel to identify trends, measure customer satisfaction, and make data-driven decisions.
Project management skills: These are essential to managing and coordinating customer onboarding, training, and other initiatives.
Communication: Hire customer success specialists with strong verbal and written communication skills who can actively listen to and address customer preferences and feedback.
Emotional intelligence: Genuine care about customers’ needs and concerns helps customer success specialists build strong and meaningful customer relationships.
Problem-solving: The ability to proactively identify issues, think critically, and provide effective solutions is key to customer satisfaction.
Influencing: The best candidates can demonstrate that they have the negotiation and sales skills to encourage subscription renewals, upselling, cross-selling, and more.
Most companies post their customer success specialist roles on popular job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed. These give you access to a broad candidate pool, but you also spend lots of time screening countless unqualified applications. To avoid this, consider taking more-creative approaches to your candidate search.
Add the following creative sources to your hiring process to find candidates with the right skill set.
Dedicated to customer success positions, CustomerSuccess.jobs is a great job board to source top talent across many industries.
Post your open role to niche job boards that cater to your industry. For instance, HealthcareJobSite can help you find customer success candidates within healthcare. Similarly, builtin.com provides access to customer success specialists in the tech and startup space.
Gainsight – a community of individuals passionate about customer success and product experience – provides an excellent space to meet and interact with potential candidates.
Platforms like Toptal, Crossover, and Flexjobs let you access a wide pool of talented customer success specialists looking for part-time, flexible, remote, or project-based work. This could be particularly useful to fill temporary gaps in your team.
Ask your existing team members to refer suitable customer success specialist candidates from their own professional networks. Hiring through employee referrals usually succeeds because candidates are more likely to have relevant industry experience and contribute positively to the company culture.
Writing an effective customer success job description is the first step to attracting suitable candidates.
But after you do that, you still need to screen applications to shortlist those who are qualified for the role. The fastest and most effective way to do this is through online testing.
For instance, TestGorilla has an extensive library of tests that you can use to assess candidates’ hard and soft skills objectively. Here are the tests we recommend for a customer success specialist position.
The Customer Success Representative (SaaS), Customer Success Manager (SaaS), or customer service tests examine candidates’ technical skills for the job.
TestGorilla’s HubSpot CRM, Salesforce CRM, or Zendesk CS tests evaluate how proficient applicants are with CRM software.
Our Microsoft Excel (General) test ensures that candidates can crunch data, identify trends, and create relevant charts.
The Gmail or Outlook email skills assessments, communication skills test, and language tests determine whether candidates have good written and verbal communication skills.
Our Problem Solving test checks that candidates can define problems, analyze data, and come up with effective solutions.
The Culture Add, Big 5 (OCEAN), and DISC tests can help you decide if a candidate has the right traits for the role and your company culture.
Finally, you can add custom questions to tests to assess a candidate’s product and industry knowledge. Further, consider adding structured customer success interview questions to dive deeper into candidates’ experiences.
Avoid these common pitfalls when hiring a customer success specialist.
There’s a common misconception that success in this role depends solely on having good communication skills and being a people person. But a person with these traits will fail without the right technical abilities.
Ensure that your candidates have a deep understanding of your offering, know how to use relevant tools, and are data-driven before placing them in this role.
Even the most skilled customer success specialist can be a misfit if they don’t align with or positively contribute to your company’s culture or people. This can cause miscommunications and team conflict, eventually damaging your reputation. Thus, checking to see whether a candidate will improve – rather than hurt – your company culture is crucial to hiring the right person for the job.
Candidates’ resumes and cover letters provide limited information about their skills and experience as customer success specialists. Plus, there’s no way to verify if their skills and attributes are good enough for your company.
Hence, you need to use reliable and objective testing methods as the first step of your hiring process. Relying on resume screening might lead you to offer the job to someone who’s unqualified to succeed.
Customer success specialists can help you establish long-lasting customer relationships, drive revenue, and give you a competitive advantage in the market.
However, mis-hiring customer success specialists isn’t uncommon. Many recruiters make common mistakes – like neglecting the importance of technical skills, not considering culture, and relying on resumes.
Luckily, a platform like TestGorilla offers a suite of online tests to assess customer success candidates. You can roll out technical skills tests, personality and culture-add assessments, and more for a quick and effective way to find the best person for the job.
To address its increased recruitment needs and influx of applicants for roles that include customer support and leadership, Dyninno Group implemented TestGorilla. See how the Dyninno Group of companies improved candidate screening and recruitment productivity by 400%.
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