When you’re on the hunt for the perfect position, job descriptions often seem too good to be true: Unlimited PTO! Game nights with the C-suite! Family-friendly schedules!
And now that customer success (CS) is the carrot every company is dangling to woo the best-and-brightest talent, you’ll often find job descriptions that tout the company’s rock-solid commitment to CS.
But just like you need a decoder to suss out which job perks are real and which are fluff, you’ll also want to bring your best sleuthing skills to figure out which companies are true CS contenders and which are the pretenders.
One CS exec asked us if we had recommendations on how to determine if a company was walking the talk when it comes to CS. “Lately it feels like companies say they care about Customer Success, but when they have to put up resources to back it, they don’t commit,” he said.
So our founder, Nick Mehta, jumped into his favorite “virtual water cooler” hangout—LinkedIn!—to put out a set of 10 questions a potential hire could ask a company to determine their contender status:
- From your point of view, what is the value proposition of CS?
- How is your product team incentivized or aligned to take feedback from the CS team?
- What are the capabilities and plans for product adoption data/telemetry?
- How does the sales comp plan align to CS?
- How is CS represented in the weekly exec meeting?
- How much time does CS get in the board meeting?
- How does the all hands agenda reflect CS?
- Are CSMs invited to the sales kickoff? To club?
- How do you decide how much to invest in CS?
- What CS operations and technology budget will I have?
But of course, Nick invited other great CS minds on LinkedIn to add their own questions and observations to the conversation. Such smart food for thought in the comments. Let’s check out some of the gems.
Investments Beat Words
While not everything is about the bottom line, of course, finding out how much the company is investing in customer success can give you a pretty clear lens on what their commitment is. “For every dollar of revenue earned, how many cents are invested in CS? (A good CFO should know the answer!),” said Hitendra Patil, head of a SaaS/fintech CS team.
And digging in on what they’re investing in can be helpful, too. “I’d ask what technology and tools would the company look to invest in to assist and measure CS,” said Hao Chen, a Partner Success Manager. “It’s helpful to know if leadership cares only about sales and wants CS to make do with sales SaaS.”
Get the Real Story
Sometimes finding out if they’re walking the talk is as easy as asking a leader what their definition of a customer-centric company is and getting them to provide real-world examples of what they’ve done that makes them customer-centric. “The response to this question should help separate the true customer-centric companies from the ones that are not there yet,” said Arjun Devgan, a Global Vice President of Customer Success.
“I ask the leader to walk me through the last heavily debated decision—and specifically about the process used for making the decision,” said Steffanie Biedler, a Vice President of Customer Experience & Enablement. “Then I listen to see what (if any) customer and employee considerations were discussed and/or factored into the decision AND which departments seemed to have the most influence in the debate. I then follow-up with a few probing questions specific to their example to make sure I don’t draw a false conclusion.”
“I’d ask a company to walk me through an example where feedback from the CS team resulted in a significant change to the product or a process—what was it and what was the impact,” said Tim Frietas, experienced product nerd (his description, not ours!).
Who’s on First?
One way to find out how serious a company is about CS is learning where the CS leadership and team fits into the org chart. “I would ask ‘Where does CS report into?’ and ‘How much time is spent on CS in the weekly executive meeting?’,” says Stephen Horning, a Vice President of Customer Success. “I’d also want to know if product and engineering integrate with CS and do they hold each other accountable.”
The Volume of the Customer Voice
Even if you’ve got a robust CS team doing all the right things day-to-day, it can be a red flag if the voice of the customer isn’t surfacing in the bigger CS processes. “I’d ask what role does the actual customer have in determining your roadmap, company direction, and staffing plans,” said Jared Norris, a Senior Vice President of Customer Success.
It’s also important that the customer voice gets translated to other teams for maximum impact. “I’d want to know how CS works cross-functionally with other departments,” said Patil. “‘We have Slack’ should not be the complete answer, but it’s funny how often it is.”
Aligning on Metrics
Metrics are everything in business, but is the company measuring the right ones when it comes to CS? “I want to know how companies are thinking about customer health,” said Sarah Hums, a Director of Customer Lifecycle Strategy. “I’d ask if their health measurement model is based on customer outcomes or only business outcomes? In other words, does what the company considers ‘healthy’ align with what matters to the customer?”
Gainsight’s own Chief Customer Officer, Kellie Capote, digs in deeper on metric questions she’d want a company to answer. “I’ve got a lot to add here, but I’ll restrain myself and give you just one key metrics question,” she said. “How is NPS feedback and churn analysis distributed and acted upon across various functions within the company? Oh wait, let me add one more: Is CS incentivized on growth in addition to sales?”
And in terms of how those metrics get acted on, Rachel Evans, another Chief Customer Officer, wants to know if a company has a services ops team. “So often sales data is analyzed to an inch of its life,” she says. “But does the CS data get the same attention?”
Finding the Focus
As customer success grows in importance within smart organizations, it’s inevitable that there will be some growing pains. Better to learn how much “ouch” there is in CS before you get there! “Often CSMs are used as bandages for the failings of other functions or processes,” said Andrew Greaves, a Director of Customer Success. “So I’d ask what are the top three things your CSMs are doing that they shouldn’t be and what do you think the top three most important things a CSM should focus on. If support, escalations, or configuration are mentioned in either it’s a red flag.”
If you want to learn more about what makes a customer-centric organization and how to make sure your company is aligned around CS, check out our 10 New Laws of Customer Success. You’ll find the most important CS philosophies, plus get the right questions to ask your current (or future) teams.