You’ve decided to fund a Customer Success Team for your company, and have determined what the model should look like. Now what?
Aside from developing a strawman for the organizational structure of your customer success team, one of the most important things you can do is to develop a candidate profile. The customer success team will be the primary lines of communication with one of your most valuable assets – your customers. So it’s imperative that you get these hires right the first time. In order to do this, you need to document a clear and concise list of the key responsibilities for which the CSM will be accountable.
I recommend that you review this list with other key departments within your organization such as Customer Support, Professional Services and Training to ensure maximum integration and minimal overlap. Once you have the key responsibilities finalized, step back and think about what skill sets are required in order to most effectively and efficiently complete each of the key responsibilities. You will most likely find that many of the responsibilities have overlapping skill sets. This process will help bubble up the most important skill sets to look for when reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates.
Whether you are looking to implement Model 1 (air-traffic controllers) or Model 2 (product experts), there are a number of key attributes that separate out the great CSMs from the average to poor CSMs. These key attributes include:
- Genuinely curious and a problem solver: If the CSM is not able to layer questions and really understand what the customer is looking to accomplish, it is going to be very difficult to develop a plan for long-term success.
- Strong verbal and written communication skills: As the primary company voice to your customers, the CSM must be able to communicate clearly and concisely to ensure your company has their best foot forward, and to avoid costly mis-communications.
- High degree of patience and tenacity: CSMs need to be able to remain calm in the eye of the storm and have the tenacity to see a problem through to resolution even with the most difficult of customers.
- Excellent at teamwork: Since Customer Success should be a whole company function, it’s critical that the CSM be able to work effectively as a team and be able to develop effective cross –organizational relationships.
- Entrepreneurial in nature: If Customer Success is a new function to your company, then the CSM candidates must be able to roll-up their sleeves and help develop the infrastructure and best practices from which you scale the customer success function. This is very different DNA from a candidate that is a great executioner when following a well defined process.
Once you begin reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates, there are a number of key red and green flags to look for as you work to weed out the great CSM candidates from the average to poor CSMs. I recommend that you assign specific questions and areas to focus on for each of your interviewers to make sure you probe for these flags.
- Short tenure at a number of different companies
- Quick to blame company, product or customer for lack of success
- Little to no leverage of Linkedin or other social networking sites
- Low-energy/enthusiasm level and lack of questions
- Answers tough questions with specifics and leverages use cases/examples to illustrate success
- Positive endorsements from customers and colleagues on Linkedin or other social networking sites
- Asks lots of layering questions to really understand a particular topic or situation
- Seeks to understand and find solutions vs spending time to determine who is to blame
If you’ve taken the time to create a strong candidate profile and a solid list of your key responsibilities and attributes, you should find it relatively easy to determine if you are interviewing a great or average-poor CSM candidate for your company. The next challenge will be getting a good flow of great CSM candidates into your company…