Customer success is one of the fastest evolving business functions in the modern SaaS industry. Businesses are keen to hire the candidate who can exceed their expectations of a customer success manager (CSM) role. They must have an overall objective of retaining the customers and increasing their lifetime value (LTV). There are some basic skills in a CSM you may want to check through customer success manager interview questions.
A CSM must be able to perform at multiple levels. They need to be an expert in customer service by reacting to the customer queries and providing them bespoke solutions. They should as well be proactive in creating strategies for their customers to succeed. In order to do so, they need to learn about the product and service inside out. This will help them handle customer questions. They must also know when the right time is to approach customers for up-selling and cross-selling opportunities.
Required skill set of a CSM
While the above skills are mandatory in a candidate and should be an essential part of their daily job, there are some more basic customer success skills which a CSM should possess. Let’s take a brief look at them so that you can check these skills in them through the interview questions.
Interacting with multiple clients is the key responsibility of a CSM. Hence, they should be able to deal with tough as well as easy going clients. There would be situations when a CSM must be working on high-pressure situation. In your interview, you must gauge their capability to deal effectively in such situations. How do you deal with an angry customer interview question is one of those questions which will help you examine their response in tough situations?
Problem solving attitude
When you hire someone for a CSM role, make sure that they understand that helping their customers in every situation that is called for is their prime focus. Every time a customer approaches a CSM, it is an opportunity to create a positive impression about the brand. So, a CSM must do whatever in their capacity to solve the customer’s problem. If they can’t do it by themselves, then they should know whom to approach. A director of customer success should be a part of this interview and assess this quality in a candidate.
Understanding the workings of the product is paramount for a CSM. If they don’t have a technical acumen, then would always be dependent on the product management team for any technical solution and that’s a big waste of time. It is not just a CSM but everyone in your Customer Success team, right from customer success associate to customer success analyst, should understand the basic technical know-how of the product.
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20 CS Interview questions
If you want to gain a deeper insight about the customer success function then this article can be really helpful. But sticking to the present topic, let’s jump straight to the top 20 customer success manager interview questions.
- How well do you know our product niche?
- What do you know about the SaaS industry and who are the top players?
- How would your strategies differ for an organization based on its annual recurring revenue?
- How would you explain in brief about our product or service?
- What changes would you like to implement to our product or service?
- How do you handle customer queries with your day-to-day tasks?
- How do you handle a situation where you can’t meet a customer’s expectation?
- Which was the toughest case you have ever handled and how did you do that?
- Why is customer success important to you?
- What measures would you take to prevent customer churn?
- What is your experience in interacting with marketing, sales and product management teams?
- How would you help us expand our business?
- What Customer Success metrics do you use to measure your success in this role?
- How do you understand Customer Success as a philosophy and how would you implement this in our organization?
- What measures would you take to prevent Revenue Churn?
- How would you re-engage a customer who has stopped responding and is at the risk of churn?
- When would be the right time to approach a customer for upselling and cross-selling?
- How would you measure product adoption and how would you make sure that the customer adopts your product?
- What do you understand by Customer Lifetime Value? How can you raise it?
- What do you understand by high-touch and low-touch engagement model?
For the ease of your comprehension, we have grouped these questions in their respective categories which you will find in the section below.
1. How well do you know our product niche?
Through this question, you are going to check if the candidate has done some market research on your product. Are they familiar with your top competitors and the differences between the kind of service they are offering from yours? They don’t have to give a detailed response but should have an abstract understanding to answer this question. You can also check if they know the basic terminologies and concepts of your niche.
This, in turn, would help them hold valuable discussions with your customers. Even though a CSM you would hire would be new to your organization, your customers must not feel the same. They should be well integrated with your business niche to make the customers comfortable and earn their trust.
2. What do you know about the SaaS industry and who are the top players?
Customer success manager is a role that usually exists in the Software as a Service (SaaS) based industry. Hence, it is wise to check how much understanding they possess about this industry. Do they know the kinds of challenges faced by these companies? The kind of business model they operate in? And what are the factors that affect the revenues of the companies? Have they gone through a case study of any top players in the SaaS industry? Have they learned anything from them that can be applied here? A thorough understanding of the working of the SaaS industry would be one of the add-ons for the role of CSM.
3. How would your strategies differ for an organization based on its annual recurring revenue?
Through this question you want to check how aware the candidate is about the average monthly or annual revenues of different companies. Do they know the current valuation of your company and what amount is considered good enough for a small, medium, or large enterprise?
This will help them evaluate the kind of customers they are going to deal with and hence they should come up with further questions to you to display their probing and analysing skills. They can also describe how they can help grow your business.
4. How would you explain in brief about our product or service?
You want to check through this question whether the candidate has a prior understanding of your product or not. This will help you gauge how much time and effort will be needed to give orientation of your service to the candidate and how easily they can adapt to your company to be able to advocate your brand to your customers.
5. What changes would you like to implement to our product or service?
Besides understanding your product, a CSM must also be able to interpret the voice of the customer. They must exercise their influence in the organization to give customer feedback to be implement changes in the product. To answer this question, they must understand the product from the user’s point of view. Based on that they should be able to guide the product management team for the betterment of the product.
6. How do you handle customer queries with your day-to-day tasks?
This is one of the most common customer success manager interview questions. One of the skills that the candidate should possess to answer this question is multi-tasking. They are going to handle multiple customers. Hence, they should know how to prioritize their communication with their everyday tasks. It should not have a least impact on either of those. They should be able to prioritize multiple customer queries based on the relationship status and their business values.
7. How do you handle a situation where you can’t meet a customer’s expectation?
This is another one of the most important customer success manager interview questions. The candidate should know that it is not always possible to meet all expectations of customers. But how diplomatically they steer the conversation to deliver the message is what you need to look for.
You can also ask as a follow up question to describe a situation when this has happened in their past experience and what specific steps they took to cover the situation.
8. Which was the toughest case you have ever handled and how did you do that?
The problem-solving skills and how the candidate handles stress can be tested through this question. You must pay keen attention to the kind of strategies they mention about resolving the issue. Were there any conflict resolution skills that was demonstrated through this question that can also be checked upon?
You must extend this question to ask them to share about a time you went above and beyond for a customer. This would reveal how seriously they take their job and how much extra mile they are ready to cover to help their customers succeed.
9. How would you re-engage a customer who has stopped responding and is at the risk of churn?
By hitting the nail right on its head. You must monitor customer’s usage of product and identify the reasons that are causing them for lower usage of the product. Then sending a mail or a call about that specific issue will help you get customer’s attention. This is the time when you solve the problem right at the hand and through that pull them in through showcasing other features too that are relevant.
10. When would be the right time to approach a customer for upselling and cross-selling?
When the customer has become comfortable with your primary product and reaches the threshold usage. This is the time for you approach them with a better version or advanced plan of the product and show them how buying it would enhance their value realization. Until the customer is fully satisfied with your first product, their trust on your brand doesn’t develop and any attempt for upsells or cross-sells would be liable to failure.
11. What do you understand by high-touch and low-touch engagement model?
High touch engagement model is when you give most personalized service to your customers. A higher amount of attention is provided to the customer and solutions are quite contextual to suit their needs.
Low-touch engagement model is when you use automated communication to cater a large number of customers through single action. This include automated emails, help docs, online tutorials, etc.
Customer Success Experience
12. Why is customer success important to you?
As a director of client success, you want to hire a candidate who is self-motivated and hence, if customer success is one of their passions then there is nothing like it. They should understand clearly what they really mean with the success of the customer and how to measure the same. It is of utmost importance for a client success job to know what metrics or parameters are taken into account to measure success and excel in it.
13. What measures would you take to prevent customer churn?
Are they capable enough to handle an at-risk customer who is at the brink of switching the service provider, how would they improvise in their customer engagement activities to turn a no to yes, how early do they identify the at-risk customers and what parameters they measure to get an early warning. These are few of the areas they must touch upon while handling this question.
14. What is your experience in interacting with marketing, sales and product management teams?
This is the kind of customer success interview questions which tests how good the candidate is a team-player. As a part of a CSM role, they have to interact with multiple teams in an organization whether to give feedback of the client, resolve a particular issue or just taking a brief up of the client while they are getting onboarded. It is important that they should be able to hold clear communication with different teams for a smoother flow of information in an organization.
15. How would you help us expand our business?
A CSM should clearly know the importance of customer retention in the business and the potential it has to contribute in any business growth. They must be able to demonstrate their negotiation skills with the customer. When to aim for reaching the customer for feedback to know your Net Promoter Score (NPS) or for tapping the opportunities for upselling or cross-selling should be explained while answering this question.
16. What Customer Success metrics do you use to measure your success in this role?
You must tell them about the different kinds of metrics you use for different ways of measuring success. Few ways are:
- Revenue success: Either monthly or annual recurring revenue must be measured against success. These metrics are MRR (monthly recurring revenue) or ARR (annual recurring revenue). You can tell you measure the net increase in these metrics on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis to compare with previous durations to measure success.
- Customer sentiments metrics: Customer sentiment metrics can be measured through CSAT (customer satisfaction score) or NPS (net promoter score). These metrics help you gauge the customer sentiments towards your brand.
- Onboarding metric: The most important metric to measure the success of onboarding is time to value. Through this metric you can know how fast and efficient you are in delivering the first value to your client.
17. How do you understand Customer Success as a philosophy and how would you implement this in our organization?
This is a tricky question. You must understand the customer success discipline not just technically but philosophically too to answer this question. You can start answering this question by saying that you understand customer success as a way to help customers achieve their goals. To implement it in your organization, you can say a culture of customer centricity has to be developed in an organization and all the different functions – marketing, sales, product, support, must adhere to customer centric values while performing their duties. To know how different functions adopt customer success, I suggest you do some research to fully prepare for this question.
18. What measures would you take to prevent Revenue Churn?
Few ways you can mention are:
- Proactive engagement: You must keep a check on customer’s usage of your product and intervene from time to time to enhance their experience with your product.
- Demonstrating value: You must demonstrate value through right metrics from time to time. This can be done in a monthly report, call or a quarterly review meeting.
- Business expansion: To increase your organization’s footprint on the customer organization, you must sell more products or upgrade them to advanced versions of your product. This is a good way to keep them in a relationship and thereby prevent churn.
19. How would you measure product adoption and how would you make sure that the customer adopts your product?
When the customer’s active duration on the product is beyond the minimum required standard you have set for product adoption. For example, if the customer is logging in at least five times a day and spending a total amount of time close to three hours on your product can be considered as a standard for measuring product adoption.
To enable product adoption, you have to handhold your customer in the initial time. Minimizing time to value is the most important thing where in you conduct your onboarding as fast as possible to help them realize value in the least amount of time.
20. What do you understand by Customer Lifetime Value? How can you raise it?
It is the average revenue a customer generates during their entire period of being in a relationship with your organization. Two ways to increase it are:
- Customer retention: This is quite obvious. The longer they stay, the more times they renew their contract which adds up to the overall revenue they generate for your organization.
- Upsells and cross-sells: The more product they purchase from you, the more revenue they generate for your organization.
You might also like to read: Sample of a Great Customer Success Manager Job Description38
Remember that a CSM is a client facing role. They should always maintain a balance between what the company can deliver and what the customer needs. They should be expert in creating value of the product in customer’s perception. This demands a thorough understanding of the product as well as an abstract knowledge of the client’s niche. Thus, these customer success manager interview questions would help you examine a candidate from all angles. They would give you a clear idea if they were a perfect match for your company or not.
Shivani is a talented CS manager with the skillsets to elicit, scope and manage end-to-end B2B SaaS project delivery. She has a keen interest in depicting her learnings in customer success by writing resourceful blogs and articles.
Published May 27, 2020, Updated March 01, 2023