How to Hire for Customer Success

by Trevor

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Are you looking at expanding your team to include dedicated customer success people?

Many SaaS are acknowledging the importance of customer success and are moving to hire teams dedicated to it. As we’ve written about previously, these are not teams who provide a customer support role, there is a big difference:

“The answer lies in the timing of the interaction with the customer; customer support exists in reactive mode where they are taking action because the customer has contacted them with a problem. Their job is to resolve these problems as quickly as possible.

Customer success teams have a more proactive role. Their role is about fostering engagement between themselves and the client, and the client and the product. They want to ensure that the customer derives meaningful value from the product. This means there is more longevity in the relationship between customer success and the customers.”

In any kind of customer-facing role, you don’t want just anyone filling in. For a start, anyone who deals with customers should be of a “built to serve” kind of mentality. Secondly, if we look specifically at customer success, you need people who are suited to the proactive nature of the role.

Here’s how we think SaaS should hire for customer success:

What does “built to serve” mean?

What should you look for in a customer success person? Get our checklist here:

As we mentioned, one of the number one traits for anyone who deals directly with customers should be that they are “built to serve.”

You’ve probably noticed that there are large numbers of people employed in some kind of customer service role who tend to be fairly light on the “service” aspect, and this is exactly what we mean. Your customer success people need to have a heart for serving others, an innate drive to get the best results for their customers.

As Glide Consulting state: “Being built to serve means caring about the customer’s journey. Each customer will have their own journey, but they usually follow a similar path. At any point, the CSM’s role is to anticipate problems, solve them, and make the customer experience the product’s value.”

The fact is, we’re all made up differently and you’ll find that that person on your team who is excellent at bringing in new business will probably struggle with customer success, and vice versa. Glide Consulting also point out that “built to sell” people are on the opposite end of the spectrum with a completely different set of skills. They enjoy conquering numbers and thrive on deal-closing, but would probably struggle if asked to take on the “servant” role.

Here are some other traits of “built to serve” people:

Empathy

Your customer success people need to be genuinely interested in people and getting to the root of any issues they may have. They need to anticipate needs and be good readers of customers’ feelings.

They “give a damn”

Amanda Saunders of Totango points out that good customer success people have a strong desire to win, both for their customers and their company. They probably have a history of excellence and will take on customers with no less enthusiasm than what any founders before them displayed (possibly even better!).

Hire someone who is truly invested in the success of your business, who wants to see your clients, and therefore your business, do well.

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Choose people who DO give a damn – Image source: The Guardian

They are problem-solvers

People who stick firmly by-the-book are not usually the best-suited to a customer success role. Good customer success people need to think creatively and look for ways to work with the customer which don’t necessarily follow a rigid set of rules. They are agile and prepared to quickly change direction if need be.

Communication skills

Good communication lies at the heart of any excellent customer experience. Your customer success team need to be active listeners, ask thoughtful questions and be clear communicators in all they do.

Language also plays an important role here; the best customer success people instinctively know how to use language appropriately which can engage the customer, foster their loyalty or de-escalate any kind of issues.

Well-organized

Your customer success people need to be highly proactive as well as responsive if the need arises. Every customer should feel like they are a high priority and not languishing somewhere far down a to-do list. This means you need people who are very organized.

They love to teach

A core role of customer success team members is to help guide customers through their journey with your company so that they can realise success with your product. This means you need people who enjoy teaching and are able to present things to customers clearly. Lots of patience is also a plus!

Critical and strategic thinkers

Your team members need to have good skills when it comes to thinking things through when interacting with customers. They need to form the bridge between what the customer’s needs are and what the overall company goals are.

Supporting Customer Success

If you’ve found the right people who are “built to serve”, then next it’s your job to make sure you’ve got the right support in place to ensure they can successfully come into the job.

A surefire way to inhibit the success of your customer success team is to be vague about what you need them to deliver or where they fit in your company. Here’s what you need to support customer success:

Know exactly why you need them

As we’ve mentioned, customer success is a role very distinct from customer support. Make sure you have clear deliverables drawn up for each so that there is no blurring of the lines. For most SaaS, customer success is going to have goals revolving around engagement and retention make sure their deliverables are specifically things they have control over.

Make sure you have a clear understanding and description of the role you need. This will not only help your team to succeed, but it will help you to identify the most appropriate people with the traits we outlined above.

Know where they fit

In SaaS startups, you may not have large departments for each function just yet, but once you do, you’ll need customer success people who are capable of communicating and collaborating across all of them and presenting a case in the interests of the customer. Technical aptitude and passion for the product can be useful here too.

Make it clear to customer success team members where they fit, who they need to be communicating with and what they should expect from them.

Support Wellness

Wellness is important for employees in any role, but you do need to be mindful of people in those customer-facing roles, particularly as they may spend a lot of time dealing with issues or assuaging unhappy people. This can be draining work, so it’s important to recognize that and provide a safe space for work/life balance and simply taking breaks.

As Ryan Engley talked about in an interview with HelpScout: “We need to challenge ourselves to help nurture and grow individuals in those roles, or they’ll wear down and look for careers elsewhere.”

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Who should you hire for customer success? Get our checklist here:

Final Thoughts

Hiring for customer success means not hiring just anyone to fill a role, it means identifying those who are “built to serve” and have the kinds of proactive traits required of the job.

Your customer success people should be invested in the success of the customer and the company. They should be top communicators and savvy problem-solvers. They should also have a knack for identifying needs, often even before the customer has identified them themselves.

For SaaS owners, supporting customer success in the company is key. Have clear goals for the customer success roles and know exactly where they fit in your company. Provide them with the space to achieve a healthy balance.

Kill your churn. Keep more of your customers. Get an invite to Retained.

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