Assessing the Field
The field of Customer Success ensures that your customers gain value from your product offerings, and allows you to cultivate lasting business relationships, all while continually optimizing their accounts. The exponential growth of Customer Success as a viable vocation has lead to an explosion of CS teams in every company, large and small. In fact, the number openings in CS has reached upwards of 300,000, almost on par with the number of openings in the Marketing domain.
Once you convince the influential players in your company that Customer Success is on the cutting edge of innovation in the post-sales ecosystem, and before you choose a Customer Success Automation platform, you have to find the right people to fill your CS team. Here are the primary criteria you should emphasize when hiring your Customer Success operators.
Identify the Right Experience
Since Customer Success is a relatively new function, the background required has yet to be defined. While previous time in Customer Success may not always be possible, it is a good idea to find professionals with a background in customer-facing operations. Anyone with a position starting with ‘Customer’, followed by Success, Support, Service, Account Manager, Marketing, and Lifecycle Management, amongst many others, probably has the right mindset and is used to catering to a customers’ needs. Shifting to CS from these types of posts is a natural transition, and won’t require as much training to get up to speed.
Prioritize Emotional Intelligence
After you close the sale and have onboarded your new customers, the responsibility of retention, upsells, and advocacy shifts to the Customer Success team. As these Customer Success professionals are now going to be the face of your company, you need to make sure they have the ability to maintain cordial relationships with your customers. If they are not emotionally intelligent, unable to pick up on social cues, and intuitively know what the customer requires, it is unlikely that they will be very good at their job. Not only do you need to choose people who care about their customers, but also those who have the appropriate outlook and stamina for dealing with people on a continual basis.
Diversify Your Team
Just as you diversify your investment portfolio, you should also aim to hire a diverse group of employees who can fulfill any role required for Customer Success. While it may be cheaper to hire a whole team of chirpy undergraduates who are fresh out of college, it will not offer your team the breadth of experience and insights that a more seasoned (and expensive!) member could offer. However, hiring for CS proficiency isn’t the only factor you should consider. Young, trainable assets who have copious energy, and the ability to be flexible, will swiftly gain the competence you seek. Other key assets that are equally important are a passion for customer relations, growth potential, and an enthusiasm for learning on the fly.
Create the Perfect Fit for Your Customers
The bonus of having a diversified team is that there will always be a member who is the right fit for a particular customer. If your customers all fall into a particular demographic, age bracket, or industry, match their account with a CSM who shares a similar background. If a company is heavily focused in engineering, and wants to utilize the more technical aspects of your product, pair them with an account manager who understands these topics and can work with them in depth. Similarly, if the company is very youthful, pair them with a CSM who shares their spirit and can bond with them. Domain expertise is just as important as prior CS dexterity and emotional intelligence. Together, industry knowledge, interpersonal prowess, and work history form the perfect trifecta of skills for a flawless CSM.
Hire From Within
If your product is complex, or requires a technical know-how in order to deploy, it may be useful to look for new members of your budding CS teams from within your organization. These are employees who have already been vetted, used the product extensively, and had their work vouched for. There even may be some overcrowding on these teams, and key people who want to pivot within the organization. Allow these team members the first chance to apply and explain why they’d be a good fit for Customer Success. This will please the higher-ups who will see some of the redundancy removed, and potential costs reduced, as you are repurposing already allocated personnel. Note positive attitudes, and a desire to challenge themselves. That way, they will be more likely to proactively optimize accounts, even when not prompted.
See the Big Picture
Hiring for Customer Success is a complex process simply because there haven’t been too many previous teams from which we could learn. As you create a team from scratch, keep in mind the key elements that will help you in putting together the most well-rounded operation. Focus on gaining members with the right experience, but don’t place more importance on previous endeavors, instead of the right temperament. People adept at interpersonal interactions, as well as those with industry knowledge, and time at your company will also make for excellent additions. If you consider all of the above factors, you are guaranteed to end up with CSMs that will fit into your Customer Success team and find ways to innovate independently.
Which features do you focus on when hiring for Customer Success?