In The Right Place At The Right Time: Hiring For Customer Success

Recognition of the value of Customer Success is advancing rapidly, and this discipline requires a new breed of professionals. Yet until more candidates see that a career which includes Customer Success can be as fulfilling as one which emphasizes Finance or Marketing, we will see a gap between the number of openings and the number of applicants.

Finding the right people to fill these new roles is a challenge, yet at every stage in the hiring process you have an opportunity to make your company even more resilient and valuable. As we walk through each stage, think of how you can apply these tactics to your own organization.

The Candidate Pool

If you’re a business leader based in San Francisco, Boston, or another tech hub, you might think that having an extensive list of qualified local candidates is a blessing, that you won’t have to spend as much time actively searching: they’ll all just come to you. But this is a double-edged sword. While there are likely more Customer Success professionals in these areas, a title on its own doesn’t mean much. Customer Success is still so new that we’re seeing many individuals switching over from careers in Sales, Marketing, Support, and more. What matters most are the qualities of each of your candidates, since these transcend title and location.

The really passionate ones, the ones who have created detailed plans outlining why they want to work for you and why you need to hire them, will seek you out and do whatever it takes to arrange an interview. Doesn’t that matter more than a happy coincidence of geography or title? This type of candidate realizes they were born to do Customer Success and that your company needs Customer Success to thrive. Will these types of candidates apply? Will they be the ones who make it past the first interview? A new discipline requires a new recruiting strategy, one that’s more appreciative of a candidate’s ability to create synergies among decision-makers. These are the candidates who will help your customers achieve all their business goals.

 

Why are they pursuing a career in Customer Success?

Customer Success is new, it’s hot, it’s trending… and these are the absolute worst reasons to apply for a job in the field. Just like Customer Success is a profit center for your business, it needs to enlighten the lives of your applicants long before they start working with your company. The best applicants for new positions in Customer Success have already been working in the discipline for years, even if they don’t know it:They spend their waking hours thinking about what makes for an ideal customer, not just how to close more deals.

– They spend their waking hours thinking about what makes for an ideal customer, not just how to close more deals.

– They’ve decoupled Customer Success from Customer Happiness, realizing that the former – not the latter – is their ultimate responsibility.

– They are masters at Cross-Functional Communication: they recognize that a company’s solution affects far more than just its end-users, and they’re glad to invest the time and energy to make sure everyone understands its unique value proposition.

 

What are their career goals?

Here’s the catch, and it’s not specific to Customer Success: just doing the same damn thing over and over again for 5 years (yet alone 30) does not make for a thriving career. We’re always learning, and our work needs to keep pace with what we learn or we will burn out, flame out, or worse. Once you invite the finalists in for face-to-face interviews, start thinking of where they might fit in your organization – and your industry – 18 months from now (forget five years, that’s an eternity). Are they on fire for Customer Success? Could you see them advancing from Customer Success Manager to Director of Customer Success to CCO? Or perhaps they’re a bit more technically-minded, and they’re already suggesting ideas for how to improve your product that are light-years beyond what your current team is working on. While they might be perfect for Customer Success, your responsibility as a Leader is not to confine them to that role merely because that’s what you need right now. Business is evolving too rapidly for us to ignore the treasures laid at our feet. As a Leader, you have a responsibility to make sure your customers are successful now and always. I’ve discussed how Leaders have a strategic mindset and a bias towards being proactive in one of my earlier posts, and in no situation is this more important than deciding who you welcome onto your team.

 

The Question of Culture

Customer Success has to be at the heart of your organization’s culture, but do your candidates understand this? Since Customer Success is still maturing, it’s quite likely you’ll interview candidates with a range of experiences. For example, former Account Managers understand that Customer Success is not reactionary, just as former Sales Executives need to realize that Customer Success goes far beyond the upsell. This is true no matter how you plan to structure Customer Success within your organization, whether it’s a part of Sales, Support, or a distinct entity: Customer Success is so much more than a title and a few isolated behaviors. Your candidates’ aptitude for Customer Success (or lack thereof) is part of their character. You can teach them the hard skills: everything they need to know about your product. If they’re sitting across the table from you they’ve already demonstrated they’re smart enough to learn those details quickly. What you can’t teach them is the singular value of Customer Success and what it means to your organization. Adding hard skills is easy… but character and attitude are already there. Don’t beat your head against the wall, if they’re not a good fit on a cultural level they’re not a good fit, period.

Finding the right candidates for any opening is always a challenge, but finding the right people who fit into a new discipline that’s just now gaining widespread prominence? That’s even more difficult, but it’s a journey worth taking. You have a responsibility to your customers and your shareholders, and anyone who works for you is both. Creating the best Customer Success team is an ongoing process, one that will repay you and your organization for years to come.

 

Andrew Rhodes
Andrew Rhodes, Director of Customer Success Education at CSM Practice, brings years of strategic business consulting experience and is extremely passionate about customer success.

In the past decade, Andrew gained deep expertise in sales operations, strategic business consulting and business development. Throughout his career Andrew has made it his mission to guide his clients to success from the very start of their partnership. His rich education in customer success and sales renewals gives Andrew a unique perspective into the challenges facing high-growth companies today.

Once he completed his formal education in Physics and Astronomy, Andrew made it his life’s mission to understand how people achieve their goals at every level of an organization. From serving as a volunteer Park Ranger around active lava flows to training business executives on the benefits of secure Payment Processing technology. When Andrew is not preparing and leading customer success training sessions, he is exploring the Oregon wilderness and mentoring the startup community in Portland.
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