Customer. Success.

Hiring the first CSM - now what?

CC0 Creative Commons  @Tumisu

CC0 Creative Commons @Tumisu

As a founder, you reach that stage when you need a dedicated team to look after your customers. It is imperative in a subscription model to hire someone with a combination of culture fit, expertise in your product and strategic thinking to implement a solid foundation of the Customer Success methodology. 

The good thing is, professionals from different backgrounds can become great CSMs. From Sales to Marketing, Product Management and even Software Developers or Engineers for roles with the need for extended technical knowledge. 

How can you plan it and what skills should you look for?

  1. Define a budget. This is essential to target junior professionals with a focus on competence learning on-the-job or an experienced professional with a hands-on approach and independent to accelerate the setup of the Customer Success strategy.
  2. Focus on industry-expertise. If you have e.g. a software solution targeted to marketing analytics, can you bring someone in with such background? This is valuable to clearly understand the customer needs, challenges when using comparative tools and identify growth opportunities.
  3. Look for proactivity. Not only they should have a natural inclination to take action but also be planning 2 steps ahead. I.e. what possible alternatives should they consider for each initiative they want to drive with the customer?
  4. Search for people with a business mindset. Your CSM team should breathe the customer's business model and deeply understand what are the implications of using your product in their organization. 

When it comes to connecting their skills with your product, there are a few exercises to conduct during the interview process. Make sure enough information is available to be used as a baseline, however, the most important is to understand how they react to the scenarios you present to them.

Customer Journey

After researching your product, your business, and your customer types - are they able to:

  • Identify what are the different stages of the customer lifecycle?
  • Understand what interactions are needed?
  • Pinpoint possible friction points?

The Problem Solver

At the current stage of your company, there's probably more than one challenge you need to address related to customer management. This is the perfect opportunity to hear some of the candidate's ideas and grasp their work style, forward-thinking and flexibility to handle the cross-functional alignment (or lack thereof). 

Executive Review Meeting

On a follow-up meeting, the candidate should present their idea of how a quarterly meeting with the customer should be conducted. 

  • Do they think in terms of the customer goals?
  • Are there any key features the customer should start using or use differently? 
  • How is the relationship maintained and what is the added value the candidate is bringing?
  • When something goes wrong, what should be the process?