Do you know what the fastest-growing job is right now?
Every year LinkedIn publishes statistics about the most promising and emerging job trends. According to the reports from 2019 and 2020, customer success manager is one of the hottest positions.
Companies need more customer success managers than scrum masters! But hiring a good one can be a challenge.
We prepared some tough interview questions for a customer success manager to help you choose the best person for the job (or get it if you are a candidate).
In this article:
- Interview questions for regular and managerial customer success positions
- Examples of good answers that can help you land the job
- What skills are the most important for customer success and CSM roles
If you want to learn more about the job position and customer success philosophy, you can visit:
- What Is a Customer Success Manager? [All You Need to Know]
- Customer Success Essentials [Metrics, Stories, & More]
Before we dive in, let’s see what all this “customer success” fuss is about. Does it differ from customer support?
Traditional customer support focuses on solving customers’ problems. It is reactive and usually related to the technical aspects of a product. Customer success specialists and managers, on the other hand, are proactive. They focus on helping customers achieve their business goals.
Customer success experts need to have a deeper understanding of contexts in which clients use a product or service. They don’t want short-term gains. Instead, their role is to look at the big picture and build long-term customer relationships.
Here is a selection of the most important questions that you should ask your customer success manager (CSM) candidates and other customer success professionals.
Customer success interview questions and answers:
- Why are you a good fit for this role?
- Have you ever gone above and beyond for a customer?
- How would you deal with a customer who is wrong and insists on something?
- What does our product do exactly? Have you tried it?
- Is customer success a philosophy or methodology? How would you define it?
- What would you do to increase our customers’ loyalty?
- What is the toughest customer problem you have ever handled?
- What skills do you hope to improve in this role?
- If you had to handle multiple problems at the same time, what would you do?
- What would you do if a customer misused our product to gain profits in an unethical way?
- What is your management style? (For customer success manager positions)
- What would you do if two of your teammates got into a conflict?
- What tools would you use to monitor and improve customer success rates?
Each question has been designed to test a specific skill or knowledge of your candidates.
If you are looking for interview questions for customer success managers that are more general you can also check out: Top 18 Customer Service Interview Questions & Answers
1. Why are you a good fit for this job?
This is a very general question but you should ask it at some point nonetheless. It gives your candidate an opportunity to fill in some core details. Do they have the necessary experience? What personality traits or achievements do they value in themselves?
If they are struggling with presenting their strengths, it may be a problem. A customer success professional must be able to convince customers that your products are the best choice. If they can’t even present and “sell” themselves, it’s not a good sign.
I’ve been working in this sector at a similar job for several years. My role wasn’t managerial but I had an amazing opportunity to work with awesome leaders. I learned many things from them. And it turned out that working with customers is something that I really enjoy. Every case offers a slightly different challenge. And figuring out the best way in which customers can apply our solutions gives me a lot of satisfaction. After I joined the previous team, we managed to increase our NPS from 49 to almost 60.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: Be careful not to brag too much. This may seem exaggerated or dishonest. Focus on your results. But if you want to mention how good you are at something, try to quote a happy customer or a teammate. Otherwise, it may sound like just your opinion about yourself and not a fact.
An extra follow-up question for recruiters: Have you ever received negative feedback about the quality of your work?
2. Have you ever gone above and beyond for a customer?
Skill: Customer focus
If you want to make customers happy, you should always show that you are willing to go the extra mile. Some companies make it an official rule. You can even find it in Disney’s customer service training manual.
If your candidates care about customer satisfaction, they shouldn’t have any problems with describing at least one situation that proves it. You can ask some follow-up questions about the final outcome of their actions too.
Questions of this sort work really well with the STAR methodology:
- Situation (circumstances)
- Task (what had to be done)
- Action (step by step description of the actions taken)
- Result (what was the end result)
(S) One of the customers at my previous job wanted to integrate our app with a third-party solution. At that point, the integration was not possible. (T) But the customer really had to connect the tools. (A) I decided to personally walk the customer through using Zapier. It took some time but we’ve managed to set up an advanced workflow. (R) It worked like a charm. The customer keeps the whole configuration to this day and even bought a higher plan.
What you should pay attention to as candidates: Make sure that the situation you describe is aligned with the company’s values. Being helpful and going the extra mile is usually appreciated. But don’t confuse it with the lack of assertiveness. Be prepared that recruiters may challenge you and ask if it was the right call.
Extra follow-up question: What was the most unpleasant interaction with a customer that you have ever had?
3. How would you deal with a customer who is wrong and insists on something?
Skill: Conflict resolution
Some customers are more difficult to cooperate with than others. Usually, they just want things to work according to their plan. And the fact that their plans are sometimes ludicrous is an entirely different matter.
The way your customer success job candidate answers this question is critical. If they immediately start to argue or try to prove customers wrong, they are likely to make them churn. You can learn more about difficult or angry customers here. A good CSM candidate knows that a frustrated customer is not necessarily a lost customer.
Well, I’ve noticed that there is no point arguing with them. Instead, I try to understand their position and ask additional questions. If I’m challenging their views, I try to soften the blow as much as possible. I’d say something along the lines of “Yes, I understand you. I too find it confusing. This feature is not very intuitive.” It allows the customer to keep their face. Then, I’d try to shift the focus of the conversation towards helping them achieve their initial goal. If they were wrong, let’s start from scratch and find a new solution.
What you should pay attention to as candidates: Recruiters ask about difficult customers to get more insights about your composure. A good candidate for a CSM job will never try to prove that the customer is wrong just for the sake of it. The goal is to make them realize the mistake on their own. It requires patience and tactfulness. Try to convince your recruiter that you understand this role.
Extra follow-up question: Did it ever turn out that the customer was right after all?
4. What does our product do exactly? Have you tried it?
Skill: Technical knowledge
A good customer success manager should be curious enough to try out your products. Or at least have a good understanding of what they do. If they didn’t have the opportunity to use them yet, the way they justify it will also give you some insights.
If you want to test their ability to summarize and explain complicated problems, you can also phrase this question differently. For example, you can try something like: My grandma is not good with computers—how would you explain our product to her?
Tidio is a customer service tool that allows you to add a live chat widget to your website. It gives you the possibility to chat with visitors and customers in real-time. It is much more convenient than writing emails—both for customers and support teams. I’m not a very technical person, but I managed to set it up without any problem in minutes. I see a lot of potential in this software.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: You are not applying for a product manager position but having a general idea shows that you did your homework. Recruiters may also want to check if you can explain complex matters in simple words. Your role is to communicate it in an illustrative way. Use analogies and comparisons to other products if you can.
Extra follow-up question: Do you have any suggestions on how we could improve it?
5. Is customer success a philosophy or methodology? How would you define it?
Skill: Persuasive speaking
This question may seem slightly academic and pretentious. But a customer success specialist should be able to adapt to a variety of situations. If someone invites them to give a lecture on customer success at a reputable university, they should be able to handle it.
By asking this theoretical question, you’ll learn a lot about their communication skills. Being down-to-earth and pragmatic is much more useful on the customer service frontline. But a true professional should also know how to project authority. If it means using fancy words, so be it.
I’d lean towards philosophy. It’s not just about the things you do. It’s more about the way your whole company thinks about customers and their obligations to them. Obviously, these shape the attitudes of employees and approaches to the customer. In turn, it affects good practices and specific processes and procedures. But at the highest level, customer success is a state of mind.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: Don’t try to memorize complex definitions. Nobody will expect you to recite them. And it’s way too easy to get stuck if you forget specific wording. You’ll get a better grasp of the terminology by reading articles about good customer service.
Extra follow-up question: What is the difference between customer success and customer service?
6. What would you do to increase our customers’ loyalty?
The role of a CSM requires creativity and logical reasoning. Working with customers is not a type of job that’s based on following commands and not showing any initiative. Customer success experts must be resourceful and full of ideas. And customer churn is something that should always be at the back of their minds.
They need to improvise and solve difficult problems that require creative thinking. That’s why they should be able to convince you that they know what they are doing and it makes sense.
I don’t know your exact metrics but I’d try to identify the key moments when we are losing users. Do they abandon shopping carts? Cancel their orders or subscriptions? Leave because they don’t know how to use the tool? The simplest way to find out would be to add a very short pop-up or chatbot survey to collect feedback and ask them for the reasons. Then we can address specific pain points one at a time and see if there is any improvement.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: Your familiarity with techniques for building customer loyalty reveals very much about you. Convince them that you know what you are talking about and that you understand how specific strategies work. Learn more about their advantages, disadvantages, and different ways of building customer relationships.
Extra follow-up question: How would you measure the effectiveness of your work?
7. What is the toughest customer problem you have ever handled?
Skill: Customer relationship management
The answer to this question will show how your candidate handles difficult situations. Apart from understanding the needs of customers, customer success professionals must be problem-solvers.
Do they approach challenges heads on? Or do they seek help from others? How do they cope with stress? Are they able to remain calm in every situation? This question is a great opportunity to discover some insightful tidbits about them.
One of our customers had very limited technical knowledge. She drew a very complex workflow and described the whole process in detail. But she had problems with configuring everything on her own. At some point, I took over and set up the whole thing but she kept asking for additional things and updates over the following weeks. That’s when I realized that it’s not worth the effort and I had to give up. It was a tough choice. But I was forced to handle the problem by not handling it anymore. I knew I shouldn’t get involved in anything like that ever again. Instead, we prepared a selection of knowledge base materials and redesigned our support policy. We decided to encourage customers to do things on their own and instruct them. But never set up anything complex for them. They will never become fully activated if they don’t use the tool on their own.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: Customer happiness writes white. But “bad” experiences give you an opportunity to finally say something really exciting. Try to recall several tough situations with some juicy details before your interview. But also remember that the story should demonstrate you can make good choices while working under pressure.
Extra follow-up question: Have you ever acted out of character to satisfy a customer? What were the results?
8. What skills do you hope to improve in this role?
Skill: Personal and professional development
Asking this question will help you learn about their aspiration and self-consciousness. In today’s workplaces, continuous development is essential. Improving skills and learning new things is a constant part of the job.
A good customer success specialist or manager should be aware of areas they need to work on. Are they good active listeners? Do they want to practice their communication skills? Maybe they want to learn some hard skills to get a better understanding of the product?
Since much of the interaction with customers happens in a written form, I’m trying to perfect my writing skills. I’m currently reading a book about technical copywriting. Explaining how a piece of software works via email or live chat can be difficult. But I believe I’m getting better at it. I was also hoping to discover how process management works in your company.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: You can try to mention some of the brands, tools, methodologies, or institutions that your recruiters could recognize. For example, if you are hoping to learn more about Scrum, don’t hesitate to mention it. Just don’t overdo it with the name-dropping.
Extra follow-up question: Have you ever invested time, effort, or your own money into learning something completely new?
9. If you had to handle multiple problems at the same time, what would you do?
Skill: Task prioritization and time management
Customer success jobs require good work organization and flexibility. Usually, teams are understaffed and this means that they need to juggle between many cases each day. Choosing which ones require their attention at any given time is a skill. And an important one too.
A good candidate should prove that they know how to prioritize tasks and align them with the business goals of your company.
I would go through them one by one and not try to do everything at once. The most natural thing to do would be to prioritize tasks by the amount of time they require, their urgency, and overall importance. However, evaluating them can also be time-consuming and ineffective. That’s why it is better to do it in real-time. In my previous job, we designed a system of tags and labels. It used to automatically organize task priority in our customer database software. And if someone was busy they could assign it to a different agent with one click.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: Many employees take on too many tasks. Therefore, the ability to delegate tasks or schedule them over time is critical. Especially for managerial positions. You’ll be better off if you admit that sometimes it is impossible to handle everything all at once.
Extra follow-up question: Do you know or use any good time-management techniques?
10. What would you do if a customer misused our product to gain profits in an unethical way?
Skill: Emotional intelligence
This question is tricky and there is no right or wrong answer. But probably your candidates are not expecting it. Ask it to see what values they put first.
Working with customers involves helping them with things you don’t approve of personally. A real professional should be able to know when to hold their judgment and when to intervene and in what way.
Do you mean like an online casino? It depends. If something was illegal, I’d definitely inform the customer or consult our legal team. But as long as they are our customers and want to use our tool, I wouldn’t try to moralize. I’m there to serve our clients and help them achieve their goals. If they meet our terms and conditions, who am I to judge? On the other hand, it may also mean that maybe we should specify in what circumstances our products can be used or not. In some cases, it may harm our reputation and, in the long run, we should ban them from using our software.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: A professional employee of a customer success team knows that they should keep their personal opinions to themselves. Recruiters may be examining if you can take an adequate distance. Or intervene if the situation at hand calls for it.
Extra follow-up question: Have you ever had a customer try to trick you into giving them a discount?
11. What is your management style? (For customer success management roles)
Skill: Team management
There are many approaches to management and different companies need different leaders. However, there are still some types of management that could be considered good or bad.
A good manager should be able to organize, inspire, consult, and communicate. Clear vision and hands-on approach help. Conversely, bad managers don’t know their goals, can’t share their ideas with the team, and want too much control over their subordinates.
I think my approach to leadership evolved over time. Initially, I wanted to micromanage everything and sometimes I wanted to have too much authority. It doesn’t work in the long run. I’ve learned to trust my team and focus on the outcomes. Many times, it turned out that other members of my team are doing great without my input. Instead of hijacking every meeting, it is better to observe, suggest, and experiment. I don’t believe in bossing people around. It is better to become their partner and help them develop their natural skills.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: Goal-driven managers who trust their team are better leaders than control freaks. However, you should also inform your recruiters that you know where to draw the line. Managers who expect great business results only because they keep their team happy usually end up disappointed.
Extra follow-up question: What would you do to keep your team’s morale high and motivate them to work?
12. What would you do if two of your teammates got into a conflict?
Skill: Team player
People are only people. Sometimes they get on each other’s nerves or try to assert their position too much. In the end, everyone wants to work in a friendly and peaceful environment.
Conflict management is a skill that is helpful both in dealing with customers and your coworkers. An answer describing a real situation would be great. But if your customer success candidate can’t think of a real-life incident, it doesn’t need to be a bad sign.
This is something that actually happened. Two of my teammates got into a fight over a neglected customer case which backfired. They tried to put blame on each other and it escalated. The only way was to intervene and I happened to be an accidental mediator. We had a meeting and talked the matter through. I listened to their positions and tried to focus on investigating what went wrong communication-wise. I tried to justify what happened and ultimately we decided to blame the tools that we use. We focused on improving the process and now we joke about the incident.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: Don’t make your ex-coworkers look bad. Describe the situation in a way that shows that you understand their motivation or feelings.
Extra follow-up question: Describe a good experience you had while working as a member of your team.
13. What tools would you use to monitor and improve customer success rates?
Skills: Technical know-how
This question will tell you a lot about the candidate’s hands-on experience. If you know the same tools and platforms, it will give you an instant common ground. You can discuss different features, compare their usefulness, talk about pros and cons.
If their answers make sense it is a quick test to check if they know their line of work. It is hard to make this sort of stuff up, so you will know that the candidate worked with the tools or not.
Sometimes developers invent different names of programming languages and ask if someone has used them. It is an instant lie detector. You can try something similar. Just invent a name of fictional CRM software or a customer success metric. But double-check if it really doesn’t exist!
In my previous company, we used HubSpot as our CRM and handled most of our customer interactions there. However, I think we should create a custom dashboard in Airtable. It gives more flexibility and is more appropriate for our volume of customers. And I would also use Tidio for automated FAQ, customer feedback, and live chat. We can integrate it with Airtable and sync our data across all teams. For example, a customer request can be instantly sent to Airtable.
What you should pay attention to as a candidate: It is OK to use different tools or not recognize some of them. You can try to turn this into a conversation and ask about solutions currently used by your interviewers. Show that you understand that each company develops its own workflow and you are not intimidated by learning how to use new software.
Extra follow-up question: If the company were on a tight budget, how would you reduce the costs while keeping the same quality of customer experience?
CSM interview questions: key takeaway
Customer success roles are booming right now. There has been a 34% annual growth in job openings, according to LinkedIn. As SaaS companies put more and more focus on customer retention, customer success teams are becoming extremely important.
But a great customer success manager is a difficult catch. A thorough CSM interview process is critical. And the right questions will help you screen out those who aren’t cut out for the customer success manager’s job.
At the end of the day, you are looking for specific customer success skills.
You should come up with customer success manager interview questions that examine:
- Emotional intelligence and empathy
- Problem-solving skills and resourcefulness
- Familiarity with the SaaS industry work culture
- Expectation and relationship management
- Communication and persuasiveness
- Knowledge of upsell techniques
- Ability to cooperate with other team members
Similarly, if you are applying for a customer success job you must be prepared for an interview that tests these very qualities.
If you want to test some of those skills during the practical part of your interview, we recommend role-playing activities. You can use our free live chat tool to arrange a mock conversation and analyze conversation transcripts afterward.