Congrats! You applied for a Customer Success position and are now preparing for your first interview. Whether this is your first time interviewing for Customer Success, or you're an old pro, there are a few things that you should do to prep yourself for success.
Ultimately, what you are trying to solve for in an interview is whether there is a mutual fit for you and for the company. In order to have the best possible experience, be sure to do your due diligence in advance. There are aspects of the job that you should be assessed during the interview, such as company culture, working relationships with potential co-workers and manager, and overall core values. But this article is going to focus on what you should do before you even walk through the door.
Step 1: Research the Product and the Company
One of the most important steps is researching the product and the company. Technically, you should do some of this before applying for the position and then in greater detail once you make it to the next phase.
Customer Success Managers have many responsibilities and the majority of them are heavily focused on driving adoption of a product. You’ll want to demonstrate your abilities to the hiring manager. Give them a small snapshot into what the customer experience would be like with you at the helm.
A few things to think through are:
Is this product something that you can see yourself supporting, advocating for, and working with on a day to day basis? You should know this before you go in.
Most SaaS tools have a free trial. If you are interviewing for a company that has a free trial but have not used it, it sends a bad message. As a hiring manager, I am always impressed when a candidate comes in and tells me all of the amazing things they were able to do with my product. If a free trial is not available, research as much as you can about the product. Most companies have help centers, demo videos, and marketing collateral floating around on their website. Acquaint yourself with this content.
You will be representing this company, what they stand for, and what value they bring on a daily basis. Do you believe in what they are solving for as an organization? Look at review sites such as Glassdoor and G2Crowd. What are employees and customers saying? This is more telling than taking a guess.
Most companies will ask you “why us”. Do not just give a generic answer. Instead, hone in on the use case that stands out the most to you and get specific. If you are struggling to answer the “why us” in a passionate way, this may not be the right fit for you.
Step 2: Do Research On Who You Are Interviewing With
Do a quick search on everyone that you are interviewing with. Check out LinkedIn, Google and all of the regular spots. Always know who the customer is and during the interview, the individuals you are interviewing with are technically your customers (as you are theirs as well). Doing your due diligence on who they are and what functions they own will help you tailor your questions to be relevant. This is your opportunity to do a thorough assessment of who you will be working with and how you can mutually benefit each other in the organization. Not sure who you are interviewing with? Ask your recruiting contact for a list of individuals and what functions they own.
Step 3: Build Rapport Quickly
One of the more important things in Customer Success is one’s ability to win people over. Build relationships, understand what motivates people, and offer your help accordingly. Don’t be fake by any means, but definitely build rapport quickly. You generally have 30-60 minutes with each person, which is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, so make sure you are focused on the value you both may obtain through this mutual relationship.
Step 4: Customer Success, Customer Support, and Account Management
There is still confusion everywhere on the differences between Customer Support, Customer Success, and Account Management. Understand the industry standard outcomes that each of these roles drive, and how the company that you are interviewing for has aligned them. How the company views these roles will have a direct impact on your day to day responsibilities.
Step 5: Examples of Success
The company is looking for a new member of the Customer Success team. Are you the one? This assessment is made much easier if you bring examples of your success in Customer Success.
A few things that I like to see are:
Proven churn reduction techniques - Did you reduce churn by 5% on your previous portfolio? Great. Show them how.
Process you built to improve onboarding experiences - How have you improved your customer onboarding experience? How did you increase adoption and renewal rates? Come with stories and examples.
Examples of bad fit customers and how those relationships were turned around and/or separated - Yep, it happens to all of us. No matter how hard you try, some customers will never be a good fit. How did you approach that? What did you do with those learnings to help avoid similar situations going forward?
Upsell and renewal strategy - Did you own upsells and/or renewals? What strategy did you incorporate to help usher your customer base across the finish line?
Step 6: Come with Questions
Last, but certainly not least, come with questions. Lots of smart questions. I touched upon this a little bit above, but this is worth reiterating. Tailor your questions to who you are meeting with, asking irrelevant questions is just as bad as asking no questions. Even if you interview with 6 different people, make sure you have at least two questions for each interviewer. It’s okay to repeat questions if you are looking for different perspectives on the same topic.
As always, this is not all encompassing but should give you a great starting point on preparing for your upcoming interview. The key is to do your homework, come as prepared to your interviews as you would for a customer meeting.
About the Author
Maranda Dziekonski is the Vice President over Customer Operations at HelloSign. In her current role at HelloSign, Maranda oversees Customer Success, Support, and API (Engineering) Support. Maranda has almost 20 years experience working in customer facing roles in various industries and also does operations consulting primarily in the start-up world. When not building teams, process, infrastructure, you can find her either with her family or escaping the hustle and bustle hiking in the mountains.Follow on Twitter More Content by Maranda Dziekonski