Customer success interview questions: 30 Examples you should ask every candidate
Want to build the team of your dreams? Here are the customer success interview questions you have to ask.
Last updated May 16, 2021
Employing the wrong person for any role brings a number of issues. Finding a replacement is expensive and the quick turnover often lowers team morale.
When employing a customer success manager, making a poor choice is especially damaging. This position is critical for maintaining and nurturing long-term customer relationships. If you choose someone who is a poor fit, you’re likely to see lower retention rates. In the long run, this means less revenue.
The role of the customer success manager sounds similar to that of a customer service manager, but the positions are distinct.
- Customer service managers are reactive. They resolve problems after they’ve happened as quickly as possible. They tend to have short-term relationships with customers.
- Customer success managers are proactive. They build long-term relationships with clients. They seek to understand their goals and potential pain points. With that knowledge, they can predict potential issues that the customer may face and take steps to prevent them.
To help you find a strong candidate for the position of customer success manager, we’ve picked out 30 key interview questions to ask during the interview process.
You’ll also learn what to look for in applicants’ answers. That way, you can evaluate whether they’re a good fit for the position and for your organisation.
Product and industry knowledge
Make sure that your applicant has done their homework on your company with these questions.
Candidates’ answers will also help you gauge whether they’ll be able to explain your product to your customers succinctly and clearly.
1. Give me a ONE-minute elevator pitch about what our product does.
Look for answers that show a solid understanding of your product and excitement about its capabilities.
2. Have you tried our product? Do you have any suggestions for improvements?
At the very least, the candidate should have tried your product. More importantly, they should demonstrate critical thinking about your users and the potential stumbling blocks when suggesting improvements.
3. How do you think our business could benefit from employing a customer success manager?
The level of detail provided by candidates will help you gauge how well they’ve researched your company. Also, consider whether their vision for a customer success manager aligns with your own.
4. How do you stay in the loop with the changes and new trends in our industry?
Look for candidates who share not just one but multiple learning tactics. This shows that they build their knowledge proactively – a quality that’s especially important in constantly changing industries such as SaaS.
5. What was your last professional development investment?
The customer success manager role is relatively new, so you want a candidate who is eager to test boundaries and set a high standard for the position.
An above-and-beyond response will show that the applicant is thoughtful about choosing how they want to grow.
6. What skills do you hope to gain in this position?
If you aren’t able to deliver on the candidate’s job expectations, neither of you will be happy. Look for answers that align with your organisation’s vision for the role.
Ask these questions to see if candidates are energised by issues. You’re looking for someone who:
- Knows how to work under pressure
- Loves coming up with creative solutions to customers’ problems
7. How would you adjust your success strategy for a recurring revenue model?
SaaS companies must maintain customer satisfaction over long periods of time for their business to thrive. Otherwise, clients will quickly churn. Ask this question to gauge if the applicant is fit to build these long-term client relationships.
8. Describe a time when you had to alter your normal approach with a customer to resolve a problem.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for handling customers. Look for applicants who are comfortable with adapting based on changing client requirements.
9. Explain how you prioritise tasks when you have several different customer projects to complete.
Listen for responses that show the candidate has a system for multitasking. Bonus points if they describe strategies for prioritising and delegating tasks.
10. Describe a past product issue and how you addressed the problem with customers.
The best customer success manager doesn’t shy away from the company’s flaws – they address them head on to make things right for the customer.
Check to see if the candidate has a willingness to tackle product problems and is able to think of effective solutions.
11. Describe the most challenging customer experience you’ve ever had and how you resolved it.
Like the last question, this prompt reveals whether applicants are comfortable with reflecting on negative customer interactions.
See whether the problem energised the candidate and motivated them to find a solution – or whether the experience left them discouraged and passive.
12. Our budget for customer-success initiatives is relatively limited. What are a few cost-effective customer-success strategies you might use in this role as a workaround?
If your allocated spend for customer-success initiatives is low, this question is for you. Look for responses that show a desire to save the company money and exhibit resourcefulness.
Building customer relationships
To be a great customer success rep, it’s not enough to leave the customer satisfied. You have to love building relationships with customers and exceeding their expectations. Make sure that candidates are ready to go above and beyond with these questions.
13. How do you incorporate upselling into your customer success work?
Customer success managers aren’t sales reps, but they should be on the lookout for opportunities to upgrade accounts.
Check candidates’ answers to see if they can find growth opportunities, while still maintaining client relationships.
14. What do you think is the key to developing long-term customer relationships?
You’re not looking for a candidate who puts out fires (that’s a service rep). Instead, seek out applicants who use long-term tactics – such as regularly checking in – to build familiarity and trust with customers over time.
15. How often do you think you should be visiting and checking in on your customers?
There isn’t a ‘right’ number, but you would generally expect customer check-ins to happen within a certain period of time. Use this question to find out if candidates would contact customers frequently enough in the role.
16. Describe a time when you inherited an unhappy customer and what steps you took to turn the relationship around.
Dealing with a frustrated customer is challenging, but it’s a part of the customer success manager’s job. Make sure that candidates are able to turn around negative experiences with this question.
17. What are the top three ways in which a customer success rep can minimise churn?
Look for applicants who offer specific, innovative solutions that could help boost retention at your company.
18. What do you think makes your relationship skills better than other customer service reps’?
This question is a bit uncomfortable, as candidates want to appear humble at interviews.
That said, it’s important to gauge their critical thinking about the job. If they aren’t noticing common problems, there’s a good chance that they may make these mistakes themselves.
Keeping customers happy is an all-hands-on-deck job. A great success manager has to work with other departments – especially Support and Sales – to find the best solutions for customers.
Ask these questions to find out if your interviewee has what it takes to be a team player.
19. Do you consider yourself a people person? Can you give an example?
Warning: Nearly everyone will say yes here. The key is listening to the examples.
Be on the lookout for stories that go beyond the table stakes of customer success, such as solving a client’s problem. Anecdotes from their personal life are often the best indicator of whether they genuinely love interacting with others.
20. Describe a difficult relationship you’ve had with a colleague in the past and how you handled it.
Every employee has to deal with challenging, rude colleagues. But for customer success managers, being able to navigate tricky relationships is especially important. Why? Because they’ll be facing difficult customers as well.
Use this question to gauge candidates’ conflict-resolution skills and whether they meet your company’s standards.
21. Describe a really good and a really bad experience that you’ve had working as part of a team.
A good customer success manager doesn’t just minimise customers’ problems. Because they work with so many departments, these managers also need to solve problems proactively with colleagues.
Look for responses that reflect leadership and a positive attitude to check whether they’re able to work in a team.
22. Describe an experience that you had when you were leading a team. What was one thing you learned as a result?
Even great leaders make mistakes. Use this question to find candidates who reflect on their missteps to find ways to improve.
23. What do you think are three of the most important characteristics among team members?
There’s no right answer to this question – it all depends on your unique company culture.
Look for responses that align with your organisation’s values to find a candidate who will be a good fit. That said, develop broad criteria to keep your hiring inclusive.
24. Describe your experience in past jobs when working with different departments. Was it a positive or negative experience, and why?
Success managers must flow easily between marketing, sales and support teams, and work well with all three.
Use this question to gauge whether candidates are energised or frustrated when working on multi-disciplinary teams.
Don’t write a candidate off for not having a background in customer success.
Use these hypothetical questions to gauge how they could apply their past experiences to common customer success situations.
25. If the server was down and this affected multiple customers, what steps would you take to manage the problem?
In the SaaS industry, software or power glitches are pretty common – but that doesn’t make it any less stressful when they happen. Look for responses that show an ability to solve problems under pressure while juggling frustrated customers.
26. You’re working with a client and realise that one of your team members has given them incorrect information. How do you handle the situation with the customer and your team member?
The applicant should take responsibility for the mistake in front of the customer and approach their team member about the issue in private. With this approach, they’re able to be honest with the customer while protecting their colleague’s feelings.
27. Say that a customer asks a question and you don’t know the answer. How do you respond?
Look for a candidate who is transparent about not knowing the answer but makes a genuine effort to find it. They should respond to the customer in a friendly manner and collaborate with colleagues to find the answer they’re looking for.
For example, their response to the customer might be, ‘That’s a good question, and I want to make sure that I can give you the right answer. Could you just give me a moment to ask my team?’
28. If a customer is demanding a solution that you can’t offer (such as a refund), how would you respond?
You can’t always give your customer exactly what they ask for. It’s not a comfortable situation, but it’s important for your customer success manager to handle the dilemma properly.
Seek out candidates who remain cool headed in such situations and can offer the customer alternative solutions.
29. How would you approach meeting sales goals as a customer success manager?
Often, customer success managers are in the best position to promote upselling. Look for candidates who are energised by quotas and eager to collaborate with your company’s sales teams.
30. How would you explain TikTok (or Facebook, or another social app) to people who aren’t technically savvy?
Can your applicant explain a complex concept succinctly and clearly to the average user? This quality is especially important for SaaS customer success managers, as software is often complicated.
Use this question to gauge whether they know how to make a technical product seem approachable and fun.
Ask these customer success interview questions to find your ideal staff member
Use this guide to build a list of questions for your company’s interviews – but don’t stop there. To go one step further, write out the ideal skills for the role of customer success manager. Make sure that you have a question for every qualification you want to evaluate.
The process takes a bit of time, but the initial investment will pay off. With your curated set of questions, you’ll be ready to employ a customer success manager who is a strong fit for your company – not just any organisation.