Key traits of a CSM

6 Key Traits of a CSM

Now that you have understood why SaaS companies need a customer success manager, it’s important that the customer success manager (CSM) you hire is a rockstar.

The growth of your company also depends on how effective and efficient your CSM is. Most rockstar CSMs have a few common traits that help them to be successful, which eventually helps in the growth of the company.

But how will you find a rockstar CSM for your company?

Well, start by asking the right questions during the interview.

So, we have come up with 6 key traits of a CSM, along with related interview questions, that you should look for while hiring that champion who will lead your customers and you to success.

6 key traits of a CSM in SaaS

1. Domain Knowledge

First, the potential CSM should thoroughly understand what customer success is and its importance. S/he should be able to clearly articulate what effect will customer success have on the company.

Also, a CSM is often bombarded with questions regarding product features and issues. In such scenarios, if the CSM is deficient in domain knowledge he might feel bogged down. To avoid such situations a CSM should have the ability to develop a deep understanding of the product’s different use cases and must be knowledgeable about his/her customer base. He/She must understand the internal working of the product and its use from customers’ perspective. This enables the CSM to address customers’ issues proactively.

Related interview questions:

1 ) Say, you could only measure one thing to check if the customer was getting value from using the product. What would that be?

2. Ease with data

This is a basic requirement of a CSM. It is obvious that a CSM will be dealing with a large amount of data. Thus, a CSM must be comfortable with data analysis and interpretation. Being able to find meaning in stacks of data is important for the CSM so that s/he can derive valuable insights which can lead to the growth of the company.

Being at ease with data handling enables the CSM to be proactive and point out the areas of concern. This can allow the team to incorporate new features and improvements which in turn will help the company to get an edge over the competition.

All the traits mentioned won’t be effective if this particular one is missing.

Related interview questions :

1 ) In a portfolio of hundreds of accounts, how will you know which customer is about to churn? And which customers are going to upgrade?

3. Strategic and problem-solving mindset

A strategic mindset will allow the CSM to derive a solution from a pile of complex and disconnected data. This will help to form a strategy backed by solid data. This also helps the CSM to proactively conduct troubleshoots and construct a roadmap of changes according to customers’ needs.

A well-made strategy is necessary to convince the stakeholders regarding a new concept like using a customer success software to increase retention and reduce churn. A CSM with strategic and knowledgeable mindset can sense the conflicting points and opportunities. This helps him/her to put forward his/her strategy in concrete and compelling manner.

Related interview questions :

1 ) What will be your strategy to manage a mix of accounts varying from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual recurring revenue?

2 ) Competition has just released a new feature which we do not have yet, and customers are asking for it. What do you do?

4. Team player and leader

A CSM is just a guy and he alone cannot handle tons of data that your company generates.  S/he needs a team to work with. This trait is more important than it looks. A CSM who cannot play with a team ends up wasting even a good team. A CSM needs to not only work with his team but also in conjunction with other departments of the company such as support, sales, marketing, etc. A CSM’s communication with all these departments is essential for effective management of a company’s customer success.

It is also a boon for the CSM to have the leadership trait as times may come when he/she might have to lead the team he/she has worked with. The leadership trait plays its part when the team gets in a difficult situation. That is the time when the team requires a leader who can motivate them and guide them to get things done.

Related interview questions

1 ) Give me an example from your experience where you helped out a colleague.

2 ) Explain a time when your team faced a situation which became difficult to overcome. How did you keep them engaged and motivated to overcome the situation and succeed?

5. Time Management

Managing time allows the CSM to work more efficiently. Also, this means that the CSM is effectively utilizing the resources of the company including time. A CSM will be handling a large amount of data as well as have numerous metrics to look into. The CSM needs to derive a conclusion from which he/she can find out what the company is doing wrong or where the improvement is needed. To do all this for every key SaaS metric will require some serious time management, prioritization, and organization from the CSM.

To manage the customer success team and keep the customers satisfied, the CSM must utilize time to its fullest. This can only be achieved by proper time management.

Related interview questions :

1) How will you manage your day, week and month to onboard new customers, retain existing customers, grow the portfolio and drive advocacy?

2 )  You have a day packed with pre-planned onboarding meetings. How will you handle an escalation from your key customer?

6. Empathy

Empathy is a less talked about soft skill which plays quite an important role in the success of a CSM.Empathy is the ability of a person to understand someone’s situation by imagining yourself in that person’s position. One can always refer to the idiom – to step into someone’s shoes.

Empathy is important in finding out where the service falls short or what is the part that messed up and confused the customer. It helps in determining the corrections which need to be made.

Let’s suppose that a customer is unable to utilize a specific feature and files a complaint. If a CSM is able to step into the customer’s shoes and analyze the situation according to that then he/she would be able to relate to the issue and help the customer or direct the necessary changes, whichever is needed. Finding the fault and correcting it becomes easy if the CSM is able to view the problem from a customer’s perspective.

Related interview questions :

1 ) A  customer is about to cancel the contract because she/he is not able to do a task. But it’s actually possible to manage the task via the customer success software. What should we do?

2 ) If a customer is unable to utilize certain features or is having trouble completing a task, then who or what is at fault here? Product, training, support, customer success or the customer?

Do you already have a customer success team in place? Which traits could you relate to while hiring your first CSM? Would you like to add to the list for future hires? Let us know in the comments below.

Arnab is a content marketer at CustomerSuccessBox. In his free time he loves watching videos on YouTube and reading about entrepreneurship and startups.