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30 customer success interview questions you should ask every candidate

Want to build the team of your dreams? Here are the customer success interview questions you've got to ask.

By Molly Murphy

Published August 24, 2020
Last updated August 24, 2020

Making a bad hire in any role brings a number of issues. Finding a replacement is expensive, and the quick turnover often lowers team morale.

When hiring 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, that means less revenue.

The customer success manager role sounds similar to a customer service manager, but the positions are distinct.

  • Customer service managers are reactive. They fix problems after they happen 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 the customer may face and take steps to prevent them.

To help you find a strong customer success manager candidate, we've picked out 30 key interview questions to ask during the hiring 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 your organization.

Product knowledge

Product and industry knowledge

Make sure your applicant has done their homework on your company with these questions.

Candidates' answers will also help you gauge whether they could succinctly and clearly explain your product to your customers.

1. Give me a ONE-minute elevator speech about what our product does.

Look for answers that show a solid understanding of your product and excitement around 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 their potential stumbling blocks when suggesting improvements.

3. How do you think our business could benefit from hiring a customer success manager?

The level of detail candidates provide 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 proactively build their knowledge—a quality that's especially important in constantly changing industries like 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 in 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 organization's vision for the role.

Problem solving

Problem-solving

Ask these questions to see if candidates are energized by issues. You're looking for someone who:

  • Knows how to work under pressure
  • Loves coming up with creative solutions to customer 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 fix an issue.

There isn't a one-size-fits-all method for handling customers. Look for applicants who are comfortable adapting based on changing client needs.

9. Explain how you prioritize tasks when you have multiple customer projects to complete.

Listen for responses that show the candidate has a system for multitasking. Bonus points if they describe strategies for prioritizing and delegating tasks.

10. Describe a past product issue and how you addressed the problem with customers.

A great 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 impactful 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 reflecting on negative customer interactions.

See whether the problem energized 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.

Relationship building

Customer relationship building

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 candidates are ready to go above and beyond with these questions.

13. How do you incorporate upsells into your customer success work?

Customer success managers aren't sales reps, but they should be on the lookout for account upgrade opportunities.

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—like 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 likely expect customer check-ins to happen within a certain time range. 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 candidates are able to turn around negative experiences with this question.

17. What are the top three ways a customer success rep can minimize 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 since candidates want to seem humble in interviews.

With that said, it's important to gauge their critical thinking about the job. If they aren't noticing common issues, there's a good chance they may make these mistakes themselves.

Teamwork

Teamwork

Keeping customers happy is an all-hands-on-deck job. A great success manager has to work with other departments—particularly 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, like solving a client's issue. 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 co-worker in the past and how you handled it.

Every employee has to deal with challenging, rude co-workers. 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 really bad experience you've had working as part of a team.

A great customer success manager doesn't just minimize customer issues. Because they work with so many departments, these managers also need to proactively solve problems with co-workers.

Look for responses that reflect leadership and a positive attitude to check whether they're able to work in teams.

22. Describe an experience you had 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 they can improve.

23. What are three of the most important characteristics to you in teammates?

There's no right answer to this question—it all depends on your unique company culture.

Look for responses that align with your organization's values to find a candidate who will be a good fit. With that said, develop broad criteria to keep your hiring inclusive.

24. Describe your experience in past jobs working with multiple departments. Was it a positive or negative experience, and why?

Success managers must easily flow between marketing, sales, and support teams and work well with all three.

Use this question to gauge whether candidates are energized or frustrated when working on multi-disciplinary teams.

Situational

Situational

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 there were a server outage that affected multiple customers, what steps would you take to manage the problem?

In the SaaS industry, software or power glitches are pretty normal—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 customer frustrations.

26. You're working with a client and realize one of your teammates gave them incorrect information. How do you handle the situation with the customer and your teammate?

The applicant should take responsibility for the mistake in front of the customer and approach their teammate about the issue in private. With this approach, they're able to stay honest with the customer while protecting their co-worker's feelings.

27. Say 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 co-workers to get the answer they're looking for.

For example, their response to the customer might be, "That's a great question, and I want to make sure I get you the right answer. Can you give me just a minute to consult with my team?"

28. If a customer is demanding a solution you can't offer (like 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 that your customer success manager can handle the dilemma.

Seek out candidates who remain cool-headed in these situations and 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 upsells. Look for candidates who are energized 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 succinctly and clearly explain a complex concept to the average user? This quality is especially important for SaaS customer success managers since 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 hire

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 your customer success manager role. Make sure you have a question for every qualification that you want to evaluate.

The process takes a bit of time, but that initial investment will pay off. With your curated set of questions, you'll be set to hire a customer success manager who is a strong fit for your company—not just any organization.