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Article 11 min read

30 customer success interview questions for manager candidates

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

作者: Contributing Writer Molly Murphy

上次更新日期: March 11, 2024

Making a bad hire in any role brings several challenges. Finding a replacement is expensive, and the quick employee turnover often lowers team morale. When hiring a customer success manager (CSM), making a poor choice is especially damaging because this position is critical for maintaining and nurturing customer relationships.

If you choose someone who isn’t the right fit, you’ll likely see lower retention rates and, ultimately, less revenue. Conversely, the right CSM can help you foster strong long-term customer relationships, boost retention, improve customer satisfaction, and drive revenue growth.

To help you hire the right candidate, our guide highlights essential customer success skills candidates should possess, 30 questions you should ask during the job interview process, and examples of what to look for in candidate responses.

More in this guide:

Key customer success skills

Before determining which candidate is best for the job, you’ll need to know the essential skills a CSM should possess. Here are the top five skills to look for, from product and industry knowledge to adaptability.

Product and industry knowledge

The right CSM needs to know your products and services inside and out. While you can teach the product specifics, you should look for a candidate who demonstrates their ability to learn and understand technical products and topics effectively.

Not only that, but you’ll want a CSM who can break down these technical topics and explain them in a way that’s easily understandable to even your least tech-savvy customers. By hiring someone with strong product and industry knowledge, you can rest easy knowing that your customers are in good hands.

Independent problem-solving

In a CSM role, dealing with problems is inevitable. Whether it’s handling a difficult customer or a server outage, a CSM must be able to independently solve problems under pressure and develop creative solutions to complex customer problems. Even better, you’ll want someone who is also self-motivated and isn’t afraid to go above and beyond to help customers or team members.

Customer relationship-building

To be a successful CSM at a customer-driven company, it’s not enough to just leave the customer satisfied. They need to love building customer relationships and exceeding consumer expectations.

Because of this, you’ll want to look for genuinely empathetic individuals who can build rapport with customers. After all, the stronger the relationships are between customers and your business, the more likely you are to improve customer loyalty and retention.

Teamwork

Keeping customers happy is an all-hands-on-deck job. A great CSM must work with other departments—particularly marketing, support, and sales—to find the best customer solutions. You’ll want to choose a CSM with exceptional teamwork and communication skills to ensure all these teams collaborate effectively.

Adaptability

Another important customer service skill is adaptability. An adaptable CSM can adjust and thrive in changing situations and quickly respond to new challenges—whether it’s a complex customer issue or the release of new products. If your CSM can’t adapt on the fly, they might not be able to provide your customers with the customer-oriented support they deserve.

Top customer success interview questions (and answers)

To help you find a strong customer success manager candidate, we’ve picked 30 key interview questions to ask during the hiring process. These 30 questions can help you assess whether or not a candidate is the right fit for the role and test the quality of their essential customer success skills. You’ll also learn what to look for in applicant answers and see examples of responses that miss the mark.

The text “Customer success interview questions: Product and industry knowledge” is accompanied by an illustration of a woman picking an apple from a tree.

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 around its capabilities.

Impressive answer: Your product is a premier budgeting software that enables everyday individuals to easily create a budget and track their spending in real time without needing advanced financial knowledge. You offer multiple plans, including a free option with limited features and a premium option enhanced with AI technology that can help make intelligent budgeting suggestions based on a person’s income, expenses, and savings goals.

Unimpressive answer: Your product is an app that people can use to help save money and learn what budgeting is.

2. Have you tried our product, and do you have any suggestions for improvements?

At the very least, the candidate should have tried your product. More importantly, when suggesting improvements, they should demonstrate critical thinking about your users and their potential stumbling blocks.

Impressive answer: Yes, I have been using your budgeting software for three years, and I love it. Although, I did find it difficult to import financial data from my company’s 401(k) plan. I checked your help center and looked online for instructions, but everything I found was for connecting credit and debit cards. I think it would be a great benefit to your customers to expand your tutorial library and create instructions to help customers import financial data from a wider range of places, including retirement funds.

Unimpressive answer: I haven’t personally, but I see commercials for your product on YouTube all the time. Because your product seems so popular, I don’t have any suggestions for improvements.

3. How can our business 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 customer success aligns with your own.

Impressive answer: Adding a CSM to your team can bridge the gap between sales and customer support. In my experience, it helps provide customers with a faster time to value. When this happens, you are more likely to build customer loyalty and reduce customer churn. As your CSM, my top priority will be to ensure we do everything we can to retain customers and provide a positive customer experience, whether they are engaging with me, the support team, the sales team, or all three.

Unimpressive answer: I think that businesses can benefit from hiring a CSM because it adds another person to their support team. When you have more people, you can get more done, which is good for your business.

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 demonstrates that they proactively build their knowledge—a quality that’s especially important in constantly changing industries like tech or SaaS (software as a service).

Impressive answer: As someone interested in personal finance and fintech, I make a point to stay informed through blogs and podcasts centered around the fintech industry. I’ve also always been interested in personal finance, so I try to stay up to date with the best finance apps on the market, whether that be investment or budgeting apps.

Unimpressive answer: I follow your company on X, so I am always seeing whenever you release new updates or offer promotional deals on your website. I also know that fintech is rapidly changing, so it’s hard to keep up with the trends at any given moment.

5. What did the last investment in your professional development look like?

When hiring a customer success manager, 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 has put some thought into how they want to grow.

Impressive answer: My most recent professional development investment was enrolling in an online customer success certification program focusing specifically on fintech industry CSM roles. This comprehensive program equipped me with the latest customer engagement, retention, and satisfaction strategies in fintech.

Unimpressive answer: My most recent professional development investment was a standing desk for my home office. When using my standing desk, I am much more alert throughout the day. This helps me be better at my job.

6. What skills do you hope to gain in this position?

If you can’t 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.

Impressive answer: I aspire to enhance my communication and relationship-building skills in this position to better understand and address customer needs. Additionally, I aim to improve my problem-solving abilities by collaborating with your cross-functional teams to create a seamless customer experience and contribute to the company’s overall success.

Unimpressive answer: In this role, I hope to gain good communication skills. I also hope to learn more about how good customer service can improve a business.

The text “Customer success interview questions: Independent problem-solving skills” is accompanied by an illustration of a man shielding a friend from the rain using an umbrella.

7. How would you adjust your success strategy for a recurring revenue model?

SaaS companies must maintain customer satisfaction over long periods for their business to thrive. Otherwise, clients can quickly churn. Ask this question to gauge if the applicant is fit to build these long-term client relationships.

Impressive answer: My success strategy for a recurring revenue model would prioritize long-term customer value through proactive engagement and continuous support. I would concentrate on building strong relationships, understanding evolving customer needs, and delivering excellent support to ensure customer retention and sustainable growth in recurring revenue.

Unimpressive answer: For a recurring revenue model, my success strategy would be to focus on providing good customer service so we don’t lose any customers over time.

8. Describe a time when you altered your usual 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.

Impressive answer: Once, a customer faced a unique issue and reached out for assistance. After I sent the instructions on how to fix the problem, they said they didn’t understand. I immediately noticed the resolution would be more straightforward to solve over the phone and asked if they’d be up for a call. The customer was very thankful and said they’d prefer a phone call. By actively listening and adapting swiftly, I successfully resolved the issue and strengthened the customer’s relationship with our company.

Unimpressive answer: Once, a customer faced a complex issue and contacted me for help. After telling them how to fix the problem, the customer said it didn’t work. I forwarded them to another CSM because they didn’t understand my initial instructions.

9. How do 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.

Impressive answer: I first prioritize critical deadlines and milestones when managing multiple projects. Then, I prioritize the remaining projects based on urgency, collaboration efforts, and customer impact to deliver high-quality outcomes on all of them.

Unimpressive answer: Whenever I have a lot of projects that need to be completed, I always do my favorite ones first and then save the harder ones for later.

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

A great customer success manager doesn’t shy away from company flaws—they address them head-on to make things right for the customer. Check to see if the candidate is willing to tackle product problems and can think of impactful solutions.

Impressive answer: In my previous position as a CSM at a SaaS company, many customers experienced login issues after a software update. I took a proactive approach by immediately communicating the issues with the affected customers and updating them regularly as our software team investigated and fixed them.

Unimpressive answer: At my last job, many customers had trouble accessing our online store. I noticed this issue was coming up frequently, so I told them that it was a common issue and that our team would probably fix it in a few days.

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 customer complaints and other negative customer interactions. See whether the problem energized the candidate and motivated them to find a solution or left them discouraged and passive.

Impressive answer: Recently, I encountered a tough customer experience in which the customer wasn’t satisfied with the performance of our product. I resolved the issue by actively listening, empathizing with the customer’s problems, and collaboratively finding a solution that solved their problem and exceeded their expectations.

Unimpressive answer: Once, I was meeting with a customer, and they were very unhappy with our product. I felt their complaints were unreasonable, so I told them they should have done more research before purchasing our product.

12. Our budget for customer success initiatives is relatively limited. What are a few cost-effective customer success strategies you might use as a workaround in this role?

If your allocated spend for customer success initiatives is not as high as you’d like, this question is for you. Look for responses that show a desire to save the company money and exhibit resourcefulness.

Impressive answer: With a limited budget, I would leverage customer service and success solutions that enable your business to help more customers without hiring additional agents. For example, implementing a chatbot and self-service resources like a knowledge base or FAQ page can help customers find the information they need while a CSM handles more pressing issues.

Unimpressive answer: With a limited budget, I would feel as if I don’t have the resources I need to do my job. Because of this, I’d try to ask for more money and let the company know that without a higher budget, they can expect dissatisfied customers.

The text “Customer success interview questions: Customer relationship-building skills” is accompanied by an illustration of a woman giving a friend a flower.

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. Examine candidate answers to see if they can find growth opportunities while still maintaining client relationships.

Impressive answer: I approach upsells and cross-sells in customer success by first deeply understanding the customer’s needs and then proactively suggesting relevant upsell opportunities that align with their goals. In my experience, this creates upsell opportunities and helps build a strong relationship while increasing customer satisfaction.

Unimpressive answer: In my previous role, I received a commission every time a customer upgraded their account. Because of this, I tried to push every client to upgrade their account no matter what we were talking about. I figured the worst they could say is “No.”

14. What 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 applicants who use long-term tactics—like regularly checking in—to build customer familiarity and trust over time.

Impressive answer: I believe the key to developing long-term relationships is fostering trust and consistently providing a positive customer experience. To achieve this, I regularly check in with customers so they are familiar with me and know they can come to me with whatever they need help with.

Unimpressive answer: I think the key to building long-term relationships is to always answer customers when they reach out for help. If you don’t respond, they might go somewhere else.

15. How often do you think you should visit and check in on your customers?

Even in today’s remote world, face-to-face time with your customers still helps. And while there isn’t a “right” number, you likely expect customer check-ins to happen within a specific time frame. Use this question to find out if candidates would contact customers frequently enough in the role.

Impressive answer: The frequency of customer check-ins can vary depending on the customer’s lifecycle, preference, and unique needs. Initially, more frequent communication is needed to establish a strong customer relationship. It’s important to meet a strategic balance as the relationship develops, using timely check-ins to address evolving needs and increase long-term satisfaction. Of course, check-in schedules should also consider your customer’s preference and availability.

Unimpressive answer: In my experience, checking in on a monthly basis is usually the easiest for CSMs and customers.

Download 150 customer success interview questions

Download our ultimate interview question list to access 150 questions to ask in future interviews—plus bonus interview tips.

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 can turn around negative experiences.

Impressive answer: Once, I inherited a very angry customer due to a misunderstanding in product expectations. To help turn things around, I acknowledged their concerns, provided immediate solutions, and scheduled consistent follow-ups. After a few weeks, customer satisfaction levels improved, and a strong long-term relationship developed.

Unimpressive answer: I inherited an unhappy customer last year after my coworker left for another job. It was a struggle, but I knew that dealing with them was something I had to do. I tried to be as nice as possible to save the relationship, but it was clear it wasn’t working. I looped in my manager to solve the problem and they moved the customer to another CSM.

17. What are the top three ways a customer success rep can minimize churn?

Look for applicants who offer specific, innovative solutions that can help boost customer retention at your company.

Impressive answer: The top three ways a customer success rep can help minimize customer churn are to adopt a customer-first mindset, quickly identify at-risk customers, and provide excellent support wherever possible.

Unimpressive answer: The top three ways a customer success professional can help minimize churn are to answer emails on time, be friendly to customers, and check in now and then.

18. What do you think makes your relationship skills better than other customer service reps’?

This question is a bit uncomfortable because candidates want to seem humble in interviews. 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.

Impressive answer: My relationship skills stand out because I am an excellent listener, empathetic, and deeply committed to understanding each customer’s unique needs. Poor listening skills are often a common issue and can lead to misalignment between customers and reps, resulting in high churn.

Unimpressive answer: I think my relationship skills are better than other customer service reps’ because I like talking to people. Because of this, it’s easy for me to build relationships.

The text “Customer success interview questions: Teamwork skills” is accompanied by an illustration of two women climbing a ledge.

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.

Impressive answer: Yes, I consider myself a people person, which is part of why I am pursuing a customer success role. I’ve always loved helping others and meeting new people—both on the job and in my free time. I regularly spend my weekends volunteering at my local recreation center because I love coaching youth sports.

Unimpressive answer: I’ve always thought of myself as a people person because I have a lot of friends. I feel like people who don’t have people skills are usually more closed off, and I’m really outgoing.

20. Describe a difficult relationship you’ve had with a coworker and how you handled it.

Every employee has to deal with challenging, rude coworkers. But for customer success managers, navigating tricky relationships is especially important because these same skills can also translate to dealing with difficult customers. Use this question to gauge candidates’ conflict-resolution skills and whether they meet your company’s standards.

Impressive answer: Once, I faced an issue with a coworker due to differing opinions. To overcome this, I initiated an open and honest conversation, understanding their concerns and collaborating on a compromise. Once the conversation was over, we both walked away with a stronger, healthier relationship.

Unimpressive answer: At my old job, I had to sit next to a coworker I didn’t get along with. Over time, this became frustrating and impacted the quality of my work. To solve the issue, I asked my manager if I could move to a different desk.

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 must also proactively solve problems with coworkers. Look for responses that reflect leadership and a positive attitude.

Impressive answer: In my positive team experience, I led a team that communicated openly and effectively with one another. This collaborative team experience allowed us to achieve our goals and hit new milestones. Positive attitudes, effective communication, and selfless leadership can make all the difference when trying to accomplish a team goal. Alternatively, while I was a member of a less collaborative team, we consistently struggled with communication and missed critical deadlines.

Unimpressive answer: Once, I was on a team with some of my favorite coworkers. It was a positive experience, and we all got along. And I was once on a team with some coworkers that I didn’t like. I found it hard to focus on our goals because we disagreed on so many things.

22. Describe a challenging 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.

Impressive answer: In a previous leadership role, I led a team through a challenging project. I emphasized clear communication and delegated tasks to team members based on their unique skills to achieve our goals. One key lesson I learned was the importance of adapting leadership styles to individual team members to maximize productivity and efficiency.

Unimpressive answer: At a past job, I once led a team through a tough project. During the experience, I learned that some team members were much more challenging to keep on task than others. Luckily, a few of my team members were really good at their jobs and picked up the slack.

23. What are three of the most important characteristics you want 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.

Impressive answer: In teammates, I look for excellent communication skills, adaptability, and a solid commitment to individual and team goals. In my experience, teams with these shared characteristics are motivated to achieve their goals and deliver a positive CX.

Unimpressive answer: When looking for good teammates, I ask myself: Do I like communicating with this person? If I do, they would likely be a good teammate. If I don’t, they might not be the right fit.

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 multidisciplinary teams.

Impressive answer: In previous roles, I’ve collaborated with multiple departments, including our marketing, sales, and support teams, to streamline processes and work toward a shared goal of improving the customer experience. It was a positive experience as collaboration between teams allowed for unique perspectives that empowered our team to holistically improve our approach to customer success.

Unimpressive answer: The more teams involved in a project, the harder it is to get things done. Because of this, I avoid getting too many teams involved and work with my core team members whenever possible.

The text “Customer success interview questions: Adaptability skills” is accompanied by an illustration of a man walking with a flashlight.

25. If a server outage 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 them any less stressful when they happen. Look for responses that show an ability to solve problems under pressure while juggling customer expectations and frustrations.

Impressive answer: If a server outage impacted multiple customers, I would immediately collaborate with our communications team to release a statement acknowledging the issue. Then, I’d work with our support team to provide transparent updates on the outage and the steps our team is taking to resolve it. Simultaneously, I’d work closely with our technical team to help expedite the resolution process and ensure a quick response to minimize customer impact and maintain strong customer relationships.

Unimpressive answer: If a server went down, I’d ensure the support team knew as soon as I found out. I’d also tell them to ensure that all customers know that we are aware of the issue and will fix it as fast as they can.

26. You’re working with a client and realize a teammate gave them incorrect information. How would 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 privately. With this approach, they can stay honest with the customer while protecting their coworker’s feelings.

Impressive answer: If a teammate gave a client incorrect information, I’d quickly address the issue with the customer and acknowledge the mistake. From there, I’d provide the client with the correct information and then discuss the situation privately with the teammate, creating a plan to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

Unimpressive answer: If one of my coworkers made a mistake and gave a client incorrect information, I’d tell the client that it wasn’t my fault and that I would make sure the coworker knew they messed up. I would then ask the coworker who made the mistake to stop interacting with that client.

27. 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 coworkers to get the answer they’re looking for.

Impressive answer: If a customer asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to, I’d answer the customer honestly. I’d let them know that I don’t have the information at the moment but will work promptly to find it and follow up with a timely response to ensure they feel satisfied.

Unimpressive answer: If I didn’t know the answer to a customer question, I’d tell them that I don’t know how to help and that they should contact my manager or our support team instead.

28. How would you respond if a customer demands a solution you can’t offer (like a refund)?

You can’t always give your customers exactly what they ask for. It’s not a comfortable situation, but your customer success manager must be able to handle the dilemma. Seek out candidates who remain coolheaded in these situations and offer the customer alternative solutions.

Impressive answer: If a customer asked for a solution beyond our policy, I’d empathetically acknowledge their concerns and express why we can’t meet their demands. Then, I’d actively seek other ways to address their needs and work with the customer to reach an alternative solution. Throughout this process, I’d maintain clear, honest communication to foster trust and emphasize our commitment to customer satisfaction.

Unimpressive answer: If a customer asks for something we can’t provide, I’d tell them that we are very sorry that we can’t help them and that they should take their business elsewhere.

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 energized by quotas and eager to collaborate with your company’s sales teams.

Impressive answer: As a CSM, I’d contribute to hitting our sales goals by collaborating with our sales team and identifying upsell opportunities within the existing customer base. By understanding our customers’ unique needs, providing value-driven solutions, and fostering strong relationships, I aim to drive customer success, contribute to revenue growth, and exceed sales quotas.

Unimpressive answer: As a CSM, I’d push our sales team to make as many sales as possible to hit our goals. I’d also encourage everyone to try getting their clients to upgrade their accounts, no matter their current plan.

30. How would you explain TikTok (or Facebook or another social app) to people who aren’t technically savvy?

Check to see if your applicant can succinctly and clearly explain a complex concept to the average user. This quality is crucial 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.

Impressive answer: TikTok is a social media platform where users can easily create, share, and discover short-form video content. TikTok also fosters a sense of community amongst users through viral trends, challenges, dances, and more.

Unimpressive answer: I would describe TikTok as a social media app that is kind of like YouTube but with shorter videos.

Ask these customer success interview questions to find your ideal hire

Use the above questions to help guide your company’s interviews—but don’t stop there. Download our list of customer success interview questions to go one step further. With 150 questions, our list breaks down the best questions to ask so you can identify the best hire for your customer success, support, or service team.

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