13 Customer Success Manager Skills to Look for When Hiring


Hiring team members with the right customer success manager skills is critical for the effectiveness of your CS team and strategy. Here we’ve identified the 13 most essential qualities to consider when hiring a CS manager. We’ll cover these below, along with five best practices to follow when bringing a new customer success manager aboard your team.

What Is a Customer Success Manager (CSM)?

Just what does a customer success manager do? Let’s start by defining what a customer success manager does so we have a clear CSM meaning in mind.

A customer success manager helps customers continually see value in your product by helping them discover new features and teaching them how to use your product to their maximum benefit. CSMs act as the voice of the customer bringing user experience feedback to the product team. Think of your CSM as the first line of defense in retaining customers and turning them into loyal advocates. 

CSM role duties may vary by company. In some companies, customer success managers may play an active role in the sales process, helping sales representatives elicit customer goals and persuade buyers of product benefits. At other companies, CS managers may be assigned to follow up on sales during the customer onboarding phase. Customer success managers are critical at SaaS companies, where they help deliver results that promote subscription renewals and upsells.

What Makes a Good Customer Success Manager?

In light of what the position entails, what qualities should stand out on a customer success manager resume? A good CS manager should be comfortable in a customer-facing role that combines sales and support interactions. They should be comfortable performing sales functions such as encouraging subscription renewals, upselling, and cross-selling. They should be helpful when pulled in to assist in support functions such as listening to customer concerns and offering solutions.

To this end, they should be skilled in managing business relationships, taking customer feedback, reviewing customer data, and problem-solving. They should also be apt to work with customer success automation tools such as email templates.

What Skills Are Required for a Customer Success Manager?

As the above description indicates, the skills for customer success manager effectiveness are primarily soft skills used in sales and support, but also specific hard skills such as the ability to use relevant technology. Below we’ve compiled a list of 13 of the most important customer success skills to look for in a CS manager.

13 Important Customer Success Manager Skills:

Top traits to look for in a customer success manager include:

  1. Empathy
  2. Interpersonal skills
  3. Relationship management
  4. Coaching and training
  5. Persuasion skills
  6. Problem-solving
  7. Critical thinking
  8. Decision-making skills
  9. Initiative
  10. Time management
  11. Teamwork
  12. Management ability
  13. Technical skills

Let’s briefly break down what each of these involves in a CSM context:

1. Empathy

Another essential interpersonal quality CSMs should possess is empathy. When it comes to addressing others’ issues, empathy is key to putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and understanding their point of view and experience. Empathy can be difficult to test for in an interview, but some questions to ask are:

  • How would you go about delivering bad news to a customer?
  • Can you give me an example of a time when you helped a dissatisfied customer?
  • What do you do if a customer is angry?
  • Think of a past conflict you dealt with in a previous work role. How did you resolve it?

2. Interpersonal Skills

Because customer success managers must interact with customers and internal team members, interpersonal skills are paramount. CSMs often serve as the first point of contact between customers and your company and must communicate with other team members. Required interpersonal skills include active listening, communication, and relationship skills.

3. Relationship Management

Relationship building is another crucial interpersonal skill CSMs need to deal effectively with customers and team members. CSMs must communicate clearly, build rapport and trust, and make others feel valued. This skill is critical for sales and support, as well as helpful for internal teamwork. Relationship management also requires solid interpersonal skills to effectively solve problems customers may be experiencing. For example, in a situation where de-escalation is requires, active listening is a critical skill to possess.

4. Coaching and Training

Customer relationship managers may be called upon to train customers and team members. A customer success manager is like a living version of your training manual for your customers. Coaching and training require knowing your product inside and out, a customer-centric focus, teaching skills, and patience.

5. Persuasion Skills

Customer success managers must use persuasion skills when assisting the sales team. CSMs should be conscious of their role in helping your company expand its revenue. They need to be able to identify customer needs, showcase product benefits, prompt customers to renew, and upsell and cross-sell offers.

6. Problem-Solving

Solving customers’ problems is at the core of what a customer success team does. Problem-solving without stress is crucial because problems will inevitably come up. How CSMs deal with them in the workplace determines their problem-solving abilities.

7. Critical Thinking

In order to solve problems effectively, customer service managers need critical thinking skills. They need to be able to consider issues from multiple angles, envision pros and cons, and evaluate options. They should have an objective attitude and be willing to be informed by data instead of guesswork.

8. Decision-making Skills

A good customer success manager must be decisive. On any day, dozens of decisions will need to be made when supporting a customer success team as a CSM. Decision-making is a skill that CSMs can practice by being assigned responsibility and tasked with accountability for results.

9. Initiative

Having initiative goes hand-in-hand with problem-solving and being decisive. A customer success manager often must make take charge of seeking solutions. They also frequently must make decisions in the moment when interacting with customers without having the opportunity to consult with their team or supervisor. They need to be willing to take charge when it’s called for.

10. Time Management

Executing the responsibilities of a customer service manager requires good time management skills. Customer needs are urgent, and a CSM may have multiple customers to manage. They must be able to meet deadlines by prioritizing tasks, budgeting time, and disciplining themselves.

11. Teamwork

In addition to supporting customers, supporting a team is a significant part of a customer success manager’s role. CSMs must create templates for the customer success team and collaborate with team members daily to make the customer experience positive. To assess teamwork skills, ask behavioral team collaboration skill questions such as:

  • How do you handle working with coworkers who approach situations differently than you do?
  • Have you ever worked on a team where a coworker struggled with a task you were good at? What was that like? What did you do?
  • How do you find it most effective to motivate team members?

12. Management Ability

As part of a team, customer success managers may be called upon to exercise management skills. Depending on the needs of your company and the specifics of your role, this may involve managing other CS team members, sales teams, and interactions with customer support.

13. Technical Skills

Customer success managers also need hard skill proficiency with whatever tools your customers and your team use. These hard skills may include knowledge of your customer success platform, CRM tools such as Salesforce or HubSpot, social media, or other apps. A CSM should be familiar with the required tool set or have the aptitude to learn.

Top Five Best Practices for Hiring a Customer Success Manager

You can improve your ability to attract top managers by following best practices for hiring a customer success manager. These include:

  1. Creating a customized job description
  2. Promoting your position in the right places
  3. Developing meaningful interview questions
  4. Conducting meetings with multiple team members
  5. Testing customer success skills

Here are some guidelines for implementing these strategies.

1. Create a Customized Job Description

To recruit the right candidates, you need the right job description. Identify which qualities you seek in a customer success manager and rank them in terms of priority so you can place the right emphasis on your job posting. Consider qualities such as organizational and presentation skills and soft skills needed for interacting with customers, such as communication skills. Research what types of job descriptions competitors are posting to help you refine your job listing.

2. Promote Your Position in the Right Places

Once you’ve crafted a well-designed job description, the next step is to promote it in the right places with an attractive CSM compensation plan. Start within your own company and referral network. You may find that candidates with the right qualifications are already in your organization or touch with colleagues. From here, you can widen the net to include online recruiting platforms, including:

Alternatively, consider posting your job openings on informal job boards like CS groups on social media or CS community channels on Slack. Another frequently used method is hiring a recruiting company that can put you in touch with qualified candidates quickly, shortening your talent search.

3. Develop Meaningful Interview Questions

The interview process forms a crucial step in screening candidates, and the quality of your interview questions helps determine the quality of your hires. Generic questions can only elicit limited information about how well a candidate fits your team’s specific needs. To make your interview questions more meaningful, research current trends in problems your customers are experiencing so that you can better articulate what types of situations you expect successful candidates to be able to manage. In addition, ask candidates to share an example of how they’ve handled a similar situation in the past.

4. Conduct Meetings with Multiple Team Members

While customer success managers lead in delivering customer success, successful outcomes often involve support from other teams or other areas of your company. Some customer success teams may have multiple supervisors. Some customer issues may require assistance from tech support or other areas of your company. If your customer success members frequently interact with other team members or areas of your company, you might consider including multiple meetings or a panel interview in your process.

5. Evaluate Customer Success Skills through Exercises

While interviews can help you assess candidates to an extent, seeing them perform in action gives you a better gauge of their capability. Having candidates perform a trial exercise can provide proof of their skills in a simulated situation. For example, consider asking the candidate to prepare a presentation or conduct a mock quarterly business review to see how the candidate would respond to a customer and coach the client through the review.

Master the CSM Role with the Right Customer Success Tool

Customer success managers are responsible for helping your clients achieve satisfying outcomes that promote subscription renewals and brand ambassadorship. This responsibility makes choosing the right representatives critical for boosting customer retention and minimizing churn. You can improve your hiring procedures by crafting well-designed job descriptions, promoting them efficiently, developing good interview questions, using a multi-member interview process, and testing candidates on customer success skills.

Hiring good customer success managers is only one ingredient in optimized customer success management. Choosing the right customer success technology can maximize your efficiency, enabling you to serve more customers in less time for scaled efficiency with a personalized touch. The Totango Spark platform is designed to help you leverage customer data through key performance indicators and automatically triggered workflows that let you implement customer success best practices at any scale with customized personalization. Try it free to experience how automation can help you deliver successful results to your customers.

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