Hiring for (Customer Success), Pt. 1: Where to Begin


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*This article was originally published at http://journeys.getsynap.com/*

Let’s assume you already understand the why – Customer Success is essential to ensuring your customers find continued value in your offerings, and thus is critical to your company’s success. So you’ve gotten buy-in from your CEO to build a Customer Success practice, but what now? Of course you’ll need to develop solid processes and you’ll likely implement some technical tools to help you serve your clients, but those processes and tools are only as good as the people behind them.

The people you hire are your biggest investment, so we’re dedicating this blog series – Hiring for (Customer) Success – to the goal of providing you a blueprint for how to build an extraordinary Customer Success team.


Teams often wait to hire until they’re really suffering from not having someone in the role. When this is the case, it’s important not to move forward too hastily, as recovering from hiring someone who turns out to be a poor fit can be even more painful. Think of all time you and your colleagues put into interviewing candidates and educating new hires. If the person you hire doesn’t work out, that’s a lot of wasted time and energy. That’s why the first step in building a great team is to understand what you really need. There are several factors to consider. Before drafting your job posting, give some serious thought to the following questions.

Where are you in the lifecycle of your business?

Are you just getting started, with only a handful of clients? Or has your company been around for a while with the organizational, client, and product maturity to show for it? What success means for a company almost always changes over time. If your company is just getting its footing, your customer success charter will be very different than if it – and its product and client relationships – have been growing for several years.

As the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) has noted, customer success organizations can usually be divided into three primary charter models – Adopters, Retainers, and Expanders. These charters also tend to align with where a company is in its lifecycle. Newer companies are often most focused on adoption as they build up their client and user base. Once companies have hit their stride, they turn their attention to retaining those clients. Finally, companies who have strengthened their relationships and matured their adoption and retention practices, along with their offerings, want to then put their effort into expanding the depth and breadth of those relationships. Consider where you fall in that journey to help surface what customer success role you need most right now.

Who are your clients?

It’s the age-old adage: know your audience. The team you’re building needs to be able to connect with your clients as the primary point of contact for the relationship. This means you really need to know who they are and what they need. Do they need help implementing your product? Understanding your product? Connecting with other resources? If you haven’t already examined your clients and segmented them in a way that lets you better understand and serve them, do so before moving forward with any hiring.

This can be as simple or as complicated as you need it to be. You can start by simply understanding the general types of companies you serve all the way to mapping out each of the various profiles of users and other stakeholders involved in your relationship with these companies. The key is gaining more and more clarity into who your clients really are and what makes them tick, so you can find candidates who will be the right fit to meet and exceed their needs and wants.

How complex are your products?

Does your product have a lot of data dependencies that can lead to unexpected behavior or many customized options that lead to a lot of questions? If so, you may need to start with a job posting that appeals most to adaptable problem solvers. Which leads to the question: what sort of educational resources are available for your users? Investing in people who can focus on building out and maintaining your help library early on can be a very wise investment, so maybe you need to focus on finding organized content creators. Do your users require guidance and several trainings to get up and running or can they simply log in and intuitively understand how to configure and use the product? In the former case, you may want to aim for more consultative, project manager types. If the latter, you’ll probably want to attract candidates with a little more of a sales-y bent who can identify and connect clients with additional offerings to find even more value.

And what are the up-sell or add-on opportunities? More users? More teams? Additional products? Services? Depending on the complexity of the offerings, who the decision makers are, and what your growth opportunities are, there can even be variations in your expander Customer Success Manager profile. For example, you may find that it makes most sense to partner with your existing sales force to meet this need.

Who do you already have?

Sometimes the talent you need may already be sitting within arms reach. Just because someone has been in sales or support or ops or professional services to-date, doesn’t mean they need to stay in that role forever. Before you look outside to fill a role, be sure to consider whether there are any excellent internal candidates. Of course, you should discuss this with the rest of your leadership team, but it can be a win on multiple levels when you look internally to grow your team. Your colleague gets a new challenge, your team gains someone with product and organizational knowledge, and the team they’re moving from retains an advocate somewhere else in the organization, which can lead to better collaboration.

On a related note, how much support from and access to other teams, such as UI/UX, development, product management, and sales do you have? If the collaboration with any of those teams isn’t as strong as it could be, you may consider sourcing candidates with some sort of affinity to those teams to help bridge the gap. Remember, you’re all in this together and everyone should be rallying toward ensuring success for your customers. This is an excellent opportunity to encourage a more aligned organization.

Whether you’re looking to hire the first or 20th person on your customer success team, examining these questions should help guide your recruiting and hiring process. Though you may not have concrete answers to all of them, thinking through them should help clarify your understanding of what will best serve you and your organization at that time.

Next up in this series on Hiring for (Customer) Success, we’ll discuss a few more questions and things to consider before publishing that job posting (yes, there are more). Then we’ll move on to dig into the recruiting and interview processes, before finishing out our series with some tips for setting up your new hires for success once you’ve gotten them on board. Stay tuned!

Molly Savage Breiner
Synap Software Labs
Digital Marketer with a bleeding heart. Focus on SaaS, software development and design.


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