Hiring an ideal Customer Success candidate has been a huge conundrum for many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Founders and Customer Success Leaders, especially in Asia Pacific. With many experienced talents being picked off the market by SaaS companies that are bigger and willing to pay above market value, how do you stay ahead and recruit affordable candidates without compromising on quality and experience? Here’s a short write-up on where to look and what to look out for in a rockstar Customer Success candidate, with bonus questions you can ask your candidates at the end of the article!
Hiring is guessing, and firing is knowing. Gary Vaynerchuk
1. Hire the jack of all trades, not the master of one.
The APAC market in 2019 is only warming up to the cloud computing business. The global SaaS market is expected to grow 21.4% year-on-year, with APAC growing faster at 34.28%. This means that the cloud market is developing at a rapid pace, yet there are not many experienced professionals available on the market.
When I recruited for my own customer success team, it was important for the candidates to be smart, resourceful, and innovative, instead of having extensive experience in customer success. A Totango study found that 43% of executives who work in customer success come from sales or account management while only 24% previously worked in success. The customer success and saas talent pool in APAC is scarce, but individuals who are good workers with great ideas are largely available in this region.
43% of executives who work in Customer Success come from Sales or Account Management while only 24% previously worked in success. Totango
2. Hire the relationship builder.
Great customer success managers use their empathy to identify and manage customer expectations, nurturing professional and genuine relationships with their customers in the process. Understanding your customer’s needs helps to optimise a business to exceed expectations for a customer without compromising on the company’s goals. The Experience Economy has pervaded our lives and become one of the main pillars of determining whether a product or service is great or distasteful; Customer Empathy is becoming more than just a buzzword, but a necessity in each realm of business.
In addition, CSMs also need to build great relationships internally, with functions such as Sales, Product, Support, and Engineering. A rockstar candidate will be able to develop intentional and professional relationships with different functions, and demonstrate an ability to band everyone together in working towards a common goal. This could be a feature request, fixing a bug, or collaborating with Sales to achieve revenue targets for the company.
Good relationship builders are able to listen, be open, and ask the right questions. CSM Daily
3. Hire someone who is technical, but not quite.
When it comes down to Software-as-a-Service, there is no escaping the need to have a good level of knowledge in the software you are selling and its multiple use cases. Your candidates should be comfortable with technology and learning the technicalities of cloud computing to be able to have credible conversations with your customers to align business objectives with the product. They do not need to be Google engineers or Microsoft product managers, but they will need to have a good understanding of the customer’s technology stack to speak with executives confidently and deliver solutions according to their needs.
4. Make your hiring journey exceptional.
With competing demand from a myriad of SaaS companies in APAC (1064 according to Crunchbase), and a limited talent pool, the recruitment process has to be efficient, and if possible, to stand out amongst the competition. A problematic hiring journey puts candidates under unnecessary stress and often poses as red flags, deterring great talent from seeing through the process.
The magic formula here is to assemble the right ingredients; key stakeholders, hiring process, and compensation. Internal and external stakeholders need to be aligned on the type of candidate that best fits the role. The hiring process needs to be well-thought out and executed. The compensation plan has to be justified and reasonable. Many prominent SaaS companies do not have the magic formula sorted out, so even if you are a small start-up, you definitely stand a chance if you put your candidates through a stellar recruitment experience.
5. Bonus interview questions.
For Customer Empathy
Questions to ask:
What will you do if you had to churn a customer?
Talk about a time you disappointed a customer.
Tell me about a time you had to manage a difficult customer.
For Critical Thinking
Questions to ask:
Any variation of Google’s "Why are manhole covers round?"
Amazon’s "How would you solve problems if you were from Mars?"
Microsoft’s "How would you test an elevator?"
For Customer Success Experience
Questions to ask:
What role do you think CS plays in the company?
What is your approach to Sales-CS alignment?
What is Customer Success to you?
The last trait that I might look out for is cultural fit. Many companies interview for it, but it may deter great candidates from being hired. It is tedious to define what cultural fit might represent in the APAC market with diversity so distinct in this region. I will be happy to leave this open to discussion.
What do you look for when hiring for Customer Success?
Are you interested to hire talented Customer Success Managers in APAC?
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!