Hiring Customer Success professionals: how to build the perfect team

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It doesn’t matter if you own or work in the best company, offer fantastic solutions or even have a great budget to build your operation, with exceptional tools and senior contributors. If you have it all but not the right people by your side, you’re going to fail. And that is for sure.

Talking about Customer Success, people make all the difference. Customers don’t only want to reach results, but feel that behind your solution there is someone sincerely caring about them. That means, you must have the best team to work with people. And they can’t be anyone: they have got to be the best ones you can find.

They must buy into your company’s beliefs and, most importantly, love working with people. When you have a good team that really cares about your customers you will be miles ahead of your competitors.

As a Customer Success coordinator and after as head of Customer Onboarding, I’ve been hiring new collaborators for over 4 years, and after approving more than 70 candidates for Customer Success and Customer Onboarding teams I have learned many different lessons. I’m here today to share what I believe are the most relevant points when I’m looking for someone new to excel within my team.


The skills that matter

What are the essential skills someone has got to have to work in your team? That’s the first thing you ought to think deeply about. This can take some time, I know, but you get to look at this action as an investment. If you don’t know what you are looking for, you will not be able to realize who are the best candidates, will you?

Well, I must confess that during all this time, the skills I was looking for in my candidates changed many times, according to the challenges we were facing at each moment and also due to a greater understanding of the chosen requirements during the last years. Let’s break it down into two groups:

Technical skills: for a Customer Onboarding team, firstly I understood technical skills would be the most significant ones, as my onboarding team is responsible for the technical configurations of our software. That made me think all my team should come with a good technical knowledge. However, after some time I realized it wasn’t enough: having people with only technical skills wasn’t the best way to show value to customers because they could be seen as “cold” people, just caring about the process, not about the people behind it. They should have something else.

People skills: After that lesson learned, I decided to bring in new collaborators who loved working with people. This all made sense, as I believed they would be able to immediately offer a proper experience to our customers, learning the technical processes after being taken on. But again, that wasn’t the perfect solution: we also realized that sometimes they were not good at procedural activities, having trouble to learn the technical process and a lack of organizational skills.

The balance: technical and people skills in the same person or team

After all these learnings, it was clear it couldn’t be one way or another: the best candidates should be both good at dealing with people and have some technical skills, as in being good at process, having previous experience with implementation and/or customer services or having good time management skills. Someone with both kinds of competences would be the perfect candidate.

Tip: when it’s not possible to have all these skills in the same person, having people with different skills in the same team helps you have more resources for any situation that can appear.

Still, there are some relevant skills everyone needs to have to be a great candidate for a Customer Success/Onboarding team, in my vision. They are:

  • Customer First value: really put the customer first in any situation
  • Empathy: have the ability to put yourself in others’ positions
  • Resilience: have the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties
  • Emotional Stability: have the capacity to work with different customers without losing their mind even in hard situations
  • Organization: know how to organize the activities, being productive
  • Negotiation: know how to negotiate and “sell the dream” again to the customers if needed

Another important point: you have to learn how to explore the best skills of each individual contributor. Even having some same skills, each person can prefer doing one thing or another in their position. Explore it to help your company’s growth and also motivate your team.


Testing cultural alignment during the hiring process

As crucial as having the right skills is, you should build a team that believes in what you and your company do. That means, the mission and also the values you pursue. If they don’t agree with your vision, people won’t stay longer even being good professionals, making the relationship not durable.

How can I check cultural alignment throughout my hiring process? Here are some suggestions you can try:

  1. Talk about the company’s culture along the hiring process: it’s a crucial step. That not only helps you share your values since the beginning but also can be seen as a weapon to attract more candidates when they agree with your company’s vision. They can fall in love with your company, making them want even more to be part of it. Tip: if you still don’t have a Culture Code to easily show your values to whoever reads it, maybe you should think about it in order to build a stronger culture. Netflix is a great example of it, and here you can find the Netflix Culture Deck. At RD Station we have our Culture Code (Portuguese only).
  2. Role-playing: be sure they care about your customers’ success: another highly recommended way to test the candidates is to make them simulate the reality through a role play process. In this way, you can both guarantee all the best candidates are really good at talking to customers and following a specific process but also the candidates can reflect on the position, as they can see in advance how their routine would be.


Let it all clear

As head of my department, the last interview is always with me. I take advantage of this not only to check the last details but also to clarify everything about the routine. That means the good and the not-so-good activities expected in each position. For example, my onboarding team has the opportunity of learning about many different markets working directly with many customers. However, for this, they have to be talking to customers 80% of their time. They have to love talking to customers and having many different projects to handle at the same time. And this must be clear during the process, otherwise, my future new contributor can have a different expectation of their new routine, getting frustrated after being taken on.

Making it all clear is the greatest way to have transparency from the beginning, which reinforces the relationship between you.


Always remember: Team Success = Customer Success

Last but not least, sincerely take care of your new team member after the hiring process is done!

There are some things you can do to ensure a good experience since the beginning of their journey with you:

  1. Employee onboarding: be sure your new contributor will receive all the support and information they need to work properly. Here, my suggestion is to offer a deep dive in all the company’s processes, so they can have an overview of all departments and the main processes, and then focus on Customer Success training sessions. If possible, make them use your solution and simulate the usage, so they will face the challenges and also the pains your customers can feel, increasing their empathy.
  2. Make them grow with you: It’s totally natural to desire to go up in the career inside a company. That’s expectable from everybody, sooner or later. For this, you ought to know exactly what you can offer if you want your team to stay longer with you. A career path is a great way to set out a roadmap for their future, and also motivates people to want to grow with you. Feedback is also essential to allow people to grow.

To finish, always keep in mind: be a customer success manager for your team. That means they must be happy to make your customers happy. If they succeed, so will your customers – and you.

Do you have something to add? Please, feel free to comment, I’d love to talk more about it.

Customer Onboarding: How to deliver success through an Onboarding team

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