If you're preparing for a Customer Success Manager (CSM) interview – whether you're an applicant or a hiring manager – this comprehensive guide will provide valuable insights into the key questions you might encounter or should ask.

This article covers 25 essential Customer Success Manager interview questions, each accompanied by:

  1. The aim of the interview question
  2. Key skills being assessed
  3. An example answer

These questions aim to cover the various facets of customer success, including relationship management, onboarding processes, strategic initiatives, problem-solving, leadership, and personal development. 

Whether you're a candidate preparing for an interview or a first-time hiring manager crafting your interview strategy, this list of questions and answers will help steer your interview and act as your ultimate preparation tool to bag the job (or the CSM) of your dreams.

Let's dive into these questions and uncover what it takes to excel in customer success:

1. How do you maintain relationships with X partners? What’s the process?

Aim: To understand your approach to partner management. 

Key skills assessed: Relationship management, communication, and organization.

Example answer: This is without a doubt my favorite part of the role, as it allows me to shine at what I do best: regularly communicating with our customers. I love my clients, so ensuring their success is paramount to me. 

This line of communication involves scheduling check-ins, crafting personalized emails, and delivering QBRs. I was lucky enough to inherit a well-oiled process from my line manager, our Head of Customer Success, but I’ve put my own spin on certain things, ensuring clear expectations are set. 

Every morning, I track performance metrics and address any concerns proactively. For example, last quarter, I managed a key partnership that had a new person of contact (client side). I took the opportunity to listen to their concerns, and their hopes for our product, and implemented a quarterly review process to help ensure they’re happy with the direction of our product and their company’s vision. This has helped us identify and resolve issues before they escalated during what could have been a tumultuous period for the partnership.

Drive customer engagement through effective communications
My name is Lawrence Ang, and I work with the customer success team at The Financial Times. In this article, I’ll be focusing on customer communications and engagement. Obviously, I’m basing this very heavily on my own experiences, but there are certainly variations for different people.

2. Can you walk us through the onboarding process? What does it look like, and what’s your role?

Aim: To gauge your understanding of the onboarding process and your role in it. 

Key skills assessed: Process management, customer education, and collaboration. 

Example answer: Our onboarding process starts with a kickoff meeting to set expectations and timelines. I start scheduling welcome emails and ensuring their dashboard is up to date. I conduct a needs assessment, provide training sessions, and offer ongoing support. For example, I recently onboarded an enterprise client by creating a customized training program that reduced their setup time by 20%.

The Customer Success Onboarding Playbook
The Customer Success Onboarding Playbook has been designed to provide you with a step-by-step guide to the customer onboarding process, revealing industry best practices and showing you exactly how to position your customer interactions during this crucial time in the customer journey.

3. How do you identify opportunities for expansion?

Aim: To evaluate your ability to recognize and act on growth opportunities. 

Key skills assessed: Analytical thinking, customer insight, and strategic planning. 

Example answer: For me, expansion opportunities can be sussed out in two ways. The first is good old-fashioned communication with clients to understand their evolving needs. The second, and by far my most successful means, is analyzing usage data, customer feedback, and market trends. For instance, I recently identified an expansion opportunity by noticing increased usage of a particular feature and after subtly weaving it into a conversation driven by value, I proposed an upsell to our premium tier.

A step-by-step guide to expansion
Unlock the secrets to boosting customer lifetime value and discover proven strategies for skyrocketing retention, renewals, and expansion rates.

4. Can you describe the strategic initiatives you’ve led around education, growth, and churn? How did you implement and refine these initiatives?

Aim: To understand your experience with strategic initiatives. 

Key skills assessed: Leadership, strategic thinking, and project management

Example answer: At [Company Name], I spearheaded several initiatives, including a customer education program that reduced churn by 10% over a fiscal year. I started by identifying common knowledge gaps with our enterprise clients, then created a series of webinars and tutorials. I also worked with our support team to implement a feedback loop to continuously improve the content based on our customer’s input.

The power of digital customer education
If your customers aren’t continuously uncovering new ways to get value from your products or services, you’re missing a vital opportunity to captivate them properly. And if they don’t know how to use your product, well, there’s only one thing for it: they’ve got to learn how to use it.

5. What are the trademarks of a healthy customer at your company?

Aim: To gauge your understanding of customer health indicators. 

Key skills assessed: Customer success metrics, data analysis, and customer insight. 

Example answer: To me, a healthy customer at our company typically shows high engagement, regular usage of our product, and a proactive approach to utilizing new features. In our business, a healthy customer would attend our webinars, provide feedback, and consistently renew their subscription.

Your guide to the customer health score
A customer health score is a predictive metric used by SaaS businesses to indicate the likelihood of your customer leaving (churn), staying (retention), or growing (renewals) in your organization.

6. Your resume mentions reducing churn from 5% down to 2% in your current role. How did you do this? What tactics and strategies did you use?

Aim: To understand your approach to reducing churn

Key skills assessed: Retention strategies, customer relationship management, and problem-solving. 

Example answer: This was a biggie. I reduced churn by implementing a proactive customer outreach program, which included regular check-ins, personalized success plans, and early intervention for at-risk customers. We were delighted to find that when we identified at-risk customers using predictive analytics and engaged them with targeted support, our clients were super positive about renewing and keeping the relationship ongoing.

Decoding churn: Find out what your customer is really thinking
In this article, I’m going to walk you through how to decode customer churn. Before I delve into the crux of the matter, allow me a moment to set the stage for our topic. Then, I’ll give a quick background, so you understand where my experience comes from.

7. Your resume also mentions you achieved a 30% increase in MRR in your previous role. What changes did you implement?

Aim: To evaluate your impact on revenue growth

Key skills assessed: Sales strategies, customer insight, and analytical thinking. 

Example answer: To increase MRR by 30%, I spent a lot of time channeling my efforts into targeted upselling and cross-selling initiatives. As a small company, I was fortunate enough to work closely with our sales team to identify opportunities, create tailored proposals for clients, and implement a rewards program for referrals. It wasn’t straightforward, and a few learning curves were thrown at us along the way, but ultimately, this approach resulted in a significant boost in our MRR.

8. Do you have experience managing direct reports?

Aim: To assess your leadership and management experience. 

Key skills assessed: Leadership, team management, and mentorship. 

Example answer: I’ve previously been a team lead and managed a small team of three junior Customer Success Managers. I conducted regular one-to-ones, provided ongoing training, helped hone their strategy, and set clear performance goals. For example, I mentored a first-time CSM team member, who then successfully took on a lead role within six months.

How to lead a customer success team through a management transition
While starting a new role is exciting and poses a fresh bank of possibilities, it’s not always an enviable position when you step into someone else’s shoes. This is especially true when you’ve got to build new relationships with your predecessor’s team.

9. Can you describe a tricky client complaint you’ve encountered that didn’t end well?

Aim: To understand how you handle challenging situations. 

Key skills assessed: Conflict resolution, problem-solving, resilience. 

Example answer: Absolutely. It happens from time to time, but one particularly tricky situation involved a client who was unhappy with a feature limitation. Despite our efforts to provide workarounds and our endless back-and-forths with product and future update promises, unfortunately, the client decided to leave.

This was a tough one, as I’d been the one who onboarded that client but unfortunately couldn’t save the relationship. It did sting, but I learned the importance of managing expectations and communicating transparently about product limitations early on.

Customer experience in crisis: Resilience and reputation
Managing customer experience is an integral part of maintaining and enhancing brand reputation. This article looks at reputation management.

10. How involved are you with customer feedback? Can you share an instance where you’ve closed a customer feedback loop?

Aim: To evaluate your involvement in the feedback process. 

Key skills assessed: Customer feedback management, communication, continuous improvement. 

Example answer: Feedback is our bread and butter at [Company Name]. With my team, I actively gather and act on customer feedback by conducting surveys, holding feedback sessions, and maintaining an open communication channel. For instance, a client suggested a new feature we developed and released within a year. I then followed up with the client to ensure their satisfaction with the new feature.

Your guide on customer feedback
Customer feedback is one of the most essential parts of a customer success strategy, letting you understand and improve the customer experience.

11. Hypothetically, if you get this job, what would you aim to achieve in your first 30 days?

Aim: To understand your approach to a new role. 

Key skills assessed: Goal setting, planning, and prioritization. 

Example answer: I love this question! So, in the first 30 days, I’d aim to understand the company’s goals, meet key stakeholders, and assess the current customer success processes. I would also identify quick wins to build momentum and establish a 90-day plan focusing on customer retention and satisfaction improvements. This plan would include specific, measurable goals and initiatives to drive impact quickly while laying the groundwork for long-term success.

For example, I might aim to implement a new customer health scoring system, streamline the onboarding process, or launch a voice of the customer program. The exact goals would depend on the specific needs and priorities I identify during this initial period.

How to onboard newly-hired Customer Success Managers
As a customer success leader, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having a solid onboarding process for new Customer Success Managers (CSMs). Just like we strive to deliver an amazing experience for our customers, setting up our employees for success from day one should be a top priority.

12. What tools have you used for customer success in the past?

Aim: To assess your familiarity with CS tools

Key skills assessed: Technical proficiency and tool utilization. 

Example answer: Oh boy, I’ve used them all – from starting in Excel/Google Sheets to the big CS platforms. I’ve used Salesforce for CRM, Userpilot, Catalyst, and Gainsight for CS management, then Intercom and Zendesk for support ticketing. I’ve found these tools are pretty second to none when helping streamline processes, track customer interactions, and provide valuable insights into customer health.

13. How would you describe your leadership style?

Aim: To understand your approach to leadership.

Key skills assessed: Leadership, communication and team management

Example answer: I’d have to say my leadership style strives to be collaborative and supportive. I firmly believe in empowering my team by providing clear goals, regular feedback, and opportunities for professional development. We’ve all had bad managers, and I hold them in my mind when managing my team as to how not to be. I foster an environment where team members feel valued and motivated to perform at their best. To me, that’s the only way to lead.

8 winning tips for stellar customer success leadership
There’s a colossal difference between leaders and managers. While managers are there to enforce processes, ensure compliance, and make sure people are hitting their KPIs, leaders work for their team

14. What are your top three strengths and why?

Aim: To identify your core competencies. 

Key skills assessed: Self-awareness, strengths identification and communication. 

Example answer: My top three strengths are communication, problem-solving, and empathy. I communicate effectively with customers and colleagues, find creative solutions to challenges, and understand and address customer needs with empathy.

15. What are your three biggest weaknesses and why?

Aim: To gauge your self-awareness and willingness to improve. 

Key skills assessed: Self-awareness, growth mindset and honesty. 

Example answer: I’d have to say my weaknesses include being overly detail-oriented, sometimes taking on too much at once, and a tendency to avoid delegation – especially if it’s a project you’ve created or a client you’ve onboarded from the get-go. I’m working on balancing attention to detail with big-picture thinking, managing my workload better, and trusting my team to handle tasks independently.

16. What kind of people do you find challenging to work with?

​​Aim: To understand your interpersonal preferences. 

Key skills assessed: Interpersonal skills, team dynamics, and self-awareness. 

Example answer: I find it challenging to work with people who are consistently negative or uncooperative. I’ve worked with at least three people like this over the past few years, and it just doesn’t gel with me. Our role as CSM, being customer-facing, means we’re this happy, positive, empathetic person. But when you’ve got a colleague who’s being unnecessarily critical and negative, it can be a real issue. I value a positive, collaborative work environment and believe in addressing issues constructively and professionally.

How you’re demotivating your team and how to stop
Few things are as costly and disruptive as managers who kill motivation. It’s said that “people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers” and the stats back this up: 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by their manager, according to Gallup.

17. What do you hope to achieve in your next company or role?

Aim: To understand your career goals and alignment with the company. 

Key skills assessed: Career aspirations, company fit, and motivation. 

Example answer: I’m looking for a role where I can continue to grow professionally, contribute to meaningful projects, and work with a passionate and driven team. I want to make a significant impact on customer success and help drive the company’s growth.

18. Can you describe the day-to-day responsibilities of your current role?

​​Aim: To get an overview of your current responsibilities. 

Key skills assessed: Role understanding, task management, daily operations.

Example answer: In my current role, I manage [#] customer accounts, conduct regular check-ins, handle escalations, and work on strategic initiatives. My day typically involves meetings with customers, collaborating with product, sales, and support, analyzing customer data, and ensuring our customers achieve their goals.

19. How many client inquiries do you handle daily?

Aim: To understand your workload and how you manage it. 

Key skills assessed: Workload management, customer interaction, and organizational skills. 

Example answer: I currently manage around [#] client inquiries daily. These range from simple questions to more complex issues. I prioritize them based on urgency and impact, ensuring timely and effective responses.

20. Follow up: What is the nature of these inquiries?

Aim: To get insight into the type of issues you handle. 

Key skills assessed: Issue resolution, product knowledge and customer interaction.

Example answer: Inquiries typically include things like technical support, product usage questions, any billing issues, and new feature requests. I often help customers troubleshoot issues, provide best practice advice, and escalate bugs to our development team.

What are the go-to KPIs and metrics used in customer success?
Picture this: you have an in-demand product, a seemingly solid customer base, and money pouring in. Surely you’ve made it, right? But the thing is, none of these things matter without setting the right measures in place to monitor the good and the bad.

21. What are your typical KPIs for turnaround time on client inquiries?

Aim: To assess your efficiency and effectiveness in handling inquiries.

Key skills assessed: Efficiency, customer service, time management. 

Example answer: Our typical turnaround time for client inquiries is within 24 hours. For high-priority issues, we aim to respond within two hours. These KPIs ensure we maintain high customer satisfaction and promptly address their needs.

22. What’s the trickiest ticket or complaint you’ve dealt with, and how did you overcome it?

Aim: To evaluate your problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills. 

Key skills assessed: Conflict resolution, problem-solving, communication. 

Example answer: Hmm… the trickiest complaint involved a major outage affecting one of our largest clients. I coordinated with the technical team to resolve the issue quickly, kept the client informed with regular updates, and provided a detailed post-mortem report. We also offered them a complimentary month of service to mitigate the impact.

23. What does your immediate team look like in terms of size and roles?

Aim: To get an overview of your team structure and ensure you know how the dynamics work. 

Key skills assessed: Team management, collaboration, organizational structure. 

Example answer: We’re small but mighty! My immediate team consists of three Customer Success Managers, one Customer Success Lead, two Customer Support Managers, one Head of Customer Success, and one Director of Customer Success. Each member plays a vital role in ensuring customer satisfaction and success by focusing on their specialized areas.

Using customer feedback and win-loss interviews to improve your product
Customer feedback and win-loss interviews are among the most effective ways to gain a firm understanding of how your product has been received, and how you can make changes, where needed.

24. Are you involved in collecting and acting on customer feedback?

Aim: To understand your involvement in the feedback loop. 

Key skills assessed: Feedback management, continuous improvement, customer focus. 

Example answer: Yes, I’m heavily involved in this – it’s one of the most vital parts of my job. At [Company Name], we use surveys, feedback forms, and direct communication to gather those golden nuggets, AKA customer insights. Actually, we recently implemented a brand-new feature based on one customer's feedback. After much back and forth with our product team, our VP of Customer Success saw the value in this feature and escalated it with the CEO, which had a huge impact on getting this update over the line. In the end, everyone could see this would significantly improve user satisfaction – and it did!”

25. Can you describe a time when you used data points to tell a story to your customer about a potential upsell or expansion opportunity?

Aim: To evaluate your ability to use data for strategic decisions. 

Key skills assessed: Analytical thinking, data interpretation, and communication.

Example answer: For sure! So, I once used usage data to identify that a client frequently utilized a specific feature that was limited in their current plan. I presented this data to them, highlighting the benefits they could gain from upgrading to a higher plan, which ultimately led to a successful upsell and increased satisfaction.

It's time to become the CS superhero you were born to be. 🦸

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