How to Ace Your Customer Success Interview Without SaaS Experience

How to Ace Your Customer Success Interview Without SaaS Experience

When interviewing for a Software as a Service (SaaS) company, you must prove to the recruiter (and possibly the hiring manager) that you can work in this environment.

If you have never worked in this industry before, don't worry! There are still ways to show that you know the challenges SaaS presents and can handle them.

Here are three common challenges you may face when working in SaaS as a Customer Success professional. Be prepared to explain how you would address each one during your interview.

The challenge of change and minimal documentation

In the tech industry, things move at a swift pace. New product features and integrations are released constantly, and new customers must be regularly onboarded. Additionally, new bugs are discovered that need to be addressed by engineering. All of these things are normal and often happen on the same day.

With this comes the extra challenge of writing things down. Most new knowledge gets stuck in Product’s head or held by a few of the more experienced CSMs on the team. Yes, it would be ideal for them to write this knowledge down, but the tyranny of the urgent often gets in the way of documentation and improvement.

Everyone is expected to get things done with minimal guidance.

Your interviewer wants to know:

  • You are proactive and don’t need to be told what to do.
  • You learn from your mistakes.
  • You are comfortable seeking answers without a lot of guidance.

How you can prove it to the interviewer:

  • Describe a time when you experienced significant change and how you handled it. This could be when a new department was created, a new product was released, or a new business process was implemented.
  • Tell a story about when you learned to do something challenging at work without guidance. This could be when a new department was created, a new product was released, or a new business process was implemented.
  • Tell a story about when you solved a problem that was stopping you from getting results. How did you solve it? What was the outcome?

An example answer:

At Sprint, we saw a dip in sales beginning in 2021. I led an initiative to get more B2B sales to combat this. I started with researching my customer base, interviewing customers on why they chose Sprint, and using their stated desired outcomes to build an ideal candidate profile (ICP). Surprisingly, I quickly identified that construction companies loved our push-to-talk feature and military-grade durability. In the end, they valued reliability the most. With this information, I began an outreach campaign to businesses aligned with our ICP and centered our conversations around ease of use and durability. From this campaign, we grew our Construction segmentation and increased B2B sales by 300% yearly. I continued to work with this segment leading to increased NPS and NRR growth of 118%.

Protip: The example story above uses the STAR technique but isn't just a sequential list of events. The story reveals the situation, the thinking behind the actions, and what followed (with a little bit of surprise). Check out this short video below from master storytellers Matt Stone and Trey Parker if you want your stories to be remembered by the interviewer.

What to ask your interviewer:

  • How would you know that the person you hire is excelling in their role during their first 30-60-90 days?
  • How would you describe your CS documentation process? What are some gaps that need to be addressed in this process? *Leverage their lack of documentation by using it as an opportunity for you to learn on the job while documenting key playbooks and requirements. Then showcase what information you would gather during onboarding to be sure you have everything you need for the job as quickly as possible.
  • When will this hire receive their first accounts?

The challenge of working with multiple departments

Cross-departmental collaboration is a huge element of working in SaaS. Especially when you consider how much Customer Success needs departments like Billing, Tech Support, Product, Onboarding, Professional Services, and Sales.

It's challenging to motivate people from different departments to help you with a customer when they already have internal metrics they need to hit. Despite how daunting this challenge may look, you have probably worked cross-departmentally in your experience.

Your interviewer wants to know:

  • You’re a team player and are prosocial.
  • You understand how Product, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success collaborate in a SaaS environment.
  • You communicate clearly and persuasively.

How you can prove it to the interviewer:

  • Describe when you worked with multiple departments to solve a shared problem. What was the problem you needed to solve? How did you overcome the barriers to working cross-functionally? What steps were taken to solve the problem? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a time with you improved a process that benefited others outside of your immediate team. What was the process? How did you go about implementing the change? What was the impact of the change?
  • Share a story about when you collaborated with a particularly challenging coworker. What made them difficult to work with? How did you approach working with them?

An example answer:

At Comcast, we developed a department that sells both Comcast Cable and Verizon Wireless services. We created a joint task force that specialized in both services’ sales, billing, and training. A significant barrier was having Comcast employees revert to selling what they know instead of a new complete package. We created a program that made it easy to transition traditional packages into a total communications package, provided discounts to make the package easier to sell, and delivered additional commission opportunities. As a result, we sold an average of 300 mobile devices daily, similar to a Verizon Wireless contact center of a similar size.

What to ask your interviewer:

  • Can you describe the sales-to-cs handoff process at [company name]?
  • In what ways does Customer Success at [company name] ensure that the voice of the customer is heard by Product?
  • Which teams within [company name] do you believe have the most room for improvement in terms of collaboration?

Protip: If the interview mentioned any opportunities for improvement within their organization, use this as an opportunity to reinstate your approach to cross-functional collaboration and how you’ve worked across multiple teams in the past.

The challenge of keeping customers long-term

Before the Cloud takeover, software lived directly on computers. You needed to install software, connect to the internet, constantly back up your data, and routinely update your software on that computer. Versions of software came yearly. Customers paid $200 one time for this software. Any updated versions would require a new purchase.

Thanks to the cloud, the software lives on the internet. You can access your data on any internet device that is optimized to handle the data. You get updates as soon as they become available. You save all your hard drive space for other important files because your data lives online.

Cloud installs eliminate disks and retail stores. Also, it eliminated customers using older versions because of the upfront costs of paying for new versions that made it hard to procure or get a budget for. Different payment terms offered more flexibility for company budgets.

While SaaS companies save money in the post-retail world, it doesn’t negate the risks they take when providing their software monthly. They risk losing the remaining $200 if the customer stops paying or cancels immaturely. This monthly cost makes it easy for customers to leave for competitors or abandon their desired outcome.

We must ensure the customers’ success using the software to reach their desired outcomes.

This dilemma may seem complicated to relate to your experience. However, unless your product or service was a one-time-only purchase, chances are you worked with a monthly subscription or a product with a repeat-buying cycle.

Your interviewer wants to know:

  • You understand how to prioritize the health of multiple accounts.
  • You have a customer-focused mindset.
  • You work well under pressure.
  • You think outside the box.

How you can prove it to the interviewer:

  • Describe a time when you uncovered a customer's needs and worked with them to reach their goals.
  • Describe a time when you were overwhelmed with many competing priorities. What were the priorities? What methods did you use to manage your time and focus?
  • Describe a time when you failed to meet a customer's deadline. What was the deadline you missed? How did you communicate this to the customer?

An example answer:

Through my role as a front desk agent, I transformed first-time guests into brand champions by curating an experience that met their needs. But I didn’t stop there. After their stay, I launched outreach campaigns to keep in touch with them, ensuring they were aware of our current deals. I mentioned grand openings of newer editions if they enjoyed a show I recommended during their stay. I offered invitations to slot and poker tournaments or promotions on table play for my gamblers. Once they committed to a future stay, we conducted onboarding calls to ensure a seamless return visit. Through this personalized outreach initiative, we increased loyalty spending by 138%.

What to ask your interviewer:

  • How are customers segmented now within the company?
  • Can you describe [company name’s] ideal customer profile? What are their most significant challenges and goals?
  • Which aspects of [product name] are most challenging for customers to use?

Protip: You will have many more questions to answer during your interview and stories to share. Luckily we have a workbook with 55 practice interview questions to help you! Use this to prepare for all the most commonly asked questions.

You have the experience to be a Customer Success Manager. Getting your first role can come down to using the methods this article described to demonstrate a relatable experience and your Customer Success process mindset.

Latest Posts