Hiring a Revenue Operations Professional: Customer Success
Welcome to the final article in a multi-part series that will help you find the perfect fit for your revenue operations team. Because revenue operations often spans technical system administration, data analytics, enablement, process management, and project management, we’ll break down the different functions to cover them in more detail.
While it is possible to find someone who can pull off all of these functions, we feel obligated to point out that placing the burden of managing all of these components on one human will not set them up for success. A team of one may save you money in the short term but consider a plan to scale the team before your workhorse shows signs of burnout absolutely essential.
In small organizations, senior systems analysts are often expected to play the role of builder, tester, trainer, and project manager. A customer success analyst will help you keep your company's mechanisms to support your customers in tip-top shape and help you analyze customer success performance.
What Makes a Good Customer Success Ops Professional?
Common characteristics I look for in any revenue operations hire include an intense drive to solve data puzzles and a bit of stubbornness when resolving repetitive process issues. I want someone on the team who will not be discouraged if the fix for a problem isn't immediately apparent or easy. In fact, I want someone on my team who loves a challenge and takes pride in fixing an issue.
More specific skillsets I look for in a customer success analyst are a strong background in analysis and systems.
Ideally, when it comes to a customer success administrator, I'd like experience configuring automation to help manage service level agreements, escalations, and case follow-up. Here, I care less about the system they have experience in than how they went about gathering requirements and building the solution.
In an administrator, I also want to see an understanding of how automated sequences may impact one another. For example, what considerations would you need to make when configuring SLAs for a customer who purchases a service package with a 1-day resolution? How would an escalation for a major outage be processed? How would you avoid a processing conflict?
My requirements are going to differ if I’m strictly searching for a data analyst. In this case, I want someone who has experience developing benchmarks for customer success representatives and who can then build a dashboard that incorporates those benchmarks. This may require simple point and click reporting configuration in Salesforce, but some customer success organizations want advanced analytics that requires a background in SQL and visualization tools.
Having experience in both configuration and analytics is always a plus. I appreciate an analyst who can help an administrator understand the data points they need to get meaningful reporting data and an administrator who can help an analyst understand system limitations and collaborate on a creative solution.
What Level of Experience Is Needed?
It depends! If your systems are already in mint condition, you may be looking for a more junior-level data analyst familiar with your analytics tools. They may or may not have a background in customer success, although it is beneficial to hit the ground running with someone who has already worked with customer success managers to build out KPIs and dashboards.
If you’re looking for an analyst to help you build out a customer success machine with streamlined ticketing workflows and some automation for escalations, we recommend hiring someone who has experience in the application your team is using to track their work with customers (or one similar to it). You'll also want this person to have experience integrating systems, particularly if most of your company uses one CRM and customer success uses an external ticketing system.
Hiring someone who has already built out customer success ticketing workflows will be critical if you want to build things correctly the first time. They’ll understand what the system can and can’t do, know best practices around automation, and have a solid starting point for metrics your company will want to measure (and how to configure the system to get those metrics).
Hiring a junior administrator to build your customer success processes will take more time, and you should expect the customer experience to be a bit bumpy along the way.
Hiring a Customer Success Administrator
The Job Requirements
The customer success system administrator is expected to help prioritize and manage change requests to our existing ticketing system. They will find ways to automate processes where possible and practical, and they will ensure our analysts have access to the data necessary to measure department efficiency. We are looking for a collaborative team member who is comfortable gathering requirements and interacting with end-users to find the best possible solution.
The customer success system administrator:
- Is an excellent verbal and written communicator who lives for organization and details
- Has the ability to dig into large projects to determine key dependencies and work backward to realistic but aggressive timelines
- 3-5 years of experience in Zendesk, Salesforce Service Cloud, or a similar enterprise customer success solution
- 3-5 years of experience managing a knowledge base from a user administration standpoint
- Extensive experience integrating systems, particularly a customer success platform with a CRM
- Deep familiarity with automating processes such as SLA escalations and technical escalations using milestones and entitlements in Salesforce (or similar functionality)
- Displays a strong grasp of how configuration choices will be reflected in reports and dashboards
- Manages changes to scope and timeline and escalates changes to key stakeholders when necessary
- Create and maintain extensive project documentation
- Has a passion for process improvement and risk management
Nice-to-have certifications (one is great, more are unusual but welcome):
- Salesforce Service Cloud Certification
- Gainsight Certified Administrator
- Zendesk Support Administrator Certification
- Certification in Six Sigma, Lean SIX, KAIZEN or PMI-ACP
Q: A customer success representative brings a repetitive product issue to your attention. They want to know if you can automate an answer. What are your next steps?
Why it’s asked: I prefer to hear that the ops professional takes steps to verify the issue is substantial and warrants prioritization before jumping into how to solve the problem. They will be swarmed with a lot of requests, and I want them handled in alignment with company priorities.
Example Answer: I would ask for a few example tickets and see if there were common indicators to query the system to verify how often the issue is coming up. Once I determine it is a common issue, I would go to customer success management to ask how they would prefer to handle the issue. Are they going to escalate to product development? Would they prefer to establish a standard KB? Or do they need resources automatically surfaced in the ticketing tool? Then I can estimate the level of effort and work with management to prioritize accordingly.
Q: Do you have any certifications?
Why it’s asked: This shouldn’t be your only requirement. I’ve hired people who tested well but didn’t do as well taking vague business issues and translating them into a tangible solution. It isn’t easy to pass certifications, so they should carry some weight.
Example Answer: Yes. I have my Salesforce Administrator certification. I also have several super badges from Salesforce Trailhead, specifically on the Service Cloud.
Q: How do you prioritize your work?
Why it’s asked: It’s important that team members feel comfortable asking for clarification to make sure they’re aligned with big-picture goals.
Example Answer: I consider any issue that prevents customer success representatives from doing their job as grounds to drop everything I’m doing and work to resolve the issue. Sometimes this is working with internal IT or product development. Otherwise, I like to have a regular meeting with my manager to review urgent and pending requests. It’s a sanity check for me to make sure I’m prioritizing correctly and an opportunity for my boss to let me know if there’s been a reshuffling of initiative priorities.
Q: Do you use any software to manage your work?
Why it’s asked: I’d like to know that my primary administrator has a system for receiving and recording requests -- and not working off a piece of paper on their desk.
Example Answer: I’ve used Asana, Salesforce, and Jira with more technical teams. The system doesn’t matter to me as long as I have someplace to organize my work into sprints and an easy way to summarize my updates.
Q: What’s an example of a project that didn’t go as hoped, and how did you handle it?
Why it’s asked: This is a character question. How someone deals with a mistake is more important than the fact that it happened in the first place.
Example Answer: We had two automation rules: one for technical escalations and one for standard service level agreements. This was in a system with workflows - we didn't have entitlements or milestones. We had managed to rank the evaluation to happen in a specific sequence. Unfortunately, when I added a special support tier that a few key customers purchased, it wasn't appropriately ranked and was often overwritten by the existing processes. Fortunately, we had one customer success rep assigned to all three accounts, and they picked up the system issue immediately. We worked together to get it resolved, and I felt silly for the oversight.
Q: Have you had to integrate Zendesk and Salesforce before? What were the quirks you noticed?
Why it’s asked: Feel free to swap out the systems used in the question. No matter the systems being integrated, the consistent things to watch for are the order of operations -- or whether one system will overwrite another and cause a loop -- and system priority.
Example Answer: Salesforce was our system of record, and we integrated Zendesk so that our tickets were viewable as cases, so the sales team knew if there was an outstanding issue. The setup wasn't ideal. The customer success team wanted to write over when people left the company or new contacts were created, and we had to bring in a third-party integration tool to make sure things were processed in the correct order and not overwritten. The standard API connection just didn't allow the layer of control we needed when moving data back and forth.
Hiring a Customer Success Analyst
The Job Requirements
The customer success analyst is responsible for determining and measuring KPIs. They will create dashboards for different audiences, determine benchmarks to gauge performance, and flag issues that should be escalated to product management. The right analyst will be comfortable gathering requirements and making recommendations based on industry best practices.
The customer success analyst:
- 2-3 years experience as a data analyst in customer success, finance, or sales organizations
- Experienced user of Tableau, PowerBI, or equivalent data visualization software
- Able to map data schemas and explain how data flows into external reporting systems
- Deployed customer success platform reports and/or Salesforce reports and dashboards
- Is familiar with rhythm of the business reporting and development of KPIs and OKRs
- Is comfortable reviewing data with an executive team
- Very experienced at gathering requirements and socializing reporting methodologies across functional teams
- Understands cases may have multiple SLAs and how to structure logic to account for such scenarios
- Experience reporting on quota attainment, churn, and structuring a book of business
- Measures and reports on representative, team, and topic performance to identify outliers and escalates to stakeholders as needed
Nice-to-have certifications (one is great, more are unusual but welcome):
- Experience with T-SQL, MySQL, PostgreSQL, PySpark, or similar query language
- Certification with Tableau, Microsoft SQL Server, Azure, MongoDB, or other data platform/reporting tool
Q: Describe the layers of reports you've set up at companies in the past, from front-line workers to the executive of customer success.
Why it’s asked: Analysts must understand that different levels of management need to see data from different perspectives. While front-line management may need to see many details, the executive team is more interested in whether or not churn is on target and SLAs are being met.
Example Answer: At the representative level, we created custom reports in our database that showed their average time to resolution by tier. Our customer support reps weren’t organized by a tiered hierarchy, but their tickets were organized by complexity. We helped load balance not by account assignment but by the level of work they had open in their queue and the amount of work they could additionally take on. At an upper management level, the dashboards were far less detailed. We had six KPIs that we measured that included customer churn, net satisfaction score, percent of cases resolved outside of their SLA, and the number of Tier 0 escalations. In between those two extremes, we had supporting dashboards that different managers could use to dig into their respective domains.
Q: Do you have any certifications?
Why it’s asked: This may not be a hard requirement. Suppose you have a business intelligence team supporting your department and need someone to pass requirements and manipulate the final data output. In that case, you probably only need someone who is very good at Tableau, Excel, and maybe a few other tools—not necessarily a query language.
Example Answer: While I don’t have my Microsoft Data Analyst Associate degree, I have taken several courses on T-SQL and am a Certified Analytics Professional through the University of Washington.
Q: Describe to me the difference between a left join, right join, and inner join.
Why it’s asked: If you have a relational database, it’s important your analyst understands how different joins impact data output.
Example Answer: A left join returns all the data in the left table and only data in the right table that overlaps. A right join returns all the data in the right table and only data in the left table that overlaps. An inner join only returns data that overlaps. You’d use the last kind of join if you only wanted opportunities that had a specific primary campaign, for example.
Q: If you had multiple disconnected systems but didn’t have the budget or approval to put a database or data lake in place, how would you go about pulling reports?
Why it’s asked: It’s important to know how someone will adapt if conditions aren’t what they prefer.
Example Answer: I suppose I would start with trying to choose a primary data location between the systems I do have. There are workflow tools like Zapier and Workato that could help solve some of the issues, depending on the type of data housed in these disconnected systems. I would use something like Excel as a last resort just because it isn’t really sustainable to dump data in a spreadsheet month after month. I’d rather arm my management team with something closer to real-time reports for better decision-making.
Q: When you’ve supported customer success in the past, what kind of metrics did you measure?
Why it’s asked: It’s important to understand the amount of experience someone has with the department they’ll be supporting.
Example Answer: It depends on the organization we’re talking about. At company A, customer success was responsible for renewals and upgrades. In addition to your typical churn, retention, LTV stats, we also created a book of business model. Honestly, it wasn’t without its issues because management frequently had to shift around accounts throughout the quarter, so the territory “snapshot” for the book of business was always in flux. At company B, the customer success team didn’t participate in sales beyond passing leads. I helped with some spiff programs, but for the most part, I was focused on more traditional metrics for quarterly meetings. LTV, NPS, Churn, and MRR. Monthly, we reviewed satisfaction scores, ticket volume, and other metrics summarized by representative.