Ready to build up your Customer Success team but want something more unique? Our latest webinar, and this webinar recap blog, will give you all the answers (and more).
Vitally, in partnership with RecastSucces, brought together a panel of CS industry experts to discuss how to build non-traditional customer success teams. The webinar panelists included:
- Michi Hu Pezeshki, CCO & Co-Founder @ RecastSuccess
- Shawn J. A. Lestage, VP of Customer Success @ Dover
- Christopher Mckay, Principal @ Kind Consultants
Together, these expert panelists discuss how and why you should consider non-traditional approaches when it comes to Customer Success hiring needs, as well as what types of non-traditional traits and experiences hiring managers should look out for when interviewing Customer Success hires. They also discuss how First Principles relate to finding excellent new hires and some great advice that you’ll have to read in this recap blog (or watch the on-demand recording) to find out! So with that, let’s get into it.
Question #1: Why might a Customer Success organization consider hiring someone with a non-traditional background over a traditional Customer Success hire?
Hiring a candidate with a non-traditional background can bring invaluable insights, ideas, and strategies that can be overlooked. Those with a nontraditional background can bring a fresh perspective to the organization on their existing processes and projects, plus help contribute creative ideas for improvement and organizational growth.
Michi: “I would say that adaptability, both from a willingness and ability standpoint, nontraditional candidates tend to be very adaptable and flexible because they're intentionally choosing to pursue a career change, and put themselves in a situation that they might not be familiar with. So the combination of skills and perspectives can really add a lot of value to your Customer Success Manager (CSM) team.”
Shawn: “Customer Success is still relatively new, but it's also so contextual in every organization based on your stage of growth, the maturity of your project or product, the stage of funding, and so on. Layering in folks who have different perspectives, different backgrounds, and different skills improves your organization’s ability to collaborate with customers across the org and drive better outcomes.”
Question #2: How do ‘first principles’ apply to Customer Success and Customer Success hiring?
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of first principles, we got you covered. In the simplest of terms, “first principles” is basically putting a situation or concept under the microscope to understand the smallest components, its base components, and then analyzing the different problems and solutions from that vantage point, rather than just applying a blanket approach to the given problem or situation. Ultimately, this is an excellent concept to consider applying to non-traditional hiring in Customer Success!
Shawn: “The biggest component when you're thinking about Customer Success, is how you deliver the value, not the value as we define it, but as the customer defines it. From there, you can start building your onboarding plan, adoption plan, and you can then start thinking about the types of folks you need on your team. This is sort of connecting back to the previous question of ‘What skills and talents do I need to deliver this outcome?’”
Michi: “Identify the key components of your customer journey. So understanding what your onboarding looks like, what integration challenges you might have, or getting in front of the executive sponsor. So understanding what these key skills your CSM team will need, and then going out and hiring based on those key skills.”
Question #3: Best practices for prioritizing diversity when sourcing and hiring candidates?
Companies that aim to prioritize diversity when sourcing and hiring candidates should have a clear understanding of the types of talent they are looking for. After all, it’s incredibly important to create a welcoming environment where all potential hires feel comfortable sharing their background and experiences.
Chris: “I recommend that if you don't have a diverse leadership team within your Customer Success org, it can be beneficial to bring in other groups. Bring in Sales or bring in Product leadership, and have some of those leaders be part of the conversations and interviewing processes to get some different points of view and buy-in. This is a strategy that has helped me in the past.”
Shawn: “Make sure you are consistently sourcing and interviewing candidates of every background while in the resume reviewing stages. This may not solve the downstream problems or maybe the biases in hiring and interviewing, but what it does do, at least at the top of the funnel, is starting to give you a steady stream of diverse candidates.”
Question #4: What careers would be considered non-traditional, but have highly transferable skills for a CS role and why?
Non-traditional careers can be a great fit for Customer Success roles. Teachers, recruiters, and non-profit professionals are just some of the many roles with transferable skill sets that fit nicely in the Customer Success setting. Often, the role one held in a previous nontraditional setting still revolved around providing something of value to a client or customer, and that in itself is easily applicable to the customer journey.
Shawn: “I've hired and worked with lawyers, teachers, management consultants, recruiters, and a handful of folks who did not previously work in Customer Success. The common thread for all of those types of career transitions has been their education and training prior to becoming a CSM that was focused on providing a value, service, or solution or even iterating and improving outcomes for a client or customer.”
Chris: “I personally have liked recruiting people from a financial services background because they have similar skills around relationship management, understanding the needs of building rapport, and there's also a certain level of professionalism that they bring.” They also have “a level of face-to-face interaction” that fits well in a Customer Success role.
Question #5: What resources (diversity-targeted staffing firms, CS professional networks, etc.) exist to support building/hiring a non-traditional Customer Success team?
There are numerous resources available for companies looking to build or hire a non-traditional Customer Success team. For instance, there are staffing firms that specialize in sourcing and hiring diverse candidates and organizations that equip employers with the skills they need to develop an inclusive recruitment process. Taking advantage of these resources like these can help ensure that companies have access to a wide pool of talented candidates when building their Customer Success teams.
Michi: “There are a lot of Customer Success networks out there for current CSMs, and there are non-traditional candidates who are looking to break into CS who are also joining these networks. There are a couple of slack groups, like Customer Success Leadership Network or CS in Focus.” There are always people in these channels saying, “‘Hey, this is my background, and I'm looking for a role in Customer Success. Let me know if anyone has any suggestions, and the people in these channels are really helpful, willing to help, and be a mentor.”
Michi (with more great advice): “There are a ton of Virtual Job Fair opportunities. A lot of people who are trying to break into CS join those virtual job fairs. I know that there are networks for educators who are transitioning into Customer Success, as well. Additionally, CS boot camps, like RecastSuccess, provide a 10-week boot camp helping people build the skills that they need to transition into the industry.”
Question #6: What steps can a CS candidate from a non-tech background take to set themselves up for success when seeking CS roles in tech or related industries?
So many resources are available to those who want to gain knowledge and better set themselves up for breaking into the tech industry. Finding resources to help bridge the knowledge gap and build skills can be a great asset to a candidate as it shows recruiters they are actively learning to be the best fit for that CS role despite not having a tech background.
Chris: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Understand that it will be a learning curve if you haven't been in a tech space. The good thing is that, in this day and age, there's so much information out there, just on YouTube alone, that you can do to catch up. So basically, acknowledge the “knowledge gap and be deliberate about trying to gain more knowledge around the space and types of organizations you want to be a part of.”
Michi: “Understanding how you fit in and why you are a value add to your company is key.” In a CS role, “you are driving business value to your company, and you should be thinking of how you're going to generate more revenue to make your role worthwhile for your company to have. [In a CS role] it’s about understanding the business aspect and how you fit into this revenue portion of a company.”
Question #7: What types of organizations can benefit from having CS hires that have experience in a relevant industry/vertical vs. a traditional CS skill set/background?
Whether you are from a non-traditional or traditional background, there are many skills that each new hire brings to the table and add value to the company and the customer experience and journey. Though some company recruiters may focus more on the experience side of things, bringing in candidates with non-traditional backgrounds strengthens organizations in ways that may not have been possible without them!
Shawn: “All organizations, whatever vertical you're in, would benefit immensely from having at least some percentage of your team having a background in that space. That knowledge can be disseminated across your team. The ideal blend is having some percentage of your team being experienced CSMs and/or new team members from nontraditional backgrounds. “[I’ve seen nontraditional hires] become thought leaders very quickly and level up your team in ways that are sometimes unexpected, but really, really valuable.”
Michi: Candidates with backgrounds in “banking, insurance, health care, etc., those CSMs have that kind of compliance mindset. And so they do things, they're very data-driven, pay very close attention to detail. And so it's almost like a skill; you don't need to train because they've already been operating under that mindset for the past 20 years.”
Question #8: What non-traditional traits do you look for in a candidate looking to start their first role in the customer success industry?
It’s not easy being someone with a nontraditional or nontech background and being up against other candidates who may already be checking off the ‘traditional experience and skills’ boxes. But despite the discouragement it can bring, there are plenty of ways to stand out with your current skill set and background.
Chris: “Relationship management is really important. Being able to build rapport, understanding needs, and active listening; I like to see people who have taken on more responsibility in their roles. That also speaks to having a big-picture mindset, because, typically, if you're growing within your career trajectory, you're someone who's thinking about the company, the needs of the company, and how you can add more value.”
Shawn (with a great example): “Last year, we had a candidate with no experience working in tech or Customer Success. That person, during the application process for the CSM role, was diligent and following up. They did the research in advance and knew a ton about me. It was almost like they had read a book about how to be a CSM and were [applying it during] the interviews. Like to me, it's stuck out so much that it was an easy hiring decision.”
That’s a Wrap
This jam-packed talk with our expert panelists shared invaluable insights for those considering a non-traditional approach to Customer Success hiring and tips for those hoping to break into the CS industry with non-traditional backgrounds. There is no shortage of different skills and experience that could benefit any customer success team. So, if you didn’t get a chance to listen in on this dynamic conversation or want to relive some of its highlights, it’s time to watch the on-demand webinar recording. And while you’re on our site, consider scheduling a demo with Vitally; you won’t regret it!