5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your First Vice President of Customer Success

As customer expectations continue to rise, businesses recognize the need to invest in specialized roles. For many companies, a Vice President of Customer Success (or similar role) may be an untapped opportunity to further their capabilities and demonstrate value. For the past 12-month period, there has been a 66% increase in VP of Customer Success while having very little knowledge of what it is and what it does.

However, with such a high demand for Customer Success Officers at the moment, especially with its ability to generate revenue, it is essential to ask yourself some critical questions before making that leap. Whether you’re considering hiring your first VP of Customer Success or are simply exploring your options, here are five questions you should ask yourself before bringing on your first Customer Success Officer:

  1. Do you have a solid foundation to support a VP of Customer Success?
    If not, it may be better to focus your efforts on building your foundation before bringing on a VP of Customer Success. That way, there’s less risk of bringing on a VP of CS and realizing you don’t have the resources or capacity in place to support the role long term. If your foundation is strong enough to support a VP of Customer Success, ask yourself these questions to ensure:

    • Do you have clearly defined Customer Success metrics?
    • Do you have well-informed Customer Success KPIs?
    • Do you have a strong Customer Success team?
    • Do you have a clear Customer Success strategy?

    First and foremost, assess whether it is really the Vice President of Customer Success you need. Aside from the KPIs written above, consider your company’s growth stage. Keep in mind that a VP of Customer Success is a strategic position wherein they are more experienced in handling middle-managers and less hands-on. If you are an early-stage company with lower customer numbers and small teams, having a VP of Customer Success would only impede your growth.

  2. What is the current state of your Customer Success?
    Successfully integrating a VP of Customer Success into your organization will be much easier if you have a strong foundation, which we tackled earlier. However, it is also essential to understand the current state of your Customer Success by asking yourself a few specific questions:

    • What is your current customer retention rate?
    • What is your current customer churn rate?
    • What is your current customer satisfaction rate?
    • What is your current customer acquisition rate?
    • What is your current customer lifetime value?

    In short, always begin with the end in mind. It is essential to evaluate the performance of a Customer Success officer, should you decide to have one, and to do so, you must identify which metrics indicate a successful VP of Customer Success and establish baseline data.

    Success for a VP of Customer Success will be different for every organization. However, the best way to evaluate your VP of Customer Success’ performance is to measure it against your organization’s goals. For example, suppose your organization’s goal is to increase customer lifetime value by 20%. In that case, you will be able to determine whether or not your VP of Customer Success is successful based on whether or not they have met that goal.

  3. What are the key responsibilities for this role?
    Before hiring your first VP of Customer Success, you must ensure you understand the full scope of the role so you can clearly communicate those expectations to potential candidates. By outlining the role’s key responsibilities, you’ll know what you’re looking for and how the part will be integrated into your organization. You’ll also be able to manage better the expectations of your VP of Customer Success and your entire organization.

    • What will the VP of Customer Success’ typical day/week look like?
    • What will the VP of Customer Success’ annual goals/KPIs be?
    • What will the VP of Customer Success’ key priorities be?
    • What will the VP of Customer Success be accountable for?

    When hiring your first VP CS, you need to look for the right person in the right place in the Go-To-Market motion of your company. It’s easy to fall into the trap of hiring based on skill sets, experience, and cultural fit. However, it would help if you considered the specific place in the motion where the VP CS needs to be to have maximum impact. If you are looking for someone to drive new customer acquisition, but you hire a VP CS from retention, you are missing out on that opportunity to optimize your investment. One of the best ways to avoid this mistake is to do some thought experiments. Ask yourself, “What would happen if we hired someone from another team? How would they impact the business?”

  4. How will you identify a good VP of Customer Success candidate?Before you start identifying candidates, it’s important to outline what you’re looking for. Taking the time to define your expectations for the role clearly and the responsibilities of a VP of Customer Success will help you identify the right type of candidate. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need someone with extensive experience in the role. Instead, you want to find someone who can hit the ground running and be successful in your organization without any extra training.
    • What skills and experience does your ideal VP of Customer Success have?
    • What can the ideal VP of Customer Success candidate do?

    Hiring a VP of Customer Success based on personality and responsiveness alone is a mistake. Data is critical for making the right hiring decision: the data about your current customers, the ones you want to acquire, and the competition is key to hiring the right candidate. It would be best if you had a good idea of the skills, experience, and cultural fit to drive specific outcomes and metrics to determine if the candidate is the right fit to do the job. If they do have what it takes, you can now consider their personality, and responsiveness.

  5. Which roles will be most impacted by hiring a VP of Customer Success?While it’s unlikely that a VP of Customer Success will directly impact every role in your organization, some areas will be affected more than others. By understanding which functions will be most impacted by hiring a VP of Customer Success, you can better prepare those teams for the shift and determine what help they need to adjust.Hence, if you are to hire a VP of Customer Success, you may consider looking for their ability to collaborate, influence, and generate tangible outcomes. They must have proven that they can lead people from multiple departments to act toward the fulfilment of a goal and/or influence key stakeholders to favor Customer Success. When you are interviewing a candidate, you may assess their experience by asking:
    • Describe a time when you needed to influence the top team to decide in favor of the CS department when originally, they were reluctant.
    • How important do you perceive relationships with peers and other functions, and what would you do or what have you done to maximize those relationships?
    • What were the results learned from that experience, and could you have done better?
    • What would you do if you faced the same situation, would you do it the same or change it, and why?

Bottom line

A Vice President of Customer Success will bring value to your organization by ensuring your customers are satisfied and will continue availing your product or service. This role is essential for businesses that want to scale and thrive in the long run. The payoff could be huge when you hire the right person for the job. However, how will you attract the perfect candidate to help you achieve the outcome you have identified you want to achieve?

Aside from marketing the challenges of what needs to be done now in your company, you can also sell the journey they will be taking. List down the tasks that need to be done and what role it equals to without dressing them up.

Suppose you are on the seed stage or series A. In that case, you may need someone excited to contribute to strategic decisions while also doing some work themselves, which, in this case, is not a Vice President of Customer Success – it’s a Head of or Director of Customer Success. However, if you are moving from Series B to Series X, then you will need someone in the role experienced enough to scale up your business and Customer Success function quickly; then, it is a Vice President of Customer Success you need.

With that in mind, do you need a Vice President of Customer Success?

This PDF is based on Rick Adams’ and Alan Fecamp’s recent Coffee Bar Conversation on The 5 Biggest Mistakes When Hiring Your First VP of Customer Success. Should you wish to watch the webinar recording, you can check it out here, along with more Customer Success leaders’ interviews: https://hub.practicalcsm.com/new-events/live-interviews/coffee-conversations/

Want to read The 5 Biggest Mistakes When Hiring Your First VP of Customer Success by Alan Fecamp? Click here.

This training asset is worth 12 CPD Minutes