This Is the New Team You Need to Build to Make Your Startup Successful

Successful customers are the key to a successful startup — here’s how to build the team that can make sure both things happen

Ilana Brown
Published in
4 min readFeb 13, 2020


A photo of a smiling woman on the phone at her desk in front of her computer.
Photo: isayildiz/Getty Images

WWhat is Customer Success and why does it matter? To an outsider or an industry newbie, Customer Success might come off as a catchall buzz phrase that is still in the process of gaining traction and legitimacy within business circles.

But the rise of Customer Success, particularly for software platforms, and its role in delivering value to your consumers is what might make or break your business.

Even though the job is truly as simple as its title — keeping your customers successful on your platform — being a great Customer Success Manager (CSM) requires a multitude of skills to be successful.

As the VP of Customer Success for SevenRooms, a platform that empowers hospitality owners to create direct, meaningful, and profitable guest relationships, here are the ones I look for.

First, we screen

Many types of people can make effective Customer Success Managers. In my experience, it’s better to find someone who is smart and flexible than to hire for any one skill set. They have to be able to roll with the punches to maintain a high level of client engagement, troubleshoot issues on the fly, all while understanding the nuances of your company’s product.

Instead of seeking out a particular skill set or background, here are some initial questions I ask when first meeting a candidate:

  • Do you have thick enough skin to handle the inevitable moment of an angry, emotional, upset, oversold, having-a-bad-day client?
  • Can you think on your feet in ambiguous situations?
  • Do you believe in the mission of the company?

If all of those are a yes, then we can move on to the details of the candidate.

Relationship building

Does this person know how to build relationships and work cross-functionally both internally and externally? Are they charismatic “people people”? To find this out, I dig into…



Ilana Brown
Writer for

Former @SevenRooms @FrontlineFoods Current Zuzalu (iykyk)