Recently we gathered a group of Customer Success executives and asked them about their Customer Success Predictions for 2019. As you can imagine, we had quite a lively and far ranging discussion about what we’ll see happen in the coming year.
This article will cover:
What changes you should expect to see for Customer Success in 2019
Insights to help you ready yourself for shifts in the Customer Success sector
How these Customer Success predictions may impact your career in 2019 and beyond
Expansion of Customer Success Management Careers Outside of the Software Industry
Customer Success Management makes obvious sense for software businesses that run on a subscription model: get your customers fast time to value or they can easily make a switch. With buyer behavior and customer expectations changing across the board, other industries are being forced to take notice.
Savvy businesses of all types are beginning to see the value in having a Customer Success organization or people in Customer Success roles. Guy Lever, Chief Customer Officer at Tricentis, predicts, “There’s a career path for everybody. It may not be in the software industry, but the future for this business is really bright.”
No matter where your domain expertise lies, you can likely find a forward-thinking company that needs someone in a Customer Success Management job.
Continued Growth in Customer Success Job Market Drives a Focus on Educating the Next Generation of Customer Success Managers
In 2018, LinkedIn named the Customer Success Manager role as the third fastest growing job with a 91% year over year growth from 2017, where they ranked it in the top 20 fastest growing jobs. This trend will continue, and Customer Success Management jobs will be just as hot in 2019.
“The high-growth Customer Success job market is driving a need for training,” says James Scott, General Partner at SuccessHACKER. “This year we will see a massive uptick in the appetite for training in Customer Success disciplines, from individuals trying to break into their first Customer Success job or move forward in their career, to organizations who want to up-level their team’s skill set.”
In 2019, expect to see more types of training offerings in more Customer Success techniques to help fill the demand for skilled Customer Success Managers in a broad variety of industries and companies.
Customer Success Comp Plans Based On Positive Customer-Focused Metrics
Compensation plans for Customer Success team members are subject to a lot of experimentation and adjustments as companies figure out what properly rewards their team and drives their business in the right direction. But centering employee comp plans around customers is going to come to the forefront in 2019.
“Putting that mantra first, customer-first, truly elevates the overall customer success and overall experience of the customer,” suggests Amber Remm, the VP of Customer Success for Springbot. “If the whole organization--sales, marketing, development, Customer Success--all share the same retention number, for example, it really brings the whole team together to achieve a common goal of putting the customer first.”
It will be a big change for organizations who have been comped on leading indicators such as the number of MQLs or demos, or lagging indicators such as churn. A common, customer-focused metric will really change the game as far as customer service goes.
Convergence of Product and Customer Success to Create a Frictionless Customer Experience
Years ago, sales and marketing converged. Sales wanted to understand prospect behavior a little better and to influence the marketing roadmap. Marketing wanted to help drive lead volume.
“You’ll see that same type of partnership moving forward with product and Customer Success to create a frictionless experience,” says David Clark, VP of Customer Success for Lead Forensics. “Success sees the friction in the experience every day. The best CSMs can identify the trends in what's happening with the product and relay those insights to the product teams in a meaningful way.”
Historically, there have been so many silos and so many different incentives and competing priorities for Customer Success and the Product team. Organizations that create processes that drive transparent communication and action between the two teams are going to be the companies that win big with customer experience in 2019.
Paid-for Customer Success Services to Help Manage Scale
As companies scale, there is never enough headcount to cover all the customers. They have to invent better ways to deliver the same (or better) level of Customer Success to their growing customer base.
“In order to get the necessary scale, we have to start figuring out how to monetize Customer Success in a way that makes sense for the customer, and delivers value that they're going to see ongoing in their business,” predicts Bill Mahoney, VP of Customer Success at Salesloft.
It won’t be right for all businesses or all types of customers, but big customers of SaaS businesses will be willing to pay long-term fees as part of the ARR for a CSM. They’re already doing it for premium support packages.
Companies will need to differentiate their paid-for CSM offering from their (and their competitors’) no-cost CSMs. The paid offerings have to teach them how to be successful in the product, but also help them revolutionize their business with the tool as part of that.
Robotic Process Automation Helps Predict Customer Questions
In 2019 we will start to feel the impact of Robotic Process Automation in Customer Success. RPA is already being used in the other parts of the enterprise to streamline operations and reduce costs.
With RPA, businesses can automate mundane rules-based business processes. Eventually, this will segue into intelligent automation via machine learning and artificial intelligence tools.
Guy Lever of Tricentis says, “Currently, RPA can help CSMs with their day-to-day tasks, and give them more time to focus on strategic work. Eventually, we may see it be able to predict customer questions and pitfalls in the product.”
Using the Onboarding Experience to Reduce Churn
Jeff Bezos recently injected $2bn of his personal wealth into a fund to provide Montessori education for two to five-year-olds. This age bracket represents an important stage in human life. After all, if you overinvest there, and make sure kids have a good foundation, and the skills and teachings they need, then they're much more likely to be successful later in life. As Bezos put it, “early success compounds over the life of the child.”
In the same way that Bezos is doubling down on the ‘onboarding’ phase of human life, Amber Remm of Springbot predicts that in 2019 companies will double-down their focus on the onboarding stage of the customer journey as a way to increase retention.
Instead of trying to get good at risk detection and churn prevention on the back end of the life cycle, they’ll increase retention by smoothing the post-sale process and laying a rock-solid foundation during onboarding.
A High-profile Company Will Make Their Chief Customer Officer the CEO
Most existing CEOs are either “Product CEOs” or “Sales CEOs” — i.e. they have started and grown their career in that part of companies. As we start to see the role of Chief Customer Officer popping up as part of more executive teams, we will also start to see “Customer CEOs” in the near future.
For the forward-thinking companies who already have Chief Customer Officers, we will see at least one, if not more, become CEO in 2019.
Some companies have already made that move, but Bill Mahoney of Salesloft predicts that in 2019, recognizable logo or brand will make that announcement.
More Customer Success Teams Will Report into the CRO
As more companies realize the benefit of having all revenue responsibilities resting with a single responsible party, 2019 will be the year that the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) role supplants the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) as the main reporting point for Customer Success teams.
“We will see companies restructuring their organization so that Sales and Customer Success teams roll up to a single person. The CRO’s team will cover net new business, renewals, upsells, and cross sells, resulting in streamlined operations for generating revenue,” predicts Andrew Marks, Co-founder and COO of SuccessHACKER.
Customer Success Manager Retention Challenges Force a Focus on Professional Development
As the Customer Success Manager job market continues its rapid growth, demand for experienced CSMs will increase and produce high levels of competition for the limited pool of experienced resources.
Todd Eby, Co-founder and CEO of SuccessHACKER predicts, “Employers will be forced to find ways to keep their CSMs happy beyond the usual perks. After all, you can't create Customer Success without first delivering employee success. In 2019 they will need to focus on offering professional development opportunities and creating career paths for their CSMs, or risk losing them to other companies where there are more opportunities for progression and growth.”
Companies will need to support CSMs’ career goals by investing in professional development programs and making development part of the team culture. By providing learning opportunities and supporting CSMs in their career journeys, they can retain rockstar team members and continue to deliver positive customer outcomes.
Customer Success in 2019
We’ve covered quite a few changes and trends we expect to see for Customer Success in the coming year, but there are many more.
What’s your prediction for where Customer Success is going in 2019?
Let us know in the comments below...