From the Experts: 3 Trends Impacting the Role of Customer Success

Customer success as a standalone role or department is still a relatively new concept in the SaaS industry. It’s come a long way in the last five years, but we are only just getting started.

In the previous From The Experts post, we asked SaaS leaders how they’ll be investing customer success resources in 2019. This time we’ll be exploring trends impacting the role of customer success.

We asked industry experts Debra Squyres, Charlie Colquhoun, and Dave Jackson the same question: What’s one of the most significant trends impacting customer success teams today?

Here’s what they had to say.

Debra Squyres, the Vice President of Customer Success at Beamery, sees the importance of the right mix between product and service. “I’m seeing more Customer Success teams focused on designing and delivering the right combination of enablement, consulting and services, and frequent platform optimization/re-optimization.”

Creating the right mix of redesign, enablement, and change management

She notes that “by design, the goal of SaaS is that the customer drives utilization, becomes a product expert, and is “self-sufficient.”  Many SaaS providers have taken a hands-off approach to customers, minimizing services, support and interaction.” As ideal as a “self-sufficient” user sounds, Debra recognizes that that isn’t the case.

“In reality, end users and even power users are busy, have conflicting demands and priorities, and need help maximizing the use of their tools. They won’t be successful without help.” In response, she’s noted “a healthy amount of focus on change management. Software is not a silver bullet, solving all problems and delivering ROI upon launch.  Achieving success requires the right balance of business process optimization and redesign, enablement and best practice guidance, and the change management strategies that will ensure the human aspect of software deployment is an enabler, and not an impediment, to success.”

Charlie Colquhoun, the Founder + Principal at SimplyCX Inc also believes that the product itself can’t be left to create a self-sufficient user. “Companies can’t get by just designing products or services anymore. They now have to adopt company-wide “design thinking,” in terms of how they want their customers (and employees) to feel about their end-to-end brand relationship.”

Customer journey mapping as a guiding force

The major customer success trend that Charlie sees impacting the role this year is customer journey mapping. “I think one of the most significant trends impacting customer success teams today is growing awareness for Journey Mapping and its importance in Customer Lifecycle Optimization.“

He shared that “Journey mapping is a collaborative endeavor that breaks down internal silos, brings teams together with a shared outside-in view, and uncovers customer pain-points or “moments of delight” insights, otherwise unseen. The distance to customers is reduced, by putting employees in their customer’s shoes to build a customer-centric culture.“

Dave Jackson, CEO of TheCustomer.Co, also recognizes the importance of customer journey mapping. However, he sees a need for a product-led Customer Success program that has scalable CS built into the app.

Integrating the customer success process into the product

“Great sales organizations sell the outcome your product delivers. Product-led CS makes the product the primary vehicle for delivering what you sell by building the success delivery process into the product.” Dave adds that “this process has five components: discovery, benchmarking goals, success planning, advice and guidance, and a success dashboard.”

By building a pathway to success into the product, Dave feels it “ensures the company can scale CS profitability. Customers benefit through the focus on achieving their goals and minimizing the continuous interruptions in their work. CSMs benefit from enriched jobs as the removal of repetitive, simple interventions frees them up to work on higher order problems with customers.”

Being able to inject customer success into product development comes from a deep understanding of the customer. This understanding, Charlie Colquhoun believes, will come from technology.

Using tech to understand customer the “why”

Here at UserIQ, we believe in the power of data-driven insights, and Charlie agrees. “Customer Success teams are fortunate to have emerging technologies, making it easier to collect data and analyze trends. However, seasoned customer success professionals know that the most important thing you can do in business is to understand the “why” versus the “ what” of the data. Having the context of the customer’s state-of-mind, and resulting behavior plotted along their journey with you creates more meaningful customer success measures.”

If all of the expert responses to the question “what’s one of the most significant trends impacting customer success teams today?” had to be condensed to a single word, it would be integration. Customer Success professionals across the industry recognize the need to make Customer Success a company- and product-wide effort that uses all available tools and resources to paint a complete picture.

Are there any Customer Success trends you would add to this list?

Want to learn more about the role of Customer Success? Check out our list of 9 Books Every Customer Success manager Should Read.

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