2021 Customer Success Leadership Study Results Reveal Resilience and Growing Influence

November 8, 2021

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy, Customer Success Tools

It’s here! The 2021 Customer Success Leadership Study is out! I don’t know about you, but I love data. Numbers are the best. Especially when they are telling a story about how Customer Success is booming. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but that’s what we’re seeing in the second year of producing our annual study surveying the issues and trends affecting the CS industry. Together with our partners, ChurnZero and Higher Logic, we’ve collected the responses of over 600 Customer Success professionals and compiled them into our report so that we can bring awareness, understanding, and support to the growing community of CS trailblazers.

Without further ado – here’s a quick recap of the 2021 Customer Success Leadership Study!

What you can expect from this report

We began collecting our Customer Success leadership data in 2020 while the world was in the middle of the pandemic, and we’re not out of the woods yet. We believe that these circumstances make it all the more crucial to gather intelligence and a greater understanding of the state of the Customer Success industry as we maneuver through this rapidly shifting environment. We started this initiative to investigate both the broader trends influencing CS over time and the smaller changes CS leaders are making to face the issues of the day. What we found in that inaugural dataset is that CS is as necessary as ever. More so, even, as businesses take on new challenges and refocus efforts on customer satisfaction and retention. As Customer Success enthusiasts, we think the evolution of CS is intertwined with the future of business. This year’s report will build on the foundation we began last year and supports the notion that the Customer Success community will withstand a tough business climate and, ultimately, come out as drivers of innovation for years to come.

Who owns what, when, and how?

TSIA’s The State of Customer Success: 2021 recognized the growth of the expansion charter within Customer Success. More CS teams are smartly taking on direct revenue responsibilities, with 76% saying that retention is part of their charter and 47% saying expansion is part of their charter in their report. Our findings support this trend as well. 55% of our respondents said that Customer Success owns the renewal, a 5-point increase from last year.

Another pleasant surprise for our Customer Success experts was the growth in the role of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) and the number of CS organizations that are led by VPs and above. CCOs now lead 13% of CS teams versus 10% last year. 75% of survey respondents told us that their CS leader has a seat at the executive table and the ability to create a budget. As these roles continue to expand, it’s likely that CS’s ties to strategic growth will too.

Beware of silos!

Unfortunately, we did note a slight drop in interdepartmental collaboration this year. Last year, when we asked which departments you work with regularly to help meet your objectives, Sales and Product topped the list at 89% and 88%, respectively. This year, there was a small downtick to 86% for both Product and Sales. These numbers are still pretty good, and we are thrilled that CS groups are working cross-functionally to accomplish their goals. But we know we can do better, especially when it comes to working with Finance. Only 48% of CS professionals said they regularly work with Finance, down 3 points from last year’s already too low score.

We know breaking through silos can be challenging. The rise in remote working undoubtedly has not aided these efforts, but CS leaders are working to improve these relationships. When we asked respondents what they wish they and their team could do better, many replied that improving internal communications and cross-team collaboration are among their goals. We’re going to watch these numbers closely in the coming years to gauge the industry’s progress. If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that when Customer Success sets its mind on something, it gets done.

The biggest thing we wanted to explore going into this year’s study was how the Customer Success community has been faring in light of these past two years. We’re delighted to see that the pioneering spirit that defines CS is alive and well. Customer Success leaders are still pushing boundaries and advancing their organizations while strengthening the business at large. We’re excited to share these results with you! If you’re interested in learning more about these trends and what they might mean for your 2022 strategy, we’re here to help.

Download the complete report >>