Last year, the team at ESG made a few predictions about 2022 and how the Customer Success industry would evolve in the coming year. Needless to say, no one could have predicted the wild ride the year turned out to be, but we got a few things right. According to the 2022 Customer Success Leadership Study, 78.5% of CS teams now report directly to the C-suite. 16.6% report to the Chief Revenue Officer – a great indicator that executives are recognizing Customer Success as a critical revenue driver for the business. At the same time, we expected digitalization to blossom and tech stacks to strengthen when, unfortunately, the opposite occurred. CS infrastructure remains underfunded, and organizations are still making do with second-hand technologies inherited from other departments. Less than half of CS organizations have access to the tools they need to deliver actionable insights and increase business efficiency. On the bright side, Customer Success Operations is expanding, with 59.5% of organizations dedicating a role to CS Ops.
With all this in mind, I thought about what 2023 will bring, and I asked my colleagues for their thoughts as well. I found that while we are expecting some bumps in the road ahead, we also know that Customer Success is a practice built on the foundation of change. We may be in the midst of a period of economic volatility, but I believe the CS industry can weather it by quickening the pace of our evolution alongside our customers’ needs.
Our top 5 predictions for Customer Success in 2023
1. Digitalization – ready or not, here it comes
In 2023, I think we’ll see an increased pace of digitalization in the business world, and it will impact Customer Success organizations in significant ways. Many will struggle. The pandemic accelerated digitalization initiatives and pushed businesses to leap ahead seven to ten years, but we shouldn’t forget the valuable lessons we learned. During the economic disruption of 2022, businesses are relearning that data is a precious resource. Coupled with new technologies, data can be a force multiplier if organizations put effective strategies into place and properly plan its use.
We will see evidence of this acceleration through two specific developments:
Support organizations will make great strides in using machine learning and AI to improve the speed with which they diagnose and accurately respond to customer issues. They will use those experiences to enhance their ability to create personas that help them anticipate customer issues and get ahead of potentially negative experiential impact.
The Chief Data Officer (CDO) will become a more commonplace executive role and will be increasingly found around the CEO executive team table. This kind of organizational shift will give companies the opportunity to pursue more cohesive and comprehensive data strategies.
2. More pressure to perform
Because of this assertive shift in the direction of digital, Customer Success will find itself pressed and under increased scrutiny. I believe CS will be forced to move faster to improve productivity and efficiencies along with other organizations. The accompanying environment of measurement and speed will raise the bar of expectations and require an up-leveling of skills and capabilities for CS professionals. Ten years ago, some of us predicted that the day was coming when Customer Success would finally move from art to science. 2023 is when we will see that movement become more apparent.
ESG’s CEO, Michael Harnum, agrees that Customer Success will be under more pressure to achieve results. “2023 will be a year when Customer Success is forged in fire as businesses endure increasing financial pressure. This will yield two results: CS becoming much more practical and much less theoretical and clarity for CS organizations and leaders who are paying attention in terms of charter, impact, investment, resource allocation, etc.”
3. A struggle to shatter silos
The 2022 Customer Success Leadership Study found that inter-departmental collaboration is trending downward. As we know, silos are bad for customer experience, and they are drivers of inefficiency across the whole business. “In 2023, more companies will realize that operational efficiency is a team sport,” says Sheik Ayube, Vice President of Business Development at ESG. “Customer Success has moved the needle over the years, but silos are blocking greater profits and greater customer and employee experiences. Companies will realize that the greatest friction points for customers are also the greatest contributors to margin erosion. Although I think ‘the great realization’ will occur next year, I also predict most companies will do nothing about it. Fixing it will require strong top-down alignment, political maneuvering, and change management – all competencies many companies have yet to develop.”
4. Customer Success will need to drive efficiencies in order to scale
Speaking of operational efficiency, 2023 will be the year of doing more with less, according to Marley Wagner, Vice President of Marketing and Digital Customer Success at ESG. “The need for scale is stronger than ever. That means that Digital CS (music to my ears!), pooled CSM models, and more collaboration with Support to reach all your customers (not just that top tier). And please, CS gods, let it be the year that we all stop debating whether CS should own revenue or not. The answer is unequivocally, YES.”
Colby Bock, Director of Customer Success Program Delivery at ESG, sees scaling in the future too. “I predict the 2023 phrase working to get off the ground within the CS community will be ‘Scaled Customer Success.’ Scaled Customer Success in the sense of creating customer communities, driving self-service automation, perfecting large-scale web sharing, and hopefully, creating company/customer kumbaya. As companies consider whether this should be part of their 2023 CS roadmap, I’d recommend understanding the effort that will go into building this into a sustainable practice and working to find out how success can be measured.”
5. Don’t forget about Customer Success Operations
Despite a bit of a slowdown in 2022, we’re still seeing significant progress in the evolution of CS Ops. The role is growing and we foresee even more amplification of operational capabilities in the coming year. Bock explains, “Another trend coming to fruition in 2023; after a big push in 2022 for companies to realize the importance of Customer Success Operations roles, I believe CS Ops will finally get their shot to strut their stuff. For those forging their way into these new roles, focus on quick wins for CSMs with their customers out of the gate, and then building the amazing dashboards and data insights, not the other way around.”
We look forward to seeing how our predictions shake out in 2023!