The Future’s So Bright, We Gotta Wear Shades: Customer Success in 2022

December 28, 2021

Marley Wagner

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

What a year, what a year. After 2020, we all needed a bit of a reset in 2021. Who knew Customer Success would make such an impact and grow so much these past 12 months? As we cross the finish line into another new year, CS is poised to skyrocket even further as the industry matures and more businesses harness the benefits of Customer Success.

I asked our team to weigh in on what they predict for the future of Customer Success in 2022. We’ve got some pretty exciting trends to look forward to in the coming months. So, I’ve put together a little New Year’s Eve countdown of all the exciting things we see on the horizon.

Countdown of our top 10 predictions for Customer Success in 2022

10… Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs enhance CX

Currently, Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs are either underutilized or being developed independently from Customer Success. But VoC is critical for improving the customer experience (CX). In 2022, we expect more CS organizations to get involved with VoC and utilize this customer feedback method as a key lever for transforming CX.

“Customer Experience Programs (or VoC programs) are an integral and complementary practice to any well-oiled, mature CS organization,” explains Sheik Ayube, Vice President of Business Development at ESG. “After all, recent studies have found that at the end of 2020, Customer Experience overtook price and product as the key brand differentiator.”

9… Interdepartmental collaboration is a focal point for CS leaders

One of the superpowers of Customer Success teams is their ability to amplify the efforts of other departments like Sales, Marketing, Product, and Support. CS does what it does best when it can develop strong partnerships with other teams, weaving its capabilities into the fabric of the whole organization. We predict that CS will continue to break through departmental silos and work cross-functionally to move business forward in 2022.

8… Customer Success and Education unite

Speaking of collaborative partnerships, CS and Education are poised to revolutionize how customers consume training and education programs to improve product adoption and reduce churn.

According to Lisa Crews, Vice President of Customer Education Delivery at ESG, “Customer Success and Education have the same goals – to create loyalty within a customer or partner base. Building a clear partnership between the two programs will boost training effectiveness for customers and partners. By working together, these two teams can increase access to critical information on feature functionality and support product adoption efforts resulting in more opportunities for continued growth.”

7… AI and machine learning join the CS tech stack

Ayube says, “I predict the rise of AI and machine learning in the CS tech stack next year. This kind of customer intelligence at scale will lead to deeper insights, more meaningful relationships, and better risk mitigation while improving opportunity identification.”

In other words, hot new AI and machine learning tools will help capture customer insights and data intelligence like never before. The CS industry has only begun exploring the potential of AI-enhanced solutions to do things like optimize processes, mine truckloads of customer data, and monitor and enhance the customer journey. Customer Success will identify new possibilities in this fledgling technology, and CS teams will be able to experiment with new strategies as a result. We’re excited to see what intrepid CS leaders discover in this area in the year ahead.

6… Companies invest more in employee satisfaction and growth

“Combining the new normal after COVID lockdowns in 2020 with notions of The Great Resignation in 2021 will make it increasingly important to focus on employee satisfaction in 2022,” says Colby Bock, Director of Customer Success Delivery at ESG. We’ve always said that cultivating a happy and thriving CS team is one of the best ways to ensure that your customers will succeed. Well, if there was ever a time to step up your employee satisfaction game, it’s this coming year. We expect many CS leaders already know this and have big plans for investing more in their best and brightest.

Crews agrees. “An employer investing in an employee, new or old, sends a very specific message to that person. It tells them that they are a valued member of the team with a future at the company. Employees want to grow, both personally and professionally, and offering them educational opportunities is a perfect way to give them what they need and show them that their hard work is appreciated.”

5… Partner Customer Success programs hit their stride

Bock predicts, “The light will shine on the benefits of creating Partner Customer Success programs. These programs offer resellers and channel partners incentives to formalize Customer Success plays with their customers.” Already on the rise, Partner Success programs will be big in 2022. The past few years have seen many legacy hardware businesses move to XaaS subscription models and grow their Customer Success capabilities. The next logical step is extending your CS programs and best practices to your partner communities.

4… The C-suite recognizes that rising revenue

Customer Success organizations that want a seat at the big kids’ table have been working hard to embrace revenue targets and demonstrate their influence on the company’s success. Now that we have the C-suite’s attention, I expect more Customer Success teams will get the recognition they deserve in the coming year. CS’s influence within the organization is already trending up. The 2021 Customer Success Leadership Study found that over half of CS organizations report directly to the CEO, and 60% of CS teams have a VP or above at the top of their org chart. 75% of survey respondents told us their CS leader has a seat at the executive table and can create a budget. I predict more progress to come in 2022!

3… Digital Customer Success matures

Mo Gorman, Director of Digital Customer Success at ESG, is excited about the advancing digital capabilities of CS. “After the rapid emergence of a digital-led Customer Success model this year,” she says, “I’m eager to see how this practice will evolve in 2022. We spent the last year defining Digital Customer Success and defending its position as more than ‘just’ tech touch. I think Digital CS will mature in 2022 and establish itself as an effective way to scale organizations. I’ll be keeping my eye on self-service trends, customer community popularity, and the maturity of the CS tech stack, as I think these are the areas in which Digital CS can create the most value for companies and our customers.”

2… Customer Success Operations evolves into CS Centers of Excellence

This year, we asked the question, “Is a Customer Success Center of Excellence Right for Your Organization?” Next year, we expect for many of you, your answer will be a big, fat, “Yes!” CS CoEs are an excellent way to boost your CS operations and scale the effectiveness of your organization as you grow. Bock puts it best, “Customer Success teams need experts behind the curtain, organizing customer information systems, centralizing data, streamlining reporting, and building iterative processes. These resources, and a good strategy to employ them, will drive better collaboration across the company and rapidly improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of your Customer Success organization.”

1… Customer Success universalizes across XaaS business

Over the past decade, Customer Success has grown from being a competitive discriminator for early adopters into a baseline business requirement. Customers across the spectrum expect a better experience, and they will leave for greener pastures if they don’t get it. We predict that Customer Success firmly establishes itself as the norm for XaaS businesses in the new year.

Our CEO, Michael Harnum, explains, “2022 will see a big step towards ubiquity in Customer Success practices. Said differently, today’s business customers expect their subscriptions to have a proactive and informed Customer Success motion behind it. Companies that meet the continuously rising expectations of their customers will surge at an accelerated pace compared to companies who fail to build a comprehensive CS practice touching each and every customer. Absence of a comprehensive CS practice will be the exception.”

If I were to distill all of our predictions down into one thought, it’s this: the future is bright for Customer Success in 2022. Are you as excited as we are to see our incredible industry reach new heights?

Happy New Year!