Customer Success: Learnings from 2021 and What Lies Ahead in 2022

Key takeaways from and full recording of the immensely popular customer success webinar on learnings from 2021 and predictions for 2022.

[Webinar Key Takeaways] Customer Success: Learnings from 2021 and What Lies Ahead in 2022
[Webinar Key Takeaways] Customer Success: Learnings from 2021 and What Lies Ahead in 2022

“Customer success is about more than delivering service or support’.’ – Lincoln Murphy, Sixteen Ventures

Customer success has evolved with time, and 2021 has seen the world cope with COVID-19 and adapt with resilience and strength.

The webinar on ‘Customer Success: Learnings from 2021 and What Lies Ahead in 2022’ brought together an elite panel to shed light on customer success. With 500+ attendees, the webinar highlighted some key strategies, situations, and best practices for the customer success industry.

About the Panel

  • Prithwi Dasgupta: Founder and CEO, SmartKarrot (Host)
  • Irit Eizips: CEO, CSM Practice
  • Peter Armaly: Senior Director of Customer Success Strategy and Enablement, Oracle
  • Rick Adams: Founder and CEO, PracticalCSM
  • Sue Nabeth Moore: Co-founder, Success Chain

Here is the full webinar recording followed by a selection of key takeaways from the webinar.

Every speaker contributed valuable insights on Customer Success: Learnings from 2021 and what’s in store for 2022. Here are the top 10 key takeaways from the session.

Takeaway 1: Empowering the CS Function

The customer success function is relatively new in terms of its definition. Prithwi Dasgupta says, “The empowerment of the CS function itself, but also the investment and the expectations are going up across all processes.”

To this, Peter Armaly said, “They’re putting in place the right sort of mechanisms and actually treating it more as a business function, and what that requires is measurement. Measurement of progress and measurement against revenue expectations, which ups the bar for Customer Success.

[And essentially,] that’s executives telling customer success, ‘We’re going to invest in you, but we’re expecting results that you can prove empirically.’ There’s been investment in the last year towards putting in place the right sort of practice around processes and measurement of not just executing deliverables but actually how the performance of the CSM ties into the whole talent management system.”

Irit Eizips adds “In the first decade of the customer success movement, we were just trying to figure out what’s the strategy – the pareto exercise where you know you take the 20% of the customers that serve you 80% of your total revenues for the year.” Now, after Corona, when everything went digital, we’re seeing a trend where companies are seeking to serve everyone, including the long tail of customers.

Takeaway 2: AI in Customer Success

“We have a lot of AI enablement. New software companies in the AI space and that category are starting to emerge. You had to have a prediction analysis like this – this vision on your team to analyze your data and give you an algorithm that was hopefully correct for at least six months or a year out. If I’m not mistaken, SmartKarrot is going in the same direction to enable AI in customer success. My prediction is that we’re going to see it much more evolved in the next five years, not just 2022,” says Eizips.

Takeaway 3: Customer Success Adoption across the Company

“This is a cross-functional initiative to adopt customer success for our entire company. Through collaboration with the marketing team, we’re seeing more and more companies collaborate between customer success and marketing a lot better.

For advocacy, you can start managing it in a database, counting how many advocacy qualified leads they submitted of those, how many were qualified, and how many you know.

Between customer success and sales, I think the lines are becoming clearer around who owns the commercial responsibility. And even if it is sales, then there’s a better correlation around SQL, customer success qualified leads where customer success feeds leads and opportunities to the sales team around opportunities for upselling and cross-selling,” Eizips adds.

Takeaway 4: CS Association with Expansion

According to Sue Nabeth Moore, “There was even a report that was done last year by the TSIA which said that in fact companies with customer success has a charter which is now actually linked to expansion. If they were growing at an average of 10% before a customer success charter it was 47% last year so there’s that trend of increase in the association with expansion. As per a report by SAP where they said look, you know, thanks to customer success, the ROI of our investment is 380%.”

Takeaway 5: Resource and Skill in the Customer Success Community

A substantial amount of innovation is happening in the CS space. However, there’s a resource gap, and there’s a skill gap as well in a growing community and industry. Rick Adams says, “To get the CS act together in the COVID times, you need to be proactive.

COVID had a profound impact on customer success. It brought customer success into the C suite in a massive way, and it landed with a very large bang on the conference table, and it could not be ignored anymore. Despite the growing potential, there are limited resources and experienced personnel. Now the hiring process is limited to hiring people who started off in other careers and switched over to customer success.”

For 2022, Adams predicts that most professionals employed will be in the customer success space from the start. “They need to have more customer-facing skills like stakeholder management, time management, project management, change management, and team management,” he adds.

Takeaway 6: The Role of CSM

“You might want to look at the role of the CSM as one that needs to own certain deliverables, or you might want to look at breaking up that role into multiple skills,” says Dasgupta.

As per Armaly, “There is a consensus forming that the role of a CSM is very complicated. The larger the portfolio of products and services that they are required to support customers, the better technology needs to be leveraged so that it helps in a productive and scalable way. Accounts will be serviced in a proactive, predictable manner.”

Here is a demonstration made by Irit Eizips while predicting the hiring scenario in the CS field currently and what we can expect in the near future.

Demonstration of Predicting the hiring scenario in the CS field

Eizips adds, “In 2021-2022, companies are not only hiring for a different type of CSM depending on the segmentation and enable and model associated with that segment. But we’re also seeing you know the deviation of specialized roles within the company to allow them to scale.

The most sophisticated teams sort of have a grid for their skill sets, and you don’t need more than one or two people if you’re a medium-sized company. Specialized skills will know how to do upsell and cross-sell or are an expert in creating presentations for the mid-size and startups.”

Takeaway 7: Advice for Customer Success Practitioners

Considering the skill gap and potential of opportunities, Moore recommends them to join as many networking groups in as many communities as possible because there is a wealth of learning. “If there’s a meetup in the town that you’re at, join in or even join virtual meetups.

To really put yourself in the shoes of your customers, you need to understand your internal other functions with whom you’re going to be working with and collaborating with sales, the product team, the account management team, and support team,” she says.

Takeaway 8: Net Revenue Retention- The Golden KPI?

Adams opines, “Net revenue returns has been an amazing and valuable metric in 2021 and will continue to be so. NRR (Net Revenue Retention) is about how we increase the revenues, on average, with our customers this period, over the last period. Help the customer to attain value from whatever we’ve sold them, which I believe is our primary job, but to help them measure that value… My prediction for 2022 is that we’re going to go further and look at overall customer lifetime value.”

Eizips adds, “You can get to time to first value with professional services and implementation teams working on customer success methodology. Internally, teams put a lot of emphasis on tracking time to value.

First and foremost, you need to get better at tracking those milestones within the implementation phase, scoring the value that the customer has gotten at the end, making sure that they address change management, and best practices for product adoption, towards the end of the implementation.”

Takeaway 9: Challenges Expected in the CS Space

Moore says that perhaps companies are not equipped to do that internal transformation, whether they are bigger companies with 40 years of existence or are new. “It will take several years to do that, but at least you can start putting the foundations in this year to start the ball rolling,” she says.

Armaly feels the biggest challenge of 2022 is going to be friction because customer success is looking to be successful at establishing itself as a serious business function.

“It is going to raise uncomfortable questions for products, for sales, for services, for marketing on how everyone needs to kind of up their game. They need to work on the way they build their own processes, the way they collaborate,” he adds.

For Eizips, scalability is still a big issue for a lot of different teams. So investment and the right technology stack must be super powerful to actually meet customer data from multiple systems.

Takeaway 10: What’s in Store for 2022

2022 will have larger expectations of the function and the CS Community, and it’s time to actually stand up and deliver results, whether it is head of CS, an executive in the entire hierarchy, or whether it’s a CSM. Dasgupta says, “Everyone is going to be stretched because now that you have arrived at the table.”

Moore adds, “To really prove this value, you need to have better methods, perhaps in how we’re going to prove this value to the C suite and also internal customers. CS should be approached as a strategic company-wide initiative. Then this will have like a cascade effect on the way that that company is currently organized.”

Adams says, “Account management and customer success management are very closely aligned, and both seek to maximize the value that we can get out of a relationship with the customer.” However, Eizips adds that CS is a function that’s responsible for onboarding, making sure the product has been adopted, low churn issues, and creating expansion opportunities. Both share different roles in the customer journey.”

Parting Thoughts

Customer success as a space is experiencing a boom. One can make the most of it if we are prepared to face the situation proactively, enhance networking, join CS communities, and come up with the right tech stack.

The bottom line of the webinar is the CSMs, C-Suite executives, and other functions need to look at making customer success a core function. The customer must be kept in mind from the people, process, and technology standpoint.40

The right customer education with empathetic customer success managers will lead to better product adoption and retention. With these in mind, you will be more than prepared to ace 2022 and beyond with tested customer success best practices.

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