2020 has been a year filled with unique circumstances. While customer behavior and engagement preferences have already seen drastic changes in recent years, this year really upped the ante for CS teams around the globe.
So with 2020 (finally) drawing to a close, what changes will CS teams make based on the revelations this year has brought, and what are some other trends that will continue to move forward with momentum in the new year?
Let’s take a look at what we can expect of Customer Success as we head into 2021.
1. Centralizing customer data to make better customer-driven decisions
Data has always been used to drive overall business decisions, but in 2021 Customer Success will continue this trend and harness even more power from customer data.
At most companies, data is spread across different databases or teams, and it can be hard to make sense of it all. But as data takes a front row seat in 2021, CS teams will begin to centralize their customer data to truly make customer-driven decisions. We’re dubbing this a focus on “true engagement,” meaning a full 360° overview of ALL of your customers’ touch points – from community engagement to customer feedback.
By centralizing your customer data, you’ll be better able to drive value to customers. With a holistic understanding of the customer experience, you can develop targeted customer engagement strategies and deepen your relationship with your customers. Plus, the outcome of collecting product, behavioral, and customer data will lead to more predictive analytics and real-time feedback in, for example, MBRs.
2. The breakthrough of the customer education function and the one-to-many CSM
What do you do when both the number of customers, and their expectations increase but budgets decrease? Well, in 2021 CS leaders will turn to technology rather than headcount to scale their efforts. With technology leading the way, we can expect CS teams to develop sophisticated customer education programs and tech-touch (one-to-many) strategies to support customer growth.
When the world moved to remote in 2020, more people started to rely on information they could find online. Going forward, this means that CS teams have to shift their customer engagement strategy from a strictly passive approach like QBRs, to a customer self-service approach that allows for long term customer engagement, advocacy and ultimately – retention. Tying these activities to KPIs, and influencing those KPIs on a bigger scale, will become a skill in any customer success team.
3. Customer Success goes (and stays) remote
Offices echoed empty in 2020 as companies and teams across the globe transitioned to remote work. But in 2021, as CS teams have settled into the new normal, they’re ready to spark improvements, optimize processes, and pick up whatever may have fallen through the cracks during the transition. That means you can expect the same level – if not higher – output from a CSM.
But we’re not just talking about higher output. 2020 was also the year that your HQ became a global HQ. That means you can hire talent anywhere in the world rather than where your office is. This opens up countless opportunities to connect to the right people with the right experience, regardless of their location.
The new remote world also comes with a new set of challenges. CS has to continue to deliver results while working remotely and (often) asynchronously – without blocking work with too many Zoom meetings. Not being able to connect to customers in other ways than digitally will make this increasingly difficult, especially as customer numbers grow.
The solution? Purpose-built technology.
4. Technology will evolve beyond the traditional CS CRM as purpose-built software emerges
10 years ago when CS materialized as its own department, CSMs used every tool already available internally to store and track customer data. With solutions like Gainsight, Churnzero or Planhat, the use of a CRM became the mainstream tool for CS teams to save money, time and influence key metrics like retention and adoption.
In 2021, CS teams will have to focus more on not only headcount to scale, but also finding and utilizing the right CS tools. CS teams will no longer only be able to leverage tools like CS CRMs. They’ll now need true customer engagement solutions built for CS in order to be successful.
As the CS profession matures, it needs to be supported by technology that goes beyond the functionality of a traditional CS CRM – a technology that truly helps drive retention and maintain healthy customer relationships. That’s why, in 2021, a dedicated CS tech stack made up of purpose-built tools for Customer Success teams is what could truly make or break the customer experience.
5. Personalization will still be the key to success
The level of personalization you offer your customers can be a determining factor in their success. A personalized approach isn’t just wanted – it’s expected.
But with so many tools available, the challenge lies in creating a unified customer experience that delivers value. Nowadays CS teams communicate with customers in a digital space. Companies will likely need to increase their efforts of contacting customers in a digital way, but find a balance between automated messages and a personal one-to-one high-touch approach.
Personalization done right can create a better onboarding experience, quicker product adoption and increased retention, so no wonder CS leaders will want to focus their efforts on creating the right personalized experience in 2021.
6. CS takes a seat at the executive table (but only with proper business acumen)
With leading B2B SaaS companies adding more C-level positions, CS will have a voice and a vote in the most important strategic conversations. Just like sales and marketing have been doing for decades, CS leaders will need to build operating models for customer-centric growth.
In 2021, forecasts supported by predictive analytics will help tackle product adoption, behavior and churn, as CS leaders take a seat at the executive table to drive growth from the heart of the business – the customer base.
7. Customer metrics no longer owned “just” by CS
2020 really put the spotlight on the importance of retention. But retention doesn’t just boil down to the efforts of Customer Success. This past year, many companies were forced to adjust their strategies in order to meet customer goals, mainly to focus retention and prevent losing customers following the outbreak of Covid-19. This meant all hands on deck to help keep an eye on the effects of their deliverables on the customer.
In 2021, customer success metrics will influence every department. From sales and marketing to product and finance – every single team will focus on customer metrics to prevent further loss of customers.