Customer success is an ever-evolving business strategy that is at the mercy of one thing: whether or not your customers get the most value from your product. In other words, are they successful? In line with this overarching ethos, it’s fair to say CS is a proactive, outcomes-based function. If a customer doesn’t derive product value, they’re not likely to stick around.
A Customer Success Manager (CSM) therefore needs to always be several steps ahead of the customer, and pre-empt their user behavior with a strategy that’s at once driven by empathy for the customers’ goals, as it is rooted in customer data analyses. If you’re not keeping one eye on the future, you could really drop the ball and lose that customer.
What customer success trends can we expect in 2023?
At the risk of sounding overly saccharine, there are few things in life more refreshing than the possibilities filled by the promise of a new start, and the turn of a new year offers this very reset.
Whether you’re welcoming the opportunity for professional development with an educational course, or simply leaping at the chance to activate your new and exciting customer success strategies, there’s much to celebrate and take comfort with at a start of a new year.
But like anything in its infancy, you can never quite predict how it’ll play out. While a new year offers a wealth of potential, it can also be a maelstrom of uncertainty, which is why any business professional worth a dime should be savvy in risk management.
Because let’s face it, there are a lot of moving parts to driving value for your customers, and are often way beyond the average CSM’s immediate control.
So while you’re planning for your (well-deserved, no doubt!) 2023 success stories, it might be prudent to have an eye on trends and predictions for the coming 12 months, to help elevate your 2023 customer success strategy to the next level.
So to ensure your team and organization don’t get caught out with unforeseen predicaments, or to leverage your existing 2023 plans to the max, have a read of the following pieces of sage advice from some of the best and brightest working in customer success what they predict will trend in 2023.
In this article, we're going to look at the following big customer success predictions:
- Emphasis on renewals and retention
- Rise of digital-led practices
- Tighter budgets
- Heightened emphasis on value
- Prioritize engagement
- Broader responsibilities for the CSM
- Greater employability
- Customer success will continue as a growth driver
- Customer success will get refined
- Companies will hone in on customer centricity
1. Emphasis on renewals and retention
A common prediction among our success experts is that 2023 will bring a laser focus on maintaining subscriptions of current accounts (customer retention) and ensuring these accounts renew their subscriptions when the time comes.
Here’s what our CS leaders had to say. 👇
Ben Childers, VP of Global Client Success at Engaging Networks:
"Organizations will be looking to their CS team to increase their net renewal rates as new business prospects are shaky at best. Every sector is different, but if we are entering into a period of slow growth, keeping clients and growing those where you can will be key to success in 2022."
Parker Moore, Head of Customer Success at Vitally:
"I think net revenue retention will be one of the primary business metrics entire organizations look at, which puts CS in the spotlight."
These suggestions seem astute when taking into consideration the current economic climate; the world is at once recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with escalating inflation rates, all the while grappling with the ramifications of the Russo-Ukrainian war.
2. Rise of digital-led practices
Like any field, there are concerns that digital-led practices are at odds with human-led practices, with the impending sense that the former will usurp the careers of the latter. Customer success has always been a delicate balance in its relationship between technology and traditional human customer relationship management.
But in these two predictions for 2023, we have two CS practitioners who cull these fears and embrace the practicality of digital-led customer success. 👇
Sam Channells, Customer Success Manager at Criteria Corp:
"I think that we will see a lot more digital-led CS practices becoming more mainstream in 2023. Leaning into this is going to support your CS function having significantly more time to achieve adoption, value attainment, and contract growth."
For Melanie Lawn, Chief Customer Officer at Forecast, the move towards AI is something customers themselves will seek too:
"Customers may look for more self-service type options to reduce spending and keep costs to a minimum."
Monica Perez, Head of Customer Success at Notion:
"Digital and scaled customer success will be the name of the game! CS leaders will begin to structure their organizations and segments around how to deliver high-quality digital-led, human-engagement CS models."
3. Tighter budgets
With economic uncertainty and the prospect of a recession looming on the horizon, many companies are starting to tighten the old purse strings.
When phrases like ‘down-sizing’ and ‘budget cuts’ crop up in work conversations, it, understandably, creates an air of panic and pessimism. However, Mahesh Motiramani, Director of Customer Success at Dataiku, views this differently:
"In the worsening macroeconomic environment, I expect there will be a dialing down of CS budgets which will force (in a good way, I hope) businesses to accelerate to scaled CS models with a fair balance of high-touch, low-touch and tech-touch.
"I’d also expect some companies who are able to demonstrate value realization through their CS programs to move towards monetization of their CS offerings through the selling of ‘success plans’ or elevated ‘support tiers’, which is a great and margin accretive way to grow the ARR."
4. Heightened emphasis on value
But what can customer success departments do to ensure they’re doing their bit? Put a greater emphasis on providing customer value.
Proving the value of your product is the name of the CS game. If you’re not doing this, you do so at the expense of your customer base.
When asked what their number one customer success prediction would be, this is what our interviewees had to say. 👇
Srikrishnan Ganesan, Co-Founder & CEO at Rocketlane:
"2023 is going to be about a stronger value orientation for CSMs. Both the scaled programs and high-touch initiatives will start focusing on starting from the monetary value rather than feature adoption conversations or relationships."
Mike Lee, Director of Customer Success at PublicInput:
"With the direction of the economy at the end of 2022, the reliance on successful CS organizations will escalate quickly.
"Across the board, sales are slumping; however, customers are generally not cutting subscriptions on much-needed platforms. The more new sales continue to slow, the more aggressive salespeople will be toward poaching customers from competitors.
"This means the ability to continuously show value to customers and improve their lives, the less chance a competitor will be able to take a customer from you."
Renee Rooney, Head of Customer Success at LiteracyPlanet:
"With the economy struggling internationally currently, I believe more focus on understanding what value means to customers is going to be paramount. I think CS will become more important than ever because of this, and searching for new ways to connect with customers will become important as well."
Shawn Stinson, Director of Customer Success at GUIDEcx:
"There won’t be a more important function in 2023 than customer success.
"With a potential economic recession looming, companies are already looking for ways to cut costs. The CSMs who are helping their customers run their operations more efficiently and help their customers realize the value they are receiving will be the all-stars in 2023."
5. Prioritize engagement
A winning formula to help customers find value in your product is to measure your customers’ engagement. Product engagement measures how your customers interact with your product, product stickiness, and the frequency they interact with your brand.
According to Dhia Hayouni, Senior Customer Success Manager & Team Lead at Hivebrite, companies are going to be placing engagement on a pedestal to ensure customers continue to receive that value:
"As already seen in 2022, the hiring market is as competitive and top-tier customer success professionals will continue to be a hot commodity.
"The foremost priority will be proactive engagement as customers are more and more in the driver’s seat, it is wise for businesses to commence and integrate customer-centric philosophy across every sector. You have to nurture the customer’s ambitions, modify your delivery accordingly, and proactively improve your brand value."
6. Broader responsibilities for the CSM
One big prediction we’re hearing from some of the world’s leading CS practitioners is that 2023 will provide a greater number of responsibilities for CS teams.
Whether this is due to the precariousness of the global economy, or simply a result of the year-on-year incremental growth of the customer success function, it’s clear from the following hypotheses that CS’ duties will expand beyond its current remit. 👇
Todd Aronoff, Global Customer Success Management, Strategic Partners at Stripe:
"I anticipate that more companies will shift renewal and upsell motions from sales teams into the remit of customer success."
Mark Higginson, Chief Customer Officer at Roster:
"I believe 2023 will be a tough economic year. When companies tighten their belts, more is expected from non-sales roles.
"For better or worse, CSMs will be tagged for additional, and broader responsibilities. The types of CSMs you will want are those that can handle negotiations, tech support, implementation projects, and more.
"Ideally, specialization begins to form in a growing CSM group, but I believe in 2023, organizations will allocate more dollars to historically perceived growth positions like sales and top-of-funnel marketing motions."
Ayman Husain, Director of Customer Success at Microsoft:
"The traditional sales model of Account Executives and pre-sales roles will diminish further and a significant uptick of CS groups and headcount. The sales cycle will not be a cycle, it will be an ‘always on’ motion and that is handled by a CSM."
Dan Queiruga, Director of Customer Success at Zappi:
"Customer success is a key driver of growth within your organization. As a company matures, better processes are put in place, and tech is able to focus more on a customer’s experience. The CS role becomes a lot more thoughtful, proactive, and strategic. CSMs become trusted advisors to customers and can effortlessly upsell, cross-sell, or find opportunities for sales to expand."
7. Greater employability
It’s about time the customer success community stops referring to its own practice in terms of its infancy, or as “emerging”; customer success has made a name for itself as a business strategy, becoming a staple in many organizations that will only amplify ten-fold over the next few years.
As companies clock on to CS’ profitability, more hires will be made in the name of outcome success and value acquisition.
According to Jenna Chau, Head of Customer Success at Invelo:
"I think that the role of CSM is going to be more sought after by employers and employees alike. It’s a highly skilled position that creates a massive amount of success for companies, with a stable and profitable career path."
Whether your company is hiring for customer success, or perhaps you’re searching for your next CS role, you might find what you’re looking for on our #jobs board in the Customer Success Collective Slack channel.
8. Customer success will continue as a growth driver
Over the past decade, we’ve seen customer success go from strength to strength. There has been a danger of CS being viewed internally as a ‘nice-to-have’ function, but companies are finally appreciating the value of customer success and recognizing it as a revenue driver.
Here’s what our panel of experts had to say on what 2023 will bring for CS. 👇
Justine Lamb, Customer Success Manager at WorkJam:
"I imagine the focus on customer success will continue to grow. I expect there will be a continued collaboration with sales to identify gaps for revenue growth, along with additional tools becoming available to assist the CS team in better supporting its customers."
Amy Long, Head Of Customer Experience at Retain.ai:
"Our roles in informing the customer experience will continue to grow, informing product enhancements and improvements as the market tightens."
Firaas Rashid, CEO and Founder at Hook:
"Customer success teams are going to be in the spotlight in 2023 more than ever before. CS teams need to be able to prove their impact on revenue and growth by using data and showing leadership that CS is a revenue function, not just a nice-to-have."
9. Customer success will get refined
A lot of what we do at CSC is to clarify and define what customer success is based on the myriad of interpretations from its leaders across the globe.
And there are a lot of interpretations.
Here’s what Sylvia Yin, Co-Founder and VP of Customer Success at Omnilytics, predicts for 2023:
"Customer success as a function will be even more ubiquitous in 2023 than in 2022, as it’s no longer negotiable to dedicate resources to ensure your customers are successful with your solutions. In Southeast Asia, where I’m based, I’m already seeing this extending beyond the software industries as the discipline attracts the interest of other industry practitioners.
"With that, it would be more crucial than ever to refine the definition of what customer success is so as not to create confusion. At the current moment, what a customer success team does is highly contextual.
"To tackle this, I’m in favor of Rav Dhaliwal’s proposal that customer success at the heart is an acceleration function. It’s the customer success job to create the ‘conditions for new revenue and business value faster, by bringing [insert contextual skills/expertise] to existing customers’."
10. Companies will hone in on customer centricity
If you had to pinpoint the drive behind customer success, providing maximum value for customers has to be number one. Customers are at the forefront of every decision a CSM makes. Some CS experts are expecting this ingrained ethos to be the savior of organizations in the predicted economic downturn of 2023.
Here’s what they had to say. 👇
Ashvin Vaidyanathan, VP of Customer Success & Insights at LinkedIn:
"Economic downturns are great opportunities for CS teams to shine so the best CS leaders will use the moment of crisis to accelerate customer centricity within their companies. Some tactical things that leaders will do:
"1. Invest in more scaled and 1:many assets.
"2. Invest in running A/B tests to prove the ROI of CS as a function. For example, customers with CSMs tend to get value faster than similar-sized customers who only rely on 1:many campaigns.
"3. Invest in improving data and insights infrastructure so you can get more scale during and after the downturn."
Brittany Yandura, Director of Customer Success at Fieldguide:
"I can say what my hopes are for CS in 2023. I hope that:
"1. Organizations value and prioritize their CS teams and how they empower organizations to not just survive but also thrive.
"2. Some of the ‘noise’ in the CS space quiets down and the voices that are offering helpful, tactical advice are amplified.
"I do hope that 2023 will be a year that widens the gap between true customer-centric organizations and those that are not.
"I think customer-centricity will make or break organizations during more difficult economic cycles."
Let’s wrap up
It’s clear that there are some genuinely thrilling prospects for the customer success function in 2023.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the global economy’s stability – something nearly all our CS experts have addressed – there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. While companies will be enforcing tighter budgets and the emphasis on new sales will reduce, there’ll be a greater need than ever for customer success teams to prove maximum product value to customers.
It seems to us that 2023 will most definitely be the year for customer success to prove itself as the integral, revenue-driving business strategy we know it to be.
If you’ve loved digesting these awesome insights, then you’re in luck. CSC’s 23 in 2023 report is full to the brim with world-leading hot takes that’ll revolutionize your customer success strategy for 2023.