Oct 6, 2023

Read Time 5 min

Three big takeaways from the BIG RYG 2023 keynotes


We just wrapped up another vibrant and jam-packed BIG RYG—the essential customer success leadership conference.

Earlier this week, hundreds of customer success professionals, from diverse locales and companies, all converged in Washington, D.C. to get inspired, learn something new, and expand their circle of collaborators and friends.

We might be biased, but the CS industry has some of the most uplifting, passionate, supportive, curious, smart, and driven people out there in SaaS today. When you bring together a large group that possesses that kind of positive and electric energy in one place, nothing short of magic—and a spirited debate—happens.

Over the course of two days, we made invaluable connections, talked about all things CS and SaaS, and got to peel back the curtain on the strategies, tactics, and challenges of today’s top CS organizations.

To get you up to speed on what you might have missed, here’s a quick highlight reel of takeaways from the BIG RYG keynote sessions.

1. Experiment with AI, but don’t get carried away

With generative AI becoming more and more accessible, Victor Riparbelli, co-founder and CEO of Synthesia, encourages CS teams to “take a day” to try out new tools. He suggests experimenting with the free or trial versions of systems like DALL-E and ChatGPT to understand their capabilities and limitations first-hand.

“Don’t spend two months of analysis on what you think it may or may not work for,” said Victor. “Be very experimental.”

In the same vein of keeping your use of AI practical, Victor also recommends that teams avoid getting carried away with hypothetical, futuristic use cases. “It’s cool to do fun and future-facing things with AI, but it’s also important to not get lost in that and actually look at [how] you can get value out of [AI] today,” said Victor.

Instead of focusing on the fanciful, pick a mundane real problem and see if AI can help. Even if the results are imperfect—which they probably will be—it’s worth the upfront effort if it saves you time or helps you solve a hard problem in the long run.

2. Walk in your customer’s shoes (and don’t tap AI to do this for you)

When Dave Salvant and Songe LaRon first founded Squire—the world’s leading platform for barbershops that’s valued at $750 million—they didn’t shy away from getting their hands dirty.

After spending months building their software, instead of taking it to market, they purchased their own barbershop to pilot the platform for a year.

As Dave said, it’s one thing for customers to explain their work to you. It’s another to actually do the job yourself.

That first-hand experience proved invaluable in creating a platform that felt like it was built for barbers by barbers. It helped them nail the small, nuanced details in their feature set that only someone who intimately knew the inner workings of the business would understand and appreciate.

When your insights are grounded in your lived experiences, it adds a level of authenticity and credibility to your work and expertise that can’t be faked. Customers sense this and trust you more for it. Seek out those opportunities to get direct experience whenever you can.

3. Customer success leaders are divided about AI’s future impact

This year, we hosted an Oxford-style debate in which the audience argues “for” or “against” the motion (a pre-determined statement) and plays a key role in determining the winner by a vote.

We polled the audience before the debate to establish initial support for or against the motion. We also polled the audience after the debate. The team that sways more people to their side is declared the winner.

The motion this year didn’t hold back, asserting that AI will replace most of your CS team by 2030.

Arguing for the motion were Kathy Isaac, vice president of customer success at Carbide, and Allastair Meffen, vice president of customer experience at Definitive Healthcare. Arguing against the motion were David Verhaag, chief customer officer at Arist, and Maranda Dziekonski, senior vice president of customer success at Datasembly.

We’ll have a recording of the debate available soon, but here’s the Cliffs Notes version to tide you over.

Kathy and Allastair stated that AI will bring major productivity gains that will allow companies to do more with fewer CSMs. Kathy cited Gartner research predicting that 40% of customer-facing roles will be augmented by AI by 2025, as well as McKinsey research showing AI-driven automation could lead to 50% productivity gains in CS teams by that same year. Allastair argued that advances in technology like this are often inevitable, giving examples like ride-hailing and social media. He warned that companies that don’t adopt AI risk falling behind competitors that do.

Maranda and David countered that customers value and crave human relationships and understanding, which AI cannot fully replace, especially when handling complex or sensitive issues. David highlighted that people attend conferences for human interaction, and customers want the same with their CSMs. He said AI may be able to guess customer needs, but it cannot fully understand them. Maranda argued that humans still significantly outperform AI in critical thinking as the tool is best at rules-based tasks. They argued the 2030 timeline is too aggressive given the limitations of today’s AI capabilities and the forthcoming regulatory barriers.

Both sides agreed AI will augment CS teams, but disagreed on whether it will outright replace most of them.

In the pre-debate polls, 44% of the audience voted for the motion (Kathy and Allastair), 41% voted against the motion (Maranda and David), and 15% voted undecided. After the debate, 43% of the audience voted for the motion (a 1% drop) and 51% voted against the motion (a 10% gain), and 6% voted undecided.

BIG RYG 2023 - AI debate results

More than half of the audience was unconvinced AI would replace most CS teams by 2030, deeming Maranda and David the debate’s winners.

 And that’s a wrap.

To close out, we’ll let the pictures do the talking. A massive thank you to all of our attendees for bringing their energy and insights to BIG RYG and making it one for the books.

ChurnZero BIG RYG 2023

ChurnZero BIG RYG 2023

ChurnZero BIG RYG 2023

ChurnZero BIG RYG 2023

ChurnZero BIG RYG 2023

Until next year!


Subscribe to the newsletter