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12 Customer Success predictions and trends for 2023
The time-honored practice of trying to predict what’s to come in the year ahead never fails to get our minds buzzing with possibilities, new ideas, and excitement for the future.
However, it’s tough to predict the future alone—so we asked Customer Success leaders across the industry to share their top trends for 2023. A few common themes emerged.
First, digital CS will become a way of life due to flat or reduced headcount. Second, the power of AI in customer experience will become more evident and accessible—an innovation we at ChurnZero have jumped on with the introduction of Customer Success AI. Third, organizations will leave no room for inefficiencies in their resolve to reduce costs. Fourth, CS enablement will turn into a top priority as leaders look to strengthen their existing talent in lieu of adding to it.
What other changes are coming down the pike for Customer Success? Here are 12 predictions and trends your team can take advantage of now to make a big impact this year.
1. 2023 will be a breakout year for digital Customer Success, customer intelligence, and AI-fueled outcomes at SaaS companies.
Joel Passen, co-founder, Sturdy
AI is real and it works. As more mundane tasks are automated by machine learning and AI, people have increasingly more time to devote to developing relationships with customers. With its ability to comb through big data sets like email faster and more accurately than humans, AI will help more product teams maintain product-market fit. AI can also simplify data unification by providing more streamlined, intelligent processing for the people, teams and systems that need accurate insights to build better businesses.
Ed Powers, principal consultant, Service Excellence Partners
2023 will be a big year gaining market traction in new customer intelligence platforms. They collect text and transcripts from multiple channels (Email, Slack, Zoom, etc.), apply natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to mine signals hiding in plain sight.
We humans reveal subconscious, emotional markers in the spoken, written, and even body language we use. Customer sentiment, intention, and level of trust can be surfaced and incorporated into more predictive customer health scores while providing valuable insights and feedback to CSMs and account managers. These technologies are at an early stage of development but maturing quickly, and the sky’s the limit on what it can do.
Anthony D’Auria, industry principal, Valuize
2022 has been an interesting year for Customer Success and 2023 is set to be just as exciting! As leaders remain cautious about the economy, organizations will continue to focus on retaining and expanding existing customers through prescribing and quantifying value. As such, leaders must engage more of their customers at scale through digital programs that support low-touch segments with a more focused approach than ever before.
The post-sales customer journey will also become more intelligent as organizations accelerate their use of cutting-edge data and technologies. For example, things like conversational intelligence and AI will continue to emerge as key data sources for predicting churn, understanding sentiment, and enabling customer-facing teams to be more predictive and proactive.
2. Company-wide operational efficiency initiatives will force CS leaders to take a hard look at their teams, tools, and customer journeys.
Kristen Hayer, founder & CEO, The Success League
As we go into 2023, CS teams are facing a recession (renewals will be tougher), inflation (price increases are coming if they aren’t already here), and organizations that are looking to operate as efficiently as possible.
In 2023, CS leaders will need to take a hard look at their teams, tools, and customer journeys. Do they have top performers in place who are operating efficiently and driving value? Are all their tools being utilized, or are there some that could be eliminated? Do the customer journeys for various segments deliver the right value and level of engagement, or are some of them overkill? How could the customer journey be delivered more efficiently, while still being effective?
I believe that the leaders who weather this economic downturn will be well positioned for executive roles in the second half of the year, so while this is a big challenge, it is also a huge opportunity!
Kia Puhm, founder and CEO, DesiredPath
Driving customer outcomes and doing it efficiently will be the dominant theme for 2023 and more important than ever with the threat of a looming recession. Customers scrutinizing expenditures will not have the luxury of sticking around with vendors where value is not returned multiple fold. Budget tightening will drive vendors to focus on increased scale to drive similar growth rates with the limited resources available to them.
Customer Success and a customer-centric framework are the key elements in this equation. Businesses that understand the patterns of their most successful customers and align themselves accordingly, are poised to efficiently drive repeated Customer Success in the most cost effective manner while mitigating churn risk.
3. The democratization of customer data will promote cross-departmental collaboration and digital-first Customer Success models.
Peter Armaly, CEO, ESG
We’re seeing an acceleration in fruitful conversations happening within companies between Customer Success organizations that need specific data and other peer organizations that own that data. Historically, access to data has been a thorny challenge and a significant inhibitor to the mission of Customer Success to more accurately deliver on the promise and potential of customer-centricity at scale.
We at ESG are encouraged to see what seems to be a thaw in the freeze because it tells us a number of things.
- Other organizations are finding religion around the need to collaborate and coordinate with Customer Success and by doing that, both the customers and the company will benefit.
- Companies are gradually finding consensus around the need to create stronger governance around data access and data hygiene (this is still an emerging development in our opinion but definitely something to keep an optimistic eye on).
- It signals to us a growing maturity of understanding of Customer Success leaders for the need to define the right data strategies before their organizations can deliver desired outcomes for all customers.
2023 should be the year during which we will see this concentration of energy around the democratization of data drive the development of more widespread digital-first Customer Success models.
4. CX and CS finally get recognized as a team sport.
Adrian Brady-Cesana, founder and chief experience officer, CXChronicles
Companies that build VOC (voice of customer) task forces with SMEs across their business will be best set up for success in terms of understanding key areas in the customer journey that require improvements or updates.
Some of the most forward-thinking companies on planet earth are already assembling, managing, and employing VOC task forces or customer collectives to ensure that the drum beat and heartbeat of the customer is constantly being measured, managed and optimized on the regular!
This is amazing news for CX/CS’ers as this continues to further validate and cement our roles in the future workplace and it should help add a whole new class of CX/CS leaders within the C-suite!
5. Enablement steps to the forefront of rising Customer Success specializations.
Emilia D’Anzica, founder & managing partner, Growth Molecules
Educating customers in-product and with actionable content is important as customers become more sophisticated. Equally important is enabling customer success managers with the right data and communication skills so they can have more intelligent conversations that lead to growth for both the client and your company. Enabling continuous insights and impact on the client is what a customer success manager’s superpower is all about it. Firefighting is no longer an option. In 2023, building people, processes, and systems to scale will put your company at the front of your competition.
Stephanie Neale, CEO, Blind Zebra
There will be an increased focused on Customer Success teams’ professional development. We believe we will see more teams hiring a CS enablement manager and more budget allocated towards training & development. It’s about time CS gets the same attention as sales.
Additionally, as sales becomes increasingly automated and AI advances, CS will become the first real human touch point in the customer journey.
6.Organizations tap into customer feedback for free market research.
Anita Toth, Chief Churn Crusher
As a recession looms and more companies are tightening their budgets, remember that your customers are a goldmine of information for you. They’ll tell you precisely how to help them get more value from your products and services. You just need to ask.
Reach out to one to two customers a week for a 20- to 30-minute interview. Ask the same questions to all the customers you interview. Then compare the answers. You’ll be excited when you find those gold nuggets that will help you serve your customers better during these tough times and retain them longer.
7. Customer Success operations will continue to grow.
Aaron Thompson, chief revenue officer, SuccessHACKER
Job roles will continue to be more and more nuanced to create economies of scale and to take operational tasks off the CSMs’ plates. Scalability in the CS function will become even more critical in what’s expected to be a down economy. AI will also start playing a larger role, in part due to the need for scale, ops, and more specific CSM roles.
8. Agility will be a determining factor in the success of CS teams.
Jeff Heckler, director of customer success solutions, MarketSource
For 2023, the CS leaders who build their pooled and scaled teams and initiatives to be able to adapt quarterly to address the changing needs of their customers, company, and economy will provide the best service, value, and outcomes to all they serve.
Jason Whitehead, co-founder, Success Chain
In 2023, many SaaS companies will focus on navigating a potential economic slowdown. As a result, CS teams will analyze their customer base to identify likely churn risks and revenue loss due to economic changes. They will then look to pivot how they engage customers to prioritize retaining customers in the short term.
Additionally, many CS teams will face their own budget restrictions and thus will focus their efforts on scaling their CS reach and impact through technology, automation, online resources, and enabling customer self-service.
9. Tech-touch experience will become crucial for landing a Customer Success role.
Swati Garg, founder & CEO, Melo Associates
Customer Success hiring will grow, and the focus of Customer Success roles will be automation, digital, and a one-to-many approach to enable the customer. This will add a new “fundamental” skill in the Customer Success role as we see the growth of these roles from 2022 to 2023.
10. Post-sales functions will get a rebrand.
Corey Kossack, founder & CEO, Aspireship
I believe that all post-sales activities will subtly begin to rebrand to customer success roles in 2023. Customer Success is an attractive career path for professionals, but there aren’t enough jobs.
Conversely, there are a lot of customer support, onboarding and other post-sales roles available that could be rebranded with responsibilities augmented in order to fit into the way we think about customer success as a profession. I believe we’ll all see great benefit if this thinking is adopted by companies in 2023.
11. The role of chief customer officer moves into the limelight.
Rod Cherkas, CEO, HelloCCO
The chief customer officer role will become increasingly critical in 2023 as companies focus on retaining and expanding relationships with their existing customers. Results delivered this coming year by post-sale executives will cement the value of this position on the executive team. This means that CCOs and aspiring CCOs need to understand and master the skills to be successful in their increasingly visible and high-impact roles.
I will be introducing a book in January 2023 called “The Chief Customer Officer Playbook: 8 Strategies that Will Accelerate Your Career and Win You a Seat at the Executive Table” that provides an actionable roadmap for post-sale executives to deliver great results for their company while growing their career.
12. Customer Success forges closer ties to revenue and community.
Mikael Blaisdell, executive director, The Customer Success Association
There are two issues that I see becoming ever more important to the profession of Customer Success in 2023 and beyond. The first is deepening the necessary connection between Customer Success groups and strategically significant levels of company profitability. Linking CS and money began turning up in my research around 2016, and has quickly and consistently increased in the years since.
The second issue is the involvement of the Customer Success group in managing the company’s customerium, the community of customers. I’m hearing more and more CS people asking about online community technology, strategy and practices.
Ali Cudby, founder and CEO, Alignmint Growth Strategies
In a down economy, Customer Success will be recognized as a key growth engine for companies. As front-end sales get harder, retention, upsells and cross-sells will become even more crucially important. Customer Success teams will be the de facto customer partners who shepherd relationships and nurture the expansion needed to hit revenue targets.
Donna Weber, customer onboarding expert
In 2023, Customer Success and onboarding leaders will struggle to obtain the resources they need or to even retain their organizations. If Customer Success and onboarding leaders want a seat at the table, they need to be seen as an investment, not a cost, by the C-suite, the board, and with their buyers. It’s time to show the impact Customer Success and onboarding have on the business bottom line by proving the value in meaningful and measurable ways to both customers and the organization, in real dollars.
What other trends will shape Customer Success in 2023?
If you’re a Customer Success professional looking to make a career move in the new year, you can reduce the job search stress by understanding what today’s employers are looking for. Melo Associates, a Customer Success recruiting firm, breaks down the top emerging job market shifts and opportunities for Customer Success in our blog, “Five hiring trends for Customer Success professionals to know in 2023.”