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The Future of Customer Success: 5 SaaS Leaders Share their Predictions

The Future of Customer Success: 5 SaaS Leaders Share their Predictions
Photo by Drew Beamer

Shifts are happening all the time in the way Customer Success teams measure their efforts. Greater access to data through new technology has given CS leaders more ways to measure the success, happiness, product usage, value, (and the list goes on!) of the customer. And shifts in business focus have made customer-centricity requisite for today’s growing organizations.

But what will the future look like for Customer Success? In the final part of our 3-part series on Customer Success Metrics, we asked five CS experts to share what they see as emerging trends in CS and what they believe are the factors driving these changes.

Kevin Scheper, VP of Customer Success at Drift:

Customer Success is already shifting from art to science and from responsiveness to advocacy. In the not too distant future, we'll see even more profound investments in data science, operational reporting, and CS-specific platforms to support the customer lifecycle and to enable CSMs to objectively prioritize and run plays to improve the health of their books of business. Becoming an advocate requires partnership and ideally, aligned incentives. If a vendor and a customer win or lose (financially) together, then a vendor's actions and advice take on a whole new level of authenticity. That kind of arrangement will ensure both parties drive at the same (and most important) outcome - the customer's business results.

Joceyln Brown, SVP Customers and Revenue at Allocadia:

I think the availability of more interaction data, both inside of products but also with your organization, will drive innovation in measurement. The better you are able to connect any and all interactions with your company and product, the more complete a picture you will get. This also brings a more cross-functional view to the practice of Customer Success since customers will interact with your company how they choose and those touchpoints could be in a wide variety of departments. It’s just getting more interesting the better we get at instrumenting. At the end of the day, keeping customers and growing them will trump everything else for me in terms of the value a Customer Success strategy brings to a company.

Dione Hedgpeth, Chief Customer Officer at Sumo Logic:

CS leadership needs to measure both adoption and revenue KPIs. But currently, many CSMs today are measured solely on adoption KPIs versus revenue. Both are important but I believe that the purest way to measure the impact of CS is through revenue, so I think you’ll start to see a shift towards more CSM compensation tied directly to renewal or expansion revenue. That way activity turns into dollars. The overarching theme is that the person who knows the customer best is in the best position to impact renewal. When sales is primarily measured on expansion and new logo, you need one person who wakes up every day and cares about retaining the customer.

Holly Tiessen, SVP of Customer Value at Axonify:

Customer Success has been a heavy lift for the CSM and for the customer. I'd like to see SaaS companies decreasing the "heavy lift" on both sides to help improve customer time-to-value, CSM productivity, and both CS and SaaS company scalability.

Jesse Goldman, VP of Customer Success at Sprout Social:

I believe a big theme for the future of Customer Success will be ‘real connection at scale’. This means humanizing the way organizations view and engage with all of their customers. Success at scale is an area of focus that is still in its early stages of development and there are many benefits to the business of a successful scale approach. I see the next wave being an evolution in scale approach that extends beyond the typical impersonal 'tech-touch' and the standard automated or one-to-many journey experience. These approaches can often reduce customers to numbers or miss the mark in being too strictly deterministic in the journeys they drive at the expense of customer value and experience. I think ‘connection at scale’ starts with the evolution of an organization's ability to personalize experiences and capture insight about sentiment and value on demand, so they can act in a more focused and purposeful way to engage customers.

This could look like evolving the way we aggregate data and report across the increasing number of engagement channels, from email and community, to chat and social. Or evolving our approach to measuring value - how it's defined and how to improve visibility. It could be evolving our approach to measuring sentiment and quality of engagement - keeping a pulse on our customers, driving actionable insights - at scale. Or evolving how these insights influence behaviour and measurement across the organization, like using the data to help drive a customer-first mindset or to inform product development and enhancement.

Success in these areas could support journeys for every customer regardless of their level of CSM touch and in some respects elevate the CSM role even further. With the idea of deeper connection in mind, I could see some level of convergence across scale and higher touch engagement modes which could further elevate the position of Customer Success in the organization, and its impact on the business.

What are your predictions for the future of Customer Success? What technology, customer needs, or organizational shifts do you think will be driving these changes in the coming years? Join the discussion on LinkedIn now!

Check out the other interviews in this 3-part series:

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