Firstly- Happy New Year Churn Fighters! Let’s talk 2019 predictions.
No matter how deeply you gaze into the crystal ball wondering what this new year has in store for you or your business, the only thing you’ll know for sure is that despite your careful planning, some things will change.
But what if you could have a better idea of the changes 2019 has in store for Customer Success professionals? We were curious, so we asked industry thought leaders to take a moment to look forward and share their predictions. So, without further ado, here are twenty-three trends, best practices and predictions for the year ahead.
1.) “We’ll see more applications of AI in Customer Success, but these will mostly be behind-the-scenes. AI has been a buzzword for a while and many businesses jumped onto the bandwagon by integrating AI into the customer journey, but customers still want to deal with a human, particularly if they need advice or help with something complex that they cannot solve on their own (i.e. the stuff that Customer Success teams are really meant to do). As the chatbot craze subsides, I anticipate behind-the-scenes AI to become a major trend in 2019. Whether that’s AI-enabled analysis of customer data to help teams be proactive, in-house virtual assistants that are a resource to support teams as they work with customers or other operational applications, AI will play a larger role in this capacity next year.” – Julia Ahlfeldt, Customer Experience Advisor, Julia Ahlfeldt CX Consulting
2.) “Over the past 5 years, the majority of Customer Success groups worldwide have become directly involved with managing income streams and profitability to some degree for their companies. In 2019, not only will this trend increase, it will become much more mindful. The connection between Customer Success and increasing sustainable proven value for both customers and company is not something that can safely be assumed or taken for granted.” – Mikael Blaisdell, Executive Director, The Customer Success Association
3.) “One customer success trend I’m seeing is the need to develop more repeatable customer education programs. In the quest for finding scalable ways to help customers realize more value out of the software they buy, more and more software companies are turning to customer education. Education is scalable because it helps customers be more self-sufficient, and when customers are more self-sufficient, they need less support. But perhaps more importantly, when customers are more self-sufficient, they also are better equipped to know what is possible with your software and use it more often and use more of it. “– Bill Cushard, Director of Marketing, ServiceRocket
4.) “As the connectivity experience becomes more refined, customer expectations will rise in response, and create a demand for higher-quality user experience (UX) innovation. In 2019, Customer Success will rely on eliminating fragmentation and allowing people to access content and services seamlessly across all devices.” – Annie Dossey, Content Marketing Manager, Clearbridge
5.) “The biggest trend I see emerging in Europe, which started at the end of 2018 is Customer Success Plans becoming a staple asset of Customer Success teams. The distinguishing factors of CSPs (rather than Account Plans) are:
- Owned by the customer and collaborated on with the CSM
- Internally owned by the CSM, and collaborated on across teams
- Articulates clearly what the customer needs to do to onboard and adopt your service for success
- Begins in pre-sales to help ensure success factors are established during the sales process
- Enables Customer Success teams to become more knowledgeable about which of their success factors and interventions create the most adoption/usage/value for customers (meaning teams can adjust resources for maximal impact)
- Increases self-service for customers across all segments
- Demonstrates the value realized by the customer, so is a value input to QBR and renewal processes”
– Kate Forgione, CEO and Founder, Customer Success Network
6.) “In 2019 there will be an increase in subscription fatigue. When even your electric toothbrush is pushing you towards a subscription model, we can expect to see an increase in subscription fatigue. If we’re not at peak SaaS, we’re probably close to it. Customers will be tired of managing an overwhelming number of subscriptions, and as a result, Customer Success teams need to focus even more on customer engagement and demonstrating value. Customer apathy and disillusionment will be the hairiest churn monsters to beat in 2019.” – Brooke Goodbary, Customer Success Consultant, www.Brooke.land
7.) “As Customer Success teams shift to automating more processes, time previously spent on basic project and task management will become free. With this newly available time, CS teams will increasingly be focused on customer interactions that demand a human touch, where creative and strategic thinking is required. CS teams that are able to shift from a project management mindset to strategy management mindset will be able to differentiate themselves and reap the rewards of improved customer relationships and retention.” – Abby Hammer, VP of Products, ChurnZero
8.) “In 2019 CS teams will incorporate more automated touch points in their high-touch, human-driven CS programs. These will be personalized, but technology-based, and will help CSMs to focus on the areas where they can provide proactive, strategic value to their customers.” – Kristen Hayer, Founder & CEO, The Success League
9.) “More and more, customers are seeking out companies that share their values. They want to patronize companies that are doing something about the environment, hunger, poverty, even peace. Many big companies already understand that this is a powerful way to attract and RETAIN customers.” – Shel Horowitz, Transformpreneur and Founder, Going Beyond Sustainability
10.) “Our prediction for the industry over the next year is that more companies will embrace the motto “do less, more often” when it comes to collecting customer feedback. Increasingly, we can see that it is insufficient to run one or two large customer research studies a year – by the time the results come in they’re often out of date and they tend to raise more questions than they answer. I predict that in 2019 we’ll see companies adopt a more agile way of working with their customers by embracing more diverse research techniques and technologies.” – Rachel Kador, Head of Marketing, UserTribe
11.) “Companies are beginning to take notice that you can create a cult-like following if you take care of your customers and don’t treat customer support as a checkbox or a cost center. It’s long overdue that companies view customer support as an integral part of the product, brand and service.” – Anand Janefalkar, CEO and Founder, UJET
12.) “Based on customer demand for more insights and value, SaaS companies will continue to wrestle with and achieve a better balance between customer interactions that are deep, rich and human and those that are tech-based (automated, scalable). SaaS vendors that hire and train for empathy will see improvements not only in customer retention and revenue—but in fresh insights that drive innovation.” – Bob London, Founder and Chief Listener, Chief Listening Officers
13.) “AI will become more customer facing to improve Customer Success in 2019. We will see AI move out of the darkness and into the light for customers thanks to improved mobile experiences. I predict more companies will digitally transform their customer onboarding process to include AI in a customer-facing role. Bringing intelligent extraction into backend systems will enable digitally-savvy businesses to make communications on their apps more cognitive and more contextual. Chatbots, for example, use this technology to bring AI directly to customers by providing immediate feedback that crucially doesn’t appear to have come from a bot. Only AI can provide truly intuitive onboarding for new customers who expect a seamless digital experience.” – Anthony Macciola, Chief Innovation Officer, ABBYY
14.) “Consumer expectations are on the rise and one defining character has remained constant across the board – customers demand convenience. Fundamentally, the modern, digitally-savvy customer now expects an effortless service experience. More and more brands will start to drive revenue and sales over messaging, with tight payment integration for example of Apple Pay in Business Chat, and Google Pay in RBM.” – Joshua March, CEO, Conversocial
15.) “Wallstreet will pay attention to Customer Success. Recently, many successful public companies have talked about Customer Success in their earnings reports. As we head into a strong IPO market next year, a consistent topic with investors will be around predictable revenue generation through customer retention. Nearly every highly valued public SaaS company has net retention of 110 percent, 120 percent or more. As Customer Success continues to prove its value in driving sustainable business growth, Wallstreet will acknowledge it as a business imperative for success in today’s market.” – Nick Mehta, CEO, Gainsight
16.) “I believe companies will continue to organize their business around their customers to effectively drive customer revenue and future proof their business. By designing a framework that is intelligent, holistic and results-driven companies can understand the patterns of their most successful customers to create opportunities through the customer’s point of view and measure their progress to faster, smarter revenue growth.” – Kia Puhm, Founder and CEO, K!A CX Consulting
17.) “As the economy hiccups, the rubber will meet the road for many CS teams. Are your customers actually successful? Is your product actually a necessity? Or was it a nice-to-have that will get cut if the global economy slows a few points? I think the next year or two will be very telling for many organizations as to whether or not they were really, truly, adding value and making their customers successful.” – Michael Redbord, General Manager, Service Hub, HubSpot
18.) “This year I anticipate CSM enablement and professional development becoming a much higher priority for CS leaders. Processes and playbooks are only as good as the people following them. So, an investment in training should improve the overall consistency of execution, whilst also helping CSMs find more time for proactive, rather than reactive, tasks. And as a bonus, training will also provide CSMs with the language and tools with which to more effectively evangelize a customer outcome-focused mindset to the rest of the organization.” – James Scott, General Partner, SuccessHacker
19.) “Companies should also be thinking about how they access customer information at the point of contact. Most companies gather useful information about their customers but rarely make this information available to the support teams that help these customers. Giving customer service teams access to detailed customer information as soon as they’re put in contact will allow support staff to understand a customer’s needs before they even begin speaking with the customer, resulting in shorter calls and an overall more personalized customer experience.” – Jonas Stanford, Director of Customer Success at Unbounce
20.) “Customer Success previously remained a department rather than an organization-wide philosophy. Understanding that finance, new sales, and more all play a vital role in the Customer’s Success will be a focal point for many forward-thinking organizations in 2019.
Just as you reply on Amazon to know what type of products you need or want to make your life easier, customers are now relying more and more on their vendors and partners to guide them. Automation and usage insights will pivot from something that was typically viewed a something the Enterprise can only do well and make its way into the mainstream of the Mid-Market and SMB to ensure customers get the right communications at the right time during their lifecycle.” – Chase Tinkham, Customer Success Manager, ChurnZero
21.) “While many forward-looking companies already have the leader of Customer Success report directly to the CEO, it is not yet a sure thing. Many still report into a sales leader, a head of marketing or some other department. Such days are waning. The rise of the Chief Customer Officer is inevitable and that will make Customer Success the next great-C-Level department.” – You Mon Tsang, CEO & Founder, ChurnZero
22.) “As software companies continue to realize the value of Customer Success on their bottom line, there will be further investment in both people and technology. While bots continued to get a bad rap in 2018, the solutions available significantly improved. In 2019, you’ll see more companies use bots to streamline and automate their Customer Success as access improves and price decreases.” – Nick Vibert, Customer Success Officer, SmartrMail
23.) “With the rising costs of customer acquisition, companies will rely more heavily on their brand and operational excellence to grow margin and market share. In 2019, we will see more Customer Success teams take the lead w/ Product and Marketing teams to raise the bar here.” – Ellie Wu, Senior Director, Customer Success, SAP Concur
Thanks to all of our contributors! We hope you found some great takeaways from this 2019 Customer Success predictions roundup. Now let’s go out and fight churn in the new year!
Interested in what our predictions were for 2018, last year? Take a look back here.
Customer Success Around the Web
- The Beginner’s Guide to Building a Successful Customer Success Program – Discover how your business can optimize CS by learning how to create a Customer Success program.
- Preparing for a New Year – We all hate being unprepared. Here’s how to get your Customer Success ready for the new year.
- 3 Customer Success Takeaways from the 2018 SaaS Company Survey – Check out these CS highlights from David Skok’s annual private SaaS company survey.