Let’s talk about how 2023 and how it’s been for Customer Success.
For starters, not great.
January and February were rough. It seemed like every day I saw at least 2 or 3 “Open to Work” posts on LinkedIn. Companies were freezing their hiring, especially for CSM roles. With all this came more budget cuts, more hiring freezes, and uncertainty for those affected by layoffs.
Tech got hit hard with layoffs due to the bad economy and then in March, Silicon Valley Bank collapsed. I haven’t heard too much about how that’s affected layoffs within Tech yet but I’m sure there will be repercussions.
Layoffs this bad and banks collapsing haven’t happened since 2008. And, I think I’m correct on this, the job title “Customer Success Manager” wasn’t even a thing yet.
That means that this is probably the worst economy the Customer Success profession has faced, in its current form.
So now it’s April. How’s everything looking after a banner start to the year?
Well, as of the time I’m typing this, LinkedIn has added over 10,000 new US-based Customer Success Manager roles within the last few days. Indeed has over 2,000 open CSM roles open in the US and ZipRecruiter has over 80,000.
Now, if you have ever looked tirelessly for a CSM role (odds are if you’re reading this, you have at one point or another), you will know that a portion of these open roles are either already filled, not related to Customer Success at all (this has improved quite a bit recently), or just may not be the best fit for you. I get it.
But it definitely shows that Customer Success is on the rise again since companies are realizing that it’s not just a “nice to have” but a necessity.
The companies that didn’t learn in 2020, are learning it now.
So where do we go from here? What does the future hold for the Customer Success profession and for the companies that have or are currently implementing it? There’s lots of buzz and talk about the future of CS and I would like to echo what many are saying and add my own commentary and predictions.
Customer Success Managers will be trained to be more strategic
When I was interviewing for my first CSM role in 2018, the questions were pretty basic and surface-level regarding my client service experience. It’s a night and day difference from how CSM role interviews are now. While, yes, the role I was interviewing for was an entry-level role, I can say with certainty even the entry-level CSM roles have more detailed and strategic interview processes. This is based on my time speaking with and mentoring over 100 aspiring CSMs and helping them through their interview processes.
So with more rigid and mature job interviews, come more rigid expectations for CSMs. Seasoned and new.
Being more strategic means our client interactions are more than simply ensuring their satisfaction and facilitating upsells and renewals. It means our calls are consistently focused on scaling our customers and having in-depth discussions about the product they use to ensure they see the value. It means ensuring each of your clients has a designated champion that can help make their renewal a no-brainer. CSMs being more strategic means having meaningful relationships with sales, product, marketing, and other departments. This means our cross-department relationships are more than Slack messages when we need something. It means having a consistent line of collaboration facilitated by department heads in order to achieve the desired outcomes of the customers. Being strategic is ensuring that Customer Success not only has a seat at the executive table but that existing revenue is discussed just as much as sales and new revenue. Expansion revenue is not the future, it’s the present.
Woah. That’s a lot to take in, right? It’s the truth though, friend.
Just like executives can no longer escape the reality that Customer Success is a necessity, CSMs cannot escape the reality that more is expected of them to excel in their careers.
Customer Success will be a pioneer profession for AI
I’ll keep this short since I am nowhere close to being an expert on AI. My experience with it includes some use of ChatGPT and watching iRobot.
AI is going to change a lot of things including the day-to-day work of CSMs. Over the recent decade, CSMs have enjoyed having their ability to proactively manage their clients using platforms like Totango and Gainsight. Soon, AI will work with platforms like those and independently to allow Customer Success teams to get a full-scope, data-backed view of their books of business in real-time. They will know exactly who to reach out to, what to talk about, and what value to bring to every conversation based on the power of AI.
What exactly will this look like? I have some ideas but only time will tell. It will be exciting.
Make sure you’re following UpdateAI because they are doing some exciting things with AI in the Customer Success space.
The Chief Customer Officer will be seen as equal to the CEO
I’m not saying this is the end of the CEO title.
Think about it. What’s more important, customers or executives? If you’re reading this, then you know the right answer.
There wouldn’t be executives without customers.
So how does that change the way we see the CCO? In my opinion, a CEO is only as good as their satisfied customers. So why not have someone in your C-suite whose sole responsibility is overseeing the satisfaction of your customer base? As I said earlier, Customer Success will have a spot at the executive table in the future, meaning now. If not, you’re behind as a CEO.
If you’re a CEO or founder reading this and haven’t hired a CCO or VP of Customer Success with the intention of promoting them to CCO, consider doing so before the end of the year.
Jared Orr has worked the last 5 years for multiple software startups as a frontline Customer Success Manager in social media marketing, B2B, and managed services. In addition to writing blogs about his CSM experience, he is also an Enterprise Customer Success Manager for Totango.