The world stood shaken by a once-in-a-lifetime event. However, the hurt and turmoil gave way to a new vision for the business leaders of the world: that customer success can, after all this chaos, be a driving force for their accelerated growth.

Why? Well as I’ve said before: a basic 5% increase in retention rates can drive up profits by 25% to 95%. And I know that from our clients. Because we took this time to help them focus on CS as the main driver for growth.

And so we set out to find: what will be the most exciting customer success trends in 2021?

1. Customer Success People Will Be in High Demand

It’s no secret that customer success is a relatively fresh approach to customer relationships. But I will wager to say it’s now at the forefront of many businesses. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that focusing on the success of customers is a winning approach for all parties. It’s a no-brainer.

A world-changing event-year has already made business leaders stop and assess their situation. Even if only from a logistical standpoint. After a pandemic year, they’ll realize that one of the few areas that generate future-proof growth is customer success (CS).

So here are some fundamental ways businesses will adapt:

  • Create CS departments where there are none
  • Hire more CS people where the team is small
  • Fund the growth of their CS department

CS is becoming a new growth engine, particularly for SaaS companies. This will lead to higher demand for experienced CS professionals.

2. Automations Will Become a Lot Smarter

Personalization has been the talk of the town since forever. Yet rarely has it been so prescient and vital. Last year, businesses were beginning to use automation to scale their customer success efforts.

This year, it’s time to reevaluate the automation processes to personalize it even further. Good customer success software already has that option. The decision to use it rests in the hands of every CSM. And the smart ones will say “Yes, please!”

Here’s how CSMs can personalize their automation process moving forward:

  • Use first names often: if you have your customer’s first name, call it out. There’s no reason not to and that extra touch will make them feel welcome
  • Go with better tools: more complex tools, software, and features allow for better task automation, custom alerts for your CS team.
  • Send custom automations: tailor the automation systems to tell you when you need to step in based on user activity or even lack of activity (when they’re on the brink of churning.

3. The Need for the Human Element Will Skyrocket

No year may have been worse for chatbots than 2020. When the world as we know it changes, customer needs also change. As such, self-service options have been found lacking this year.

A growing trend is the increasing number of unusual support queries. The need for humans on the other end is a direct consequence. Customer success managers have been caught off guard because few of the usual ways of quantifying success have remained the same.

Customer success interactions can be made more human, and here are some trends we’re seeing:

  • Reevaluate your automation processes and change everything that isn’t relevant anymore
  • Provide human support if you do not do so already or highlight this to customers when you can. It’s become a differentiator.
  • Add questions showing you care throughout the process: “how have you been?”, “how’s everyone there?”, “are you handling things?”
  • Analyze customer data streams and identify new patterns that only show up in 2020 and proactively engage with anything new

4. CX and UX Will Become Make-or-Break Factors

It used to be that CX and UX were severe obstacles during a customer’s journey. But now, if you’ve got bad CX or UX, the ease with which customers can simply move their business to someone else is increasing. Consequently, a growing trend in customer success is to constantly use customer data to improve CX and UX, no matter your niche.

Some are now professing the growth of AR as a result of the pandemic. It technically makes sense – people have gotten used to doing most things online, and AR apps for many B2C companies are a logical step.

Customers can use their smartphones and bring products to life from the safety of their own home to increase buying confidence. In-store QR codes can also be placed next to products so customers can obtain more information while minimizing human contact.
Jon Cheney, CEO & Co-founder, Seek

However, VR and AR have been called game-changers before and we’re yet to see the world fundamentally changing as a result. It’s a great idea, but CSMs need to do a better job of communicating the value to the customer.

According to The Big Book of Churn, most churn happens before customers understand the value of a product. Good CX and UX are vital in creating that “a-ha moment” preventing customers from churning.

5. Some Systems Will Have to Be Reworked from the Ground Up

It’s fair to say some systems have been under a lot of strain in 2020. Some have passed the test. Some have failed. And some have adapted.

Within the attributions of a CSM is to secure a productive relationship with the customer. Sounds easy enough, but think about that in relation to a SaaS tool failing due to too much traffic or a SaaS tool becoming completely obsolete. A July report said that 3/10 SaaS businesses were “decimated” by COVID. Another 3/10 were “impacted.”

Think of how many SaaS tools exist specifically for travel agencies. How are those doing today? Probably not amazing. In these cases and others, the trends show the customer success process is being reworked along with the entire business approach.

6. Proactive Engagement Will Start to Be Normal

Proactivity in customer success has been a rapidly growing trend for many years, but 2021 might be the year we’ll finally see adoption going up on a larger scale. Think about it: how many companies you’ve done business with over the past year have reached out to you proactively? How many of those were non-automated emails?

It’s a buzzword. “Let’s be proactive” is something many business leaders like to say and hear. But it’s the CSM’s task to make that a reality. Now more than ever.

7. Investment in Good CS Software Will Boom

Because there’s such high demand for customer success specialists, investment in good CS software will also go up. CSMs and business leaders across almost every industry will be looking to create a consistent CS strategy that takes into account the state of the world moving into 2021.

As such, CS departments will require SaaS tools that allow them to:

  • Have a complete, 360 view of customers and their journey
  • Adequately identify growth and upsell possibilities
  • Define new custom metrics that can track customer health in this new landscape
  • Create more complex and personalized automations
  • Scale the efforts of the team without hiring new people
  • Save time spent on various tasks that can easily be automated

This 2021, customer success is probably going to be the ‘next big thing’ in all business industries. This is why finding the means to gather and analyze accurate customer data will become a crucial part of every industries’ business strategy, and one of the best ways to do that is by employing the power of technology to help us formulate different strategies that will allow us to provide our consumers with an exceptional and personalized customer experience.
Seb Hall Founder & CEO, Cloud Employee

8. Interest in the ROI of CS Activities and CSMs Will Grow

With all-around costs going up and revenue going down or holding still, many companies will look to analyze the ROI values of different departments. And the customer success department will be among them.

CSMs will need a solid way of showcasing their work. A great CS software can help you there as well. By using the strengths of tools like our own, you’re able to determine some clear efficiency metrics to help you:

  • Customer retention. A simple metric compiled by looking at your churn rate and customer retention cost. With a CS department, it’s likely to go up.
  • Cross-selling opportunities. Simply look at the number of new services or features a customer’s added.
  • Lead generation. Attribution can be tricky, but after adequately setting up lead generation goals, it’s important to look at how many leads were brought in or assisted by CSMs.
  • Brand advocacy. Customer success teams have the potential of turning customers into loyal brand advocates that will actively promote your product and business.

For more insights on measuring customer success ROI, visit the Custify blog and read my two-parter piece on the topic.

9. Every Department Will Integrate More CS Goals and Statistics

Customer success isn’t only the job of the CSM or the CS department. It’s a jigsaw puzzle that involves moving pieces from many other teams. CS is sometimes called a state of mind because you have to be actively involved in your customer’s growth to be successful.

In other words, you aim to bring value to a customer’s business in any way you can – even if that involves people from other teams. Here are the most important parts of your business that need to keep CS top of mind.

  • The sales team
  • The customer support team
  • The marketing team
  • The leadership team

The CSM’s job will now also involve making sure these teams have CS stats on their dashboard, and that they understand their role in improving the success of their customers.

Leveraging the Power of Customer Data Streams in a New Era

The big idea after a challenging year like 2020 is to use the new data streams to serve the customer success process and optimize it for a new world.

It’s a new year with new challenges with more competition than ever. And even if the changes to the business landscape aren’t cut in stone yet, we know it’s going to be radically different when we come out the other side. Every CSM needs the right tools to handle that.

It’s the CSM’s responsibility to garner this data into actionable insights that enable them to maintain positive customer relationships that are reassuring, personable, and efficient. That’s the biggest customer success trend for 2021… and probably every year from now on.