Three Trends Influencing Customer Success in 2020

As you head into the new year, take some time to think about your customer relationships and how you can do a better job of delivering on your promises to them. Whether you’re trying to put a stop to high churn rates or already have a strong revenue retention program in place and are looking for growth opportunities, let’s look at three important trends influencing B2B customer success that you should be aware of as we move into 2020.

#1 – Customer data will become more detailed and accessible

In business, details are the difference between good and great. Right now, you’re probably collecting customer data and storing it digitally, probably in a customer relationship management (CRM) system. If you’re using these systems to their fullest extent, these insights are discussed with marketing and customer success teams to then define and refine the customer journey experience (CJX). Companies today compete on experience, and access to actionable data helps you deliver the best. In research, Bain & Co. found that while 80% of companies believed they offered their customers a “superior experience,” the reality was that only 8% of customers felt that way.

Data insights will help you go about fixing the massive gap in the customer experience you think you offer compared to what your customers actually encounter. The move from generalized marketing-based personas to more precise customer models with measured behaviors means you will be better equipped to address each customer’s unique needs. Customer success managers (CSMs) are natural consumers of this insight, using the information to anticipate customer needs and proactively provide ideas, advice, and cost savings.

Customer success will expand the fields of data collected, digging deeper into customer details to create a more personal experience. The data amassed from customers will be unique to each company, as it’s based on customer personas, interactions, and business goals. This insight will also form the data bedrock for journey mapping, allowing you to develop a comprehensive view of each customer touchpoint – both on and offline – and direct how your company should interact at each of those stages. The use of journey maps will increase in use throughout the industry. Why? Because they’re one of the most effective ways to identify, communicate, correct gaps or missteps, and uncover opportunities for experience improvement.

By collecting insights correlated with customer behaviors, customer success can also use the data to measure monthly and yearly recurring revenue. Time is money! Knowledge of timely financial projections and return on investment provides pivotal insight to re-strategize around any revenue shortages. Revenue is the only sustainable measure of your overall CJX, but “micro-portions” of your journey (such as adoption) can also have short and long-term effects, both positive and negative.

Refining further, behavior-led insights can be distilled into, or form a valuable part of, an effective method of customer health scoring. Health scoring (also known as a health check) is a system that informs B2B organizations how the customer is feeling and thinking throughout their journey. Scoring systems should include celebratory and critical metrics to give a holistic view of how you can retain a customer who may be considering leaving, as well as a customer who displays behavior consistent with a potential upsell opportunity. Knowing the right information to collect from customers is an important step in health scoring. Consider these metrics from Kilterly for your scoring system that will redefine “customer health” at your company:

  1. The overall usage of your product
  2. The growth of the account in terms of dollars or percentage of time
  3. Customer survey results
  4. How often customers contacted support (calls and/or tickets)

Single-supplier or highly-connected multi-vendor solutions already offer ways to consolidate resources that help B2B organizations gather, manage, and store customer information. Businesses now have marketing, sales, customer success, IT, and others accessing customer data. In one vendor example, Salesforce recently launched a new capability – Customer 360 Truth – that makes this possible. Having one centralized system with easy, remote access for multiple users that also connects with a host of specialty functions (i.e. data visualization or mapping) is driving development in the marketplace and better outcomes.

#2 – The blending of artificial and human intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is currently used to provide a more efficient experience for today’s customer who expects immediate responses, and CSMs will rely more and more on technology to meet these growing needs and act quickly. A.I. adoption will increase and continue to improve in digital and functional quality over time. While widespread adoption will result in a blend of technological and human interactions, there will continue to be a desire for people to assist with complex challenges or when cultural norms or business goals make it appropriate. This is part of the reason why the role of CSMs exist and why job growth for that role has exploded in recent years.

CSMs who are bold creative and strategic thinkers, empathetic, and possess other strong soft skills will complement the automation and project management tasks performed by A.I., but their responsibilities may shift as a result of A.I. taking over some tasks. Customer success teams will see increases in productivity and customer satisfaction while also reducing churn. Look for this trend to continue, with A.I. and humans teaming up to provide a seamless customer experience.

#3 – Customer-centric organizations will continue to grow

With the customer in the driver’s seat, companies would be wise to initiate and integrate a customer-centric philosophy across all departments in their organization. In a powerful example of this, Amazon makes a point to leave an empty chair at all meetings. That chair is meant to represent the customer, and this mindset has no doubt been a contributor to the company’s phenomenal success in recent years.

Without making a constant effort to identify growth opportunities or close gaps in your customer experience, you risk churn and subsequent loss of revenue. If you truly want to promote long-term growth, questions you should always ask yourself are, “How can I deliver more value and enhance the relationship?” and “How can I do it better than my competitors?” A prescriptive approach based on data analytics, combined with a deep human understanding of the customer is essential here. The answer to your questions could take the form of a well-timed upsell or cross-sell play, or proactively preventing your customer from running into an issue with the product and solving an issue before they are even aware. Whatever it is, there will always be a way you can do better. Use the resources at your disposal to ensure you find opportunities quickly and act appropriately.

As you plan for the year ahead, evolve your business to better meet customer needs and anticipate demands with the help of a premium customer success solution. ServiceSource is a global expert with more than 20 years of experience across the B2B customer journey experience, including inside sales, customer success, and revenue retention. Download our complimentary whitepaper, Navigating the B2B Customer Journey Experience, today for a different perspective that will help take your business to the next level in 2020.


David Lopes, Sr. Director, Design & Customer Innovation