“Customer success” (CS) has always been an essential ingredient for a software as a service (SaaS) business to thrive. In our current era of digital transformation through the pandemic, we may have found the silver lining of 2020 where most SaaS companies have re-focused on adoption metrics to create successful customers. This is a move away from the lagging churn metrics where the damage has already been done and no one knew about it! The importance of customer success measurement has been a movement over the past 10 years, compounded with the recent Vista purchase of Gainsight. We’ve seen the industry emerge from the shadows of sales and customer support to the proactive outcomes in adoption that are true indicators of success.

My prediction for 2021 is that CS will transition to what I call “Customer Success Intelligence” (CSI). CSI means you can understand the reasons that actually drive customer behavior from every single customer interaction. Natural language processing (NLP) and emotion-based analytics derived from every siloed customer interaction will enable the modern CS team to make AI-driven decisions with information they have never had before. In 2021 we’ll see progressive teams seek ways to incorporate CSI into every part of their daily interactions.

Here are my predictions for the shift from Customer Success to Customer Success Intelligence in 2021:

  1. Empathy-based intelligence will become a real thing in 2021. “Emotional Analytics employs predictive models and AI/ML to analyze human movements, word choices, voice tones, and facial expressions” according to insidebigdata.com. Before you, as a customer, talk to sales, customer success or support, they’ll be able to download a brief with observations about you, how to work with you, and what words or phrases that you respond to in order to get a satisfactory result, based on previous interactions.
  2. Natural Language Processing (NLP) will turn your siloed customer data into emotional insights that you can use to create the story of your customers. Think about all of that data that you find from emails, support tickets, chatbots, web chats and all of the interactions on the digital floor of your organization sitting idle. This siloed interaction data and the insights it contains about your customer base is priceless.
  3. Digital Twins for customer success will be an important next step in the data economy and we’ll see the beginnings with Customer Success and Support according to Forbes.com. You’ll be able to take the digital imprint of your top performers in every customer journey stage such as onboarding, escalations, expansions, renewals and more and replicate them for an incredibly high performing team.
  4. Hyper Automation will drive disruption through true AI modeling of processes with Digital Twins. People won’t be replaced, but augmentation of their jobs will make it seem like some people have superhuman capabilities in decision making as “Digital Me” makes an upswing on the Gartner Hype Cycle in 2021.
  5. AI will digitize the nuances of how a person feels about you and, more importantly, how you should act towards them. Machine learning will not only learn from your own experiences with a customer, but from other conversations others in your organization have had with them as well. People will save time using Customer Success Intelligence by knowing how to work with people and what motivated them to get where they are today.
  6. AI-driven decision making will change the way your CSM team works with customers and give people who utilize this new superpower an incredible advantage. According to HBR, AI-driven workflows reduce the unmanageable volumes of data down to digestible summaries for human consumption. In 2019 you spent 2 days offsite in a sales QBR discussing customer strategies. In 2020 you spent a whole day on zoom. Next year, strategies will be recommended to you from your Customer Success Intelligence system on how to work with key customer champions that were thoughtfully put together based on the conversations and interactions with them over the past 6 months.
  7. Disregard lagging success indicators like NPS and renewal rate. 2021 will bring meaningful out-quarter predictions that matter and not just old customer success metrics where the damage has already been done! We’re starting to see predictive measures emerge such as customer loyalty and their motivation to use your product which are a new breed of true indicators of an upcoming expansion or renewal.
  8. Moving from sentiment to commitment as a health indicator will be more accurate than ever before. Sentiment on an NPS survey or support ticket doesn’t give sticky insights to health as it is situational. Commitment (or lack of) from your champion, executive sponsor and power users to move forward with adoption is the new way to look at customers.
  9. Product and Customer Success teams will unite over deep learning of the customer through data. Not just usage data, but real empathy intelligence on how the customer feels about you from conversations with them and what next steps to understand them through their emotional intelligence.
  10. Forgot your action items from your last Zoom meeting? In 2021 your AI assistant will not only capture those but put them into your CRM for action!
  11. Customer Success Intelligence bridging the gap between CS and Sales. CSI will become a secret weapon for revenue growth and not just churn prevention as more and more SaaS companies adopt Product Led Growth strategies and look to differentiate through a better overall experience at every stage of the customer journey.

Customer Success will become more critical than ever before in 2021. Chief Customer Officers (CCO), CEO and CROs using intelligence with data will reign over brute force techniques using lagging indicators that commandeer more people and more meetings to try and re-write history. Old school technologies like rules engines, trackers, support systems are effective only on the expected and reactive customer path. These technologies have no concept of deep learning cycles and predictive time-series analysis on what the customer will do next.

We’ll also see more of the smarter, AI-driven conversations with customers, giving your CSM team digital super powers of insight and empathy to drive adoption, renewal and expansion in their customer bases.

Bryan Plaster is an award winning Customer Success executive, and also an author, speaker, enthusiast and practitioner for the past 10 years. He has founded and grown customer success teams for subscription software at both startups and public companies such as Informatica, Talend, and PTC. Bryan is currently the co-founder of CompleteCSM, a thought provoking SaaS company which combines CSM + AI to give customer teams Digital Superpowers to achieve fantastic results through Empathy Intelligence and Emotional Analytics and can be reached at bplaster@completecsm.ai.

Reposted from Medium https://bryanplaster.medium.com/customer-intelligence-will-drive-customer-success-in-2021-84bd1455ea8d