Our Director of Engineering, Suprej Venkat, has been recognized as one of the “Top 10 Customer Success Professionals to Watch” in the Asia Pacific region by Success HACKER. The Customer Success Thought Leadership Awards celebrate individuals in the customer success field who have left an indelible mark through their innovative ideas, mentorship, and contributions. In light of this remarkable achievement, we had the privilege of conversing with him to gain insights into the influence and potential for growth within the customer success industry.
1. Anticipating Trends and Preparing for Success
Q: What trends and developments do you anticipate in the customer success industry over the next five years, and how can professionals in this field prepare for them?
A: Customer success is rapidly expanding as a sector. The current market size of the customer success industry stands at an estimated $1.2 billion, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20%. By 2030, it’s projected to reach around $10 billion. Like CRMs have become ubiquitous across industries, customer success software is on track to follow suit, potentially starting with SaaS companies and extending to other sectors. In the US, customer success jobs are among the fastest-growing job markets.
For professionals looking to excel in this field, it’s imperative to understand that “customer success” is not just a department but a mindset. It begins with developing a product that solves a specific need for a customer to showcasing marketing messages that relate to the problem that’s being solved. This has to be further backed up by the sales team, who echo what’s in the marketing messages. Finally, the Customer Success team has to help customers get the value promised proactively. The most important skill CSMs should possess is “Empathy”. A deep understanding of business problems is important, as the main goal for a CSM is to understand why someone has bought your product and how you can help your customer get value from the product.
2. Enhancing Customer Success with AI
Q: As a leading expert in customer success, what advice would you give to companies seeking to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance their customer success platforms and improve the customer experience?
A: AI thrives on data, and most contemporary customer success platforms already offer a wealth of data for Customer Success Managers (CSMs) to make informed decisions. When managing a substantial customer base, data helps CSMs spot trends and patterns that can predict potential churn, enabling them to act proactively. AI can leverage this vast amount of data to identify patterns and trends much better than CSMs can comprehend.
AI can unearth deep trends in how the product is used and which features the customers who have stuck around used the most. All this information can guide CSM’s to nudge customers not using specific features. Likewise, your best-performing customer data can be used to identify trends, and CSMs can be informed on which customers are most likely to upgrade. All based on past data!
3. Human Touch vs. Automation
Q: Do you believe there will ever be a point where customer success platforms, driven by AI and automation, could entirely replace human customer success teams, or will the human touch always be essential in this industry?
A: The necessity for human customer success teams varies based on the product space and customer segment a company deals with. For instance, products serving low-touch, high-volume customers might automate more customer success functions. However, businesses catering to high-touch, low-volume customers will invariably require a dedicated customer success team supported by robust tools. In any case, I don’t foresee a scenario where any tool can fully replace human customer success managers. Tools can certainly expedite customer success functions as companies grow.
4. Economic Climate and Customer Success
Q: How do you think the current economic climate, with its ups and downs, impacts the role and importance of customer success within organizations? Are there specific strategies that can help businesses weather economic slowdowns effectively?
A: In challenging economic times, customer success tools remain essential, much like painkillers are more critical than vitamins. These tools assist in retaining existing customers and increasing their lifetime value (CLV). During economic slowdowns, customer acquisition tends to slow down as companies tighten their budgets, making it even more crucial to have tools that aid in retaining existing customers.
5. Customer Success for Startups
Q: Customer success platforms have historically been associated with larger enterprises. Do you see a potential for these platforms to be adopted by startups and smaller businesses? How can startups make customer success practices work within their budget constraints?
A: It’s never too early for startups to invest in a customer success tool. While early-stage startups often concentrate on customer acquisition, I recommend also focussing on customer retention once a product has gained 100 customers and achieved product-market fit. Customer success tools are highly affordable, for example, Churn360 offers special plans to accommodate startups. These tools are suitable for businesses of all sizes. Startups can leverage some of the automation features available to get their hands on Customer Success from an early stage.
6. Standing Out in the Customer Success Landscape
Q: With the saturation of customer success platforms in the industry, what key features and strategies do you believe are crucial for a platform to stand out and remain competitive in this evolving landscape?
A: I don’t believe the industry is saturated with customer success platforms; there’s ample room for competition. Look at CRM platforms; for example, there are 100’s of tools where we are still 20-30 serious players in CS. However, success hinges on differentiation. While older software tools were often complex, a key strategy is offering a powerful yet user-friendly tool that minimizes onboarding time and is affordable. Prioritize a simple user interface while packing it with rich features without overwhelming users.
Suprej Venkat’s expertise in customer success and insights into the industry’s evolution provide invaluable guidance for seasoned professionals and newcomers looking to excel in this dynamic field. His emphasis on the importance of the human touch in an era of automation underscores the importance of fostering strong customer relationships. As the customer success industry continues to grow and adapt, professionals like Suprej are at the forefront, leading the way.