Published January 25, 2023
Like any profession, client success is continually evolving with new techniques being developed, tools imported from other disciplines, and existing approaches refined, to help us better serve our clients.
With that in mind, here are our predictions for the key trends that will shape client success in 2023.
While there are a lot of tools in the data analysis arsenal, the one people will be talking about most in 2023 is AI.
AI gives a whole new level of power to data analysis. Smart software can identify patterns in client data that a human would never spot, or crunch years of analysis down into hours. While computers won’t make the imaginative leaps needed to correctly identify causality or work out how to act on an insight, they can vastly improve the information humans have available to work with.
This software is now doing things that seemed implausible a decade ago. Conversation intelligence tools like Kaizan can analyse and summarise emails, messages, and transcripts, identifying key information and action points. Computers aren’t just crunching numbers any more, they’re processing whole conversations.
AI-driven insights will provide valuable perspectives on client behaviour, preferences, and needs. Like other analytical work, this will enable client success teams to better understand their clients and tailor their services accordingly.
Like AI, automation is one of the big technological trends that’s set to expand over the next year. It’s the key to improved self-service but also invaluable in a host of other ways.
Over the next year, automation will let more businesses streamline and optimise their client success operations. Automated systems will speed up response times, improve data collection and reporting, and lead to more efficient processes. They will also reduce the risk of human errors, as automated systems are better at replicating repeated tasks without introducing mistakes.
In a client success context, automation can create benefits both behind the scenes and in client interactions.
Behind the scenes, automation is about managing workloads and streamlining administration. It’s things like the automatic scheduling of meetings and the facilities they require; systems that tag and archive correspondence and call recordings without human intervention; project management tools that map out future steps for you; and any other system that does the work for staff while reducing both workload and the likelihood of errors.
On the client front, automation shows up in two forms.
One is automated processes that create more proactive contact from you to the client. This includes billing systems and meeting reminders, which keep things in the client’s mind without you having to contact them in person. There’s no need to chase a payment, or to have the awkward conversations that can trigger, if there’s a system in place to chase it for you.
The other form can be seen in reactive systems that interact with the client, such as chatbots and virtual assistants. These provide personalised customer service without a team member having to get involved. As with other forms of automation, they reduce the risk of human error and speed up service, but critically they can pass clients on to a human agent when needed. This ability to find the point where automation stops being useful and to step away from it is vital to making automation a valuable addition instead of a restriction on client service.
Agile methodologies have played a huge part in the software industry over the past twenty years. Encouraging collaborative, iterative processes that give team members the flexibility they need to get the work done, agile has become the foundation for many streamlined, efficient workplaces, to the point where it’s now ubiquitous across programming and beyond.
A system for managing software development might not seem like the obvious choice for client success, but the advantages of agile systems in their broader sense are increasingly well recognised. Client facing teams are finding ways to adopt agile thinking into their own work, and as part of this, agile will be more widely adopted by client success teams over the next year. Agile thinking will help to keep track of work and plan for future tasks while keeping up with the fast-paced nature of client service.
Because of their emphasis on flexibility and iteration, agile methodologies will allow teams to quickly respond to customer needs and provide rapid solutions. This will lead to improvements in client service that benefit agile teams over their rivals, forcing more organisations to become agile to keep up.
Companies will continue to place a greater emphasis on client centricity, placing the client at the heart of their business strategy.
In many ways, this approach is so obvious that it feels like it shouldn’t need to be said. After all, companies succeed or fail based on their ability to please their clients. But year after year, we see companies, even very large ones, fail at this. They get stuck in the loop of their own processes or obsess over other goals instead of placing the client at the heart of everything they do. Part of the crisis enveloping Twitter in the last quarter of 2022 revolves around a strategic pivot that has alienated parts of the company’s customer base, both users and advertisers, a client service story so startling it’s dominated headlines around the world.
Over recent years, conversations around business have become more openly focused on the needs of clients. The need to understand and please them is a much bigger topic of conversation, and this is part of why client success teams exist. Heading into 2023, companies will invest more in placing clients front and centre, partly through the techniques discussed below. This is also likely to lead to a growth in client success teams, as companies expand their capacity to provide the best possible service.
As part of focusing on the client, companies will continue to invest in improving the client experience, through a mixture of employee training, improved processes, and innovative technology.
The tech side will include the use of AI and machine learning to better understand client behaviour and preferences. This can then shape both products and business practices to better match what clients are looking for and to give them a better overall experience.
Client service teams will continue to refine their approaches to measuring and analysing the client experience. It’s hard to improve something if you don’t know how good it is or which parts work well and which don’t. Taking the time to listen to clients about their experiences and to think about what their comments mean will mean a better experience for them, saving time and improving revenues in the long run.
From ATMs to vending machines to supermarket checkouts, self-service technology has become increasingly ubiquitous and acceptable in the B2C sphere of everyday commerce. That experience has shown that self-service doesn’t just save on time and effort for outward-facing teams, it can also create a better experience for users. Processes work more quickly and smoothly, and as long as a human can be contacted for more complex requests, everything works well. Some people even prefer the smooth efficiency of a process where they don’t have to talk with anyone.
As the available tools become more sophisticated, this self-service approach is expanding into less obvious areas. Sometimes, it can be achieved through simple solutions like FAQs and tutorial videos, which make the information clients need easily available. At others times, interactive tools are needed, such as software with tutorial functions, chatbots, and virtual assistants. These can adapt and personalise the self-service experience to the client’s needs.
In 2023, companies will provide ever more self-service tools, empowering clients to help themselves wherever possible and enabling client service teams to focus on future strategy, pro-active engagement, and helping their clients to achieve their goals.
Connected to self-service is client education.
If clients are well-informed about your products then they’re able to use them more effectively, which makes them happier and more productive. They’re more likely to stay engaged with a product if they can operate it without difficulty and know where to find more information if required. They’re also more likely to say yes to upsells and cross-sells if they’ve been educated about the advantages of the additional products or features.
To this end, companies will provide more educational materials to help clients understand their products and services. This includes tutorials, videos, webinars, podcasts and guides.
Client education requires the client service team to invest time at the start of a partnership or on the release of a new product, as they assemble the necessary materials and train clients to a point of effective self-reliance. But that extra effort will pay dividends in the long run, as it gives clients greater autonomy.
In B2B client relationships proactive client support is fundamental to a successful partnership.
A proactive client support strategy involves reaching out to the client before they need to come to you. This means checking in regularly with the client to understand how they are using your product or service and whether they need any support, giving them a chance to raise issues or discuss any important topics. It’s also a way to increase loyalty and engagement through regular, thoughtful contact.
But proactive client support is also about identifying and addressing client issues before they become problems. Tools such as predictive analytics can detect potential issues before they arise, while real-time analytics can quickly raise the issues. Equipped with these tools, client success teams can significantly improve client relationships.
It’s important to build client service around the reality of what’s going on and not just assumptions you have about your clients. Data-driven insights are key to better understand client behaviour, preferences and needs, and companies are getting better every year at leveraging them. Expect to see improvements in data collection and analysis that allow companies to better understand their clients.
Insight is no use unless it’s turned into action, which brings in a related trend—data-driven decision making.
Data-driven decision-making will become increasingly important for client success teams. The insights gained by collecting and analysing data with AI tools such as Kaizan, will be turned into more informed decisions and a higher level of client service. By understanding client opportunities, sentiment and risks, teams will be better able to tailor their client success services and product offerings. This will drive client satisfaction and longer-term partnerships.
Clients increasingly expect tailored experiences, and exceptional client service is really about personalisation. Even when there are repeated, generic systems grinding away in the background to produce meeting reminders, progress reports, and even new services, the front of house version has to show a personal touch.
This is where the art of client success really comes into its own. By centring their focus on the client and their needs, these teams excel at providing clients with a unique and tailored experience. That doesn’t just mean throwing in a few surface details, but shaping the service around what the client needs and how it can best be provided to them. For some high value clients, this can mean adaptations to your products and services, with client success teams acting as intermediaries between clients and developers, explaining what the client needs are and finding the best ways to achieve it. Even when the product is unchanging, it means adapting how you interact with clients, knowing their communication preferences, their processes for buying and billing, the ways that they interact with partners and the wider world.
From AI to automation to agile, the big trends in client success over the next year will all feed into this one. By providing a personalised, flexible service built around an understanding of the client’s needs, you will make clients feel valued, increasing their engagement and loyalty, ultimately leading to happier and more successful partnerships.