From Retention to Expansion: The Evolving Role of Customer Success in Economic Downturns

Alex Farmer
Jeff Beaumont
Jennifer Baca
Marco Carrubba

Learn how has the customer success role evolved during economic downturns. Tune in to glean insights directly from CS leaders, who will offer firsthand perspectives on the shifting landscape of CS roles. Moderated by Alex Farmer.

In this session, we will hear from distinguished panelists who bring a wealth of experience and insights to the forefront of customer success. Allow me to introduce our esteemed speakers:

  • Alex Farmer | Nezasa
  • Marco Carrubba | Microsoft
  • Jennifer Baca | Zoom
  • Jeff Beaumont | Gitlab

This great session delved into the changing landscape of customer success. As economic conditions shifted, companies recognized that customer success needed to extend beyond mere retention. The panel emphasized the emergence of a new era where customer success played a pivotal role in expansions and renewals.

Acknowledging the significant transformation of the world over the past year, the discussion highlighted how the era of relentless growth had given way to a new economic reality. Old customer success playbooks were deemed inadequate. The trusty customer success compass needed recalibration. The panelists were eager to learn from the audience and share experiences. They inquired about how these shifts impacted strategies, whether they were shaking up teams and opening new opportunities.

The discussion then dived into a lightning round, addressing a fundamental question: Should Customer Success Managers (CSMs) own revenue, and if so, in what capacity?

Jennifer gave her perspective on whether CSMs should own revenue. Jeff shared his take on the matter. Marco provided insights on whether CSMs should be involved in revenue.

Jennifer mentioned that CSMs should own revenue, but with a few dependencies. She emphasized the importance of understanding the skill set of CSMs and ensuring they have the experience in a commercial motion. Additionally, Jennifer highlighted the need for leadership sponsorship and having the right tools and materials to drive accountability with metrics.

Jeff expressed his agreement with the idea that CSMs should own revenue. He suggested that it might vary for different companies, with some having renewal managers handle renewals while CSMs focus on other aspects. Jeff also emphasized the importance of CSMs being compensated for their role in revenue generation.

Marco acknowledged that CSMs should be involved in revenue but cautioned against becoming salespeople. He emphasized the need to prioritize the customer's actual needs and ensure they receive what is genuinely beneficial for them. Marco also highlighted the importance of positioning customer success with a focus on value.

The panelists' valuable insights were shared. The discussion now moves forward to adapting customer success strategies to the evolving economic landscape.

The discussion then turned to how the panelists' teams have adapted to the changing economic landscape. Jeff highlighted the challenges posed by increasing costs and the need for alignment across roles in the company to deliver value effectively. He mentioned exploring paid lifecycle models and integrated renewal forecasting.

Jennifer explained that at Zoom, CSMs are now more consultative and focused on understanding customer business priorities and existing tech stacks. They aim to drive full platform expansion by identifying opportunities to replace existing tools. This involves performing in-depth discovery and engaging customers through workshops and innovation sessions.

Marco discussed how revenue ownership is perceived in different companies, with some incorporating CSM costs into products and services. He mentioned the increased collaboration between CSMs and sales teams, including exposure to account plans and opportunities for shadowing and mentoring.

Jennifer and Marco emphasized the importance of adopting a growth mindset. Marco pointed out the rising significance of ethical use of AI in customer success, highlighting the need for CSMs to master this area. He also stressed the value of CSMs having an entrepreneurial mindset, allowing them to make judgments and seek out experts when needed.

Jeff further echoed Jennifer and Marco's insights, emphasizing the need to understand the charter of CSMs within a company and align their roles accordingly. He highlighted the importance of platform adoption for companies offering diverse solutions. Jeff also discussed metrics related to renewals, license utilization, workshops, and executive stakeholder engagements.

The session concluded with a reflection on the evolving KPIs in customer success and the growing focus on customer-centric metrics, including product adoption and verified outcomes.

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