Apr 13

Customer Success: Class of '22 vs. '20

My keynote at Invest Ottawa

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Patterns and prophets, in SaaS and Web3
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Much has changed in the world of customer success in the last two years. I covered some of the most significant changes in my keynote at Invest Ottawa’s annual conference, including:

  • Is the rise of the CRO, particularly in contrast with the CCO role, a good or bad thing for Customer Success?

  • What does Customer Success mean in a PLG (product-led growth) company?

  • What are the latest industry views on “CSMs of the Gaps” (technical CSMs plugging holes in the product)?

Regarding that first point about the CRO role, I’ve copied below a LinkedIn post that summarizes my views on the topic.

Thanks to Sarah Sedgman, CEO of LearnExperts, for facilitating the conversation, and to Sonya Shorey at Invest Ottawa. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and feel free to reply with any thoughts!

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The Rise of the CRO

Does the rise of the Chief Revenue Officer role, often displacing the role of Chief Customer Officer, mean that we are no longer prioritizing customer success?

I get this question a lot [including in this keynote fireside chat]. Although I was a huge proponent of the role of CCO in the early days, I don't think it's the right role for many companies. In particular, when there is a technical founder and a product-led growth motion, it makes sense for there to be a CRO ("Type 3" COO, per a blog post I wrote earlier) who owns all customer-facing functions and can orchestrate a seamless customer journey.

I'd go so far as to say that the fact that the CCO role no longer exists as frequently among VC-backed companies is probably the greatest validation that the customer success movement has been successful. It shows that we can build products that enable their own adoption, that we can deliver value to users before they even buy or formalize a corporate-level contract, and that every function (product, sales, marketing, etc.) is taking responsibility for their part in delivering a strong customer journey.

The CCO role should still exist at a large segment of companies; it shouldn't go away. But I don't think we should mourn its disappearance from some companies, either. On the contrary, perhaps we should celebrate that!

Leadership Roles

Leadership roles that I’m excited about: