Next Generation Revenue Centers will be Customer Success and Support

The aftermath of product-led organizations

What will be the aftereffects of product-led organizations? As modern enterprises explore newer GTM motions, and reduce the expensive enterprise sales organizations, responsibilities for customer relations fueling renewals and expansions will land harder on the Customer Success and Support teams. This will increase a need for innovation around efficiency tooling and automation in Support, and cross-organizational collaboration tools to allow for Customer Success insights to directly drive product roadmaps. The aftermath will also lead to a mandatory investment in self-service SRE solutions.

There is a clear rise in the trend of product-led organizations. The objectives often expressed are: lean marketing and sales, as well as data-driven, user-centric, rapid feature delivery to satisfy a continuously growing customer demand for faster time to market and more self-service - especially in a world where things are more distributed and less people-to-people interaction dependent than ever. 

Product-led means, among other things, that the product usability should be intuitive; that the onboarding process should be self-service oriented - i.e., without hand holding and preferably with no or little coding and training involved. Further, it also means tracking usage patterns within the product that directly sets the product roadmap. In a product-lead organization the sales feedback loop gets replaced by the usage and uptake patterns of the product. Putting it bluntly: data will tell you more what will increase adoption than what the traditional, time-consuming and sparse customer touch points are able to provide. This bottom up approach to growth and success has many proof points already when it comes to desirable products with low to no customer touch points; Freshworks, Datadog, Slack, and Twilio, to name a few - all started out with bottom up, product-lead approach. This trend has also been fueled by the remote work situation of 2020, but will surely continue to grow ahead.

What does this mean if we fast forward a bit down the road?

  • Customer success organizations will be the most important customer relationship organization
    As there is no human-to-human relationship per se when the enterprise sales vehicle is replaced with the product-led vehicle, customers will have to rely on customer success teams for the relationship part of the renew-and-expand equation

  • Support organizations will become the next hard-to-scale cost center
    Customers will rely solely on Support when things are not intuitive; when failures or issues happen; when questions need to be answered that aren’t covered well in an always emerging product - replacing the enterprise Sales Engineer and Account Executive day-to-day support.

  • SRE will become a CxO top line item
    With a more user-experience dependent customer loyalty (over the personal relationship-oriented one of the Enterprise sales model) UX will be key, of course. But user experience goes beyond UI flow and features. In this new world, customer loyalty (driven by end-to-end user experience) will come to rely heavily on the service that best gets my task done every time or exactly when I need it. Flakiness is the worst UX killer, especially in an asynchronous work environment, so SRE will be heavily on the rise as organizations choose to move towards more leaner person-to-person relationships with their customers. 

Now moving to the innovation space of these page-turner opportunities, I predict a rise in the following:

  • Personalized and context aware (a.k.a. domain-specific) conversational AI-based services to ease support burdens

  • More ML-optimized services and assist tooling in Support and Customer Success organizations. 

  • Improved tooling and services for best practices SRE

Making customers successful has been part of my core DNA throughout my product management career before joining DNX Ventures and continues to be a great focus in my partnership with our portfolio companies. A company’s success depends on renewal and expansion, which in my experience, only happens if:

  1. The customer’s needs and the vendor’s roadmap are aligned

  2. The customer has perceived and/or realized value from using the vendor’s product

  3. The product is heavily and actively used and part of a core workflow

But all things considered, a renewal seldom happens smoothly (and sometimes not at all), if there isn’t some form of personal relationship and trust between the people in each organization (the customer and the vendor). It’s something to be said about having your best interests in mind and know who will care for them - who will take your call! Hence, if enterprise sales is subsiding, that relationship has to transfer, and the next organization in line is Customer Success; make sure it  is part of your organization chart as a key stakeholder before you go product-lead all in. Be prepared!

As a means to prepare for this new world, come join our B2B Summit in August this year, where I will have the amazing opportunity to chat with Angus Klein, VP of Global Support at Snowflake (and previously Cloudera), about Support Organizational trends and key elements for rapid scale of successful customer support in startups. It will be a great opportunity to learn and get inspired by one of the best on how to build scalable support organizations in modern companies!