What’s Next in Customer Success

Customer success has evolved to encompass much more than client onboarding. Apty and BigCommerce share the future of their approach to CS and how their teams are building a thriving and sustainable business.
Written by Brigid Hogan
December 12, 2022Updated: December 12, 2022

In the mid-nineties, the sales team at CRM vendor Vantive had a foolproof strategy for closing deals. While meeting with qualified prospects, they handed over their full client list, including contact information for each one. The meeting is easily imagined: Go ahead and call them. They’ll tell you whatever you need to know. We don’t have failed implementations or dissatisfied customers.

And it worked. But then a problem emerged: a series of failed implementations meant that they no longer could offer 100 percent of customers as willing and satisfied references. While most companies would change their sales strategy, then-CEO John Luongo had a different idea, according to the Customer Success Association.

In order to win back that elusive 100 percent satisfaction, Luongo hired a former client to transform the Vantive customer experience in 1996. As a customer, Marie Alexander had found new and innovative ways to utilize the CRM product, and Luongo believed that she could share that deep product knowledge and understanding of the customer experience with Vantive’s employees and clients. And so, Alexander created a brand new department: Customer Success. 

Alexander wanted to know how customers defined success with their implementations, what expectations they held for their relationship with the company and how her team could support customers as they worked to achieve mutual goals.

Over the last 25 years, customer success has become a cornerstone of many companies, particularly in the world of SaaS, and the CSM role has evolved to encompass limiting churn, expanding contract value, improving customer experience, serving as the customer advocate and more. But even as customer success teams develop new strategies and refine their focus, a great customer success manager (CSM) continues to provide product expertise, support customer goals and build strong client relationships.

Leaders at Apty and BigCommerce have built modern customer success teams that are continuously finding new ways to add value for clients, sustain strong relationships and retain business long term. Built In Austin learned more about what changes they’ve seen in the field and what they anticipate in the year ahead.


Jackie Golden
Chief Customer Officer

How has the customer success role changed over time?

The modern customer success role has evolved into a more strategic thought leadership function in which we partner with our customers to develop implementation roadmaps and operating protocols to drive value realization.  

Our customer success managers now start by understanding the customer’s top initiatives and priorities. This allows us to help align their technology architecture, prioritize the software that has the most significant impact on the business and drive the ability to execute their strategic initiatives for the year.  

What hasn’t changed is helping customers realize the value of our product through a seamless best practice onboarding process and customer lifecycle journey. CSMs continue to help employees realize a higher contribution level because they can utilize their software as intended, resulting in efficient operations, increased revenue streams, lowered costs and improved profitability.

What hasn’t changed is helping customers realize the value of our product through a seamless onboarding process and lifecycle journey.”


How has your team structure and training changed to adapt to changes in your industry or your customers’ needs?

While considering the complexities of enterprise customers, we’ve developed a best practice methodology to guide customers from their current state to a vision for digital adoption of their most impactful software. We partner with customers to develop a software adoption roadmap to ensure they can deliver on their goals and objectives for operational excellence.  

Customers are asking for advice on industry-leading strategies to improve software usage and achieve digital transformation across their organization. Digital adoption platforms (DAPs) are a newer solution that companies need help understanding. Thus, Apty invested in an education program designed to focus on a comprehensive knowledge transfer for customers during onboarding. By equipping customer team members with in-depth knowledge of Apty, they are seen as DAP experts within their organization.  

Our Aptymize program supports customers throughout their contract term to assist with any changes and provides a robust online help center. Implementing our Aptymize methodology helps customers onboard faster and implement a DAP successfully on all business-critical platforms.


What’s the most important skill or character trait customer success professionals in your industry need to have?

The ability to build a trusted advisory relationship with customer team members. This means a partnership where customers rely on their CSM and seek their advice because of their knowledge and expertise. When your customer feels confident in your strategic approach and relies on it to help shape business decisions, you get sponsorship, resources assigned and a commitment to the plan. 

Customers want experts to guide them to find the straightest pathway to success. When CSMs develop their industry knowledge and technical skill sets and build trusted relationships, customers quickly see value and depend on them to support their ability to execute a digital adoption strategy. As customers realize high-value outcomes and ROIs, they tend to invest in a Center of Excellence (CoE) around DAP best practices. 

This leads to faster software adoption for customers and in turn improves employee productivity, reduces IT burden, accelerates digital transformation and decreases IT costs from failed projects.




Neal McCoy
VP, Professional Services Customer Support

How has the customer success role changed over time?

A recent Technology and Services Industry Association (TSIA) study shows that 61 percent of customer success organizations now include expansion as a focus in addition to the standard focus on adoption and retention — from only 10 percent of CS organizations focusing on growth and expansion a few years ago. This progression is natural, as customer success managers work diligently to become the customer’s trusted advisor. As the customer succeeds with the business, expansion and growth naturally follow.

It is also more economically and procedurally efficient to let CSMs handle growth and expansion, rather than hand off an already qualified opportunity to a sales representative that the customer may not have a relationship with.  

Despite change over time, the CSM needs to stay true to what is and should stay the same — understanding the customer’s definition of success and working with them to develop plans and strategies to make it happen.

As the customer succeeds with the business, expansion and growth naturally follow.”


How has your team structure and training changed to adapt to changes in your industry or your customers’ needs?

As the BigCommerce business and product have evolved, our customer success organization has as well. There is no “set it and forget it” formula for customer success.  

As a service provider, there is constant change in our product, competition and market forces. Customer success leaders need to establish a ritualistic approach for evaluating the competitive landscape, its influence on your key performance indicators and making incremental adjustments over time. Sometimes wholesale changes are needed but should be done sparingly to keep the focus on what matters — the success of our customers.


What’s the most important skill or character trait customer success professionals in your industry need to have?

Curiosity combined with the ability and desire to research and understand data. While likely true for any customer success position, it is paramount in e-commerce because the needs within e-commerce and its sub-industries are so vastly diverse.

As an e-commerce platform, BigCommerce is a hub on a giant wheel with spokes like shipping, taxes, payments, security and personalization, to name a few. Our customers require varied solutions that draw on different “spokes” based upon the industries they serve. There’s a big difference between selling perishable goods versus clothing or furniture. Our CSMs need the curiosity to probe and ask the right questions of their customers to effectively research and find the best solution that sets the customer on a path to success.




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