The Top of the Class

It’s time to acknowledge that changing requirements and evolving practices are going to be a frequent occurrence in the Customer Success world. 2016 was a significant year for Customer Success, as awareness and recognition of CS grew by leaps and bounds. If you’re a Customer Success professional, Customer Experience practitioner, customer leader, or someone who wants to understand the trends and innovations in the CS space, follow these six analysts for the most up-to-date takes in the industry. As their positions require them to be immersed in the Customer Success world on a daily basis, they recognize a trend before it happens and analyze mountains of data to make sure nothing of import slips through the cracks. Each approaches Customer Success from a slightly different angle, so it’s worthwhile to tune into their work on a regular basis to see their updated takes on the industry. We’ve selected some of their most recent findings, and our favorite articles to highlight below.

Mikael Blaisdell

Mikael Blaisdell

For over 25 years, Mikael Blaisdell has been closely involved with the strategy, process, people and technology of customer relationship architecture, retention, and profitability management. He is the founder of one of the most active CS Linkedin groups, The Customer Success Forum, that has over twenty thousand members, and is home to much daily discussion of the profession.

Mikael also organizes the popular CS conference “Customer SuccessCon” in Oakland, Seattle, Boston, and London. Mikael completed pioneering research work on the gap between how the CS role and mission is perceived, and the resources allocated to it. He constantly emphasizes the need for Customer Success to have input and veto power over sales deals, product features, and marketing campaigns.

Mikael has served on the boards of professional associations, delivered presentations on all aspects of CRM at industry gatherings, and written extensively for various print and online media.

Follow Mikael on LinkedIn and Twitter

David Raab

David Raab | Strikedeck

Founder, CDP Institute & Owner, Raab Associates

David is the founder of the Customer Data Platform Institute, a vendor-neutral educational project to help marketers build a unified customer view that is available to all of their company systems. The Institute provides a library of information, a daily newsletter and blog, discussion forums, and much more. Individual membership is free.

David also writes the popular ‘Customer Experience Matrix’ blog , which covers the tools, processes, and best practices for marketing and operational interactions between a company and its customers. David always focuses on data, coining the term ‘Customer Data Platform’, which is a “marketer-controlled system that builds a multi-source customer database and exposes it to external execution systems” like CS platforms. He frequently highlights the importance of gathering and unifying customer data from all sources, and using that data to select the best treatment for each interaction. His primary use case has been marketing to prospects and customers.

Follow David on LinkedIn and Twitter

Kate Leggett

Kate Leggett | Strikedeck

VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester

Kate is a leading expert on customer relationship management (CRM) and customer service strategies, maturity, benchmarking, governance, and ROI. She is an accomplished public speaker and frequently presents at industry events like CRM Evolution. She has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine, and industry publications such as CRM Magazine, KM World, and DestinationCRM.

Kate writes on customer service trends and best practices on the Forrester blog, and her paper, Market Overview: Customer Success Solutions, published in 2014, was one of the first publications acknowledging Customer Success as a new category. Kate emphasizes customer experience strategy to win, serve, and retain customers. She accurately identified the top trend of 2016 that customer service organizations made self-service easier for customers to use by shoring up its foundations, and solidifying knowledge-management strategy. Going forward, Kate feels CRM will support easy customer experiences because buyers want to self-educate, instead of speaking with sales representatives.

Follow Kate on LinkedIn and Twitter

Phil Nanus

Phil Nanus | Strikedeck

Vice President of Customer Success research at TSIA

Phil at TSIA works closely with member companies to deliver research and advisory programs focused on helping them optimize their Customer Success organizations and effectively deliver customer outcomes. Phil has talked about Customer health scores, Customer Success Charter and built an awesome Customer Success Capability Heatmap.

Tad Travis

Tad Travis | Strikedeck

Research Director in CRM Sales at Gartner

Tad Travis is a Director at Gartner Research. He is responsible for the CRM for Sales research agenda, including sales force automation (SFA) and the sales performance management (SPM) Magic Quadrants. Tad feels that 2016 was a seminal year for sales automation technology, as it was the year that the third wave of sales automation technology broke into the mainstream.

Tad is tracking vendors’ use of embedded predictive analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities in their SFA products. It’s interesting to note how in some organizations, Customer Success is part of the sales organizations, and those CROs have Customer Success responsibilities. Tad, with his expertise in CRM governance, end-user adoption programs, end-user training, Customer Success programs, and change management, can see new algorithmic and automation approaches going mainstream.

Esteban Kolsky

Esteban Kolsky

Principal & Founder of ThinkJar

Esteban is a former Research Director at Gartner and current advisor to Constellation Research and Klever. He is a Customer Strategist with a focus on strategies that make customer initiatives successful. He has over twenty years of experience working with customers across many areas, including Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Operations, Help Desks, Call Centers, and more. Esteban blogs about Customer Success strategies at

His five focus areas for research currently are:

· Customer Service Adoption and Usage
· Data Usage in the Enterprise
· Artificial Intelligence in the Enterprise
· Platforms and Ecosystems
· Customer Experiences and Engagement

Follow Esteban on LinkedIn and Twitter

These six professionals are esteemed in their respective fields, and provide us with research and insights that allow us to head our companies in the optimal directions. Do you have any other analysts that you follow?