Three learnings from TSIA on why your go-to-market leaders have an opportunity to work better together to drive growth.
When it comes to understanding customer needs, marketing, sales, and CS teams are the experts, so it’s on us to work together to define today’s most valuable growth opportunities. Last week at the TSIA World: Interact conference in Orlando, I spent time talking with several sales and CS leaders about the opportunity we have to lean into our C-suite partnerships and take the reins on defining the next generation of growth for our organizations.
I was also fortunate to lead a conversation on this very topic with our Totango CRO, Dennis Reardon, and Sr. VP of Customer Success at Veriforce, Andy Kearney.
Here are three insights I took away from TSIA.
CS is a cross-functional sport
The customer journey is iterative and continuously evolving, with more touchpoints happening in non-linear and circular motions than ever before. The idea that CS can own the entire customer journey is both unrealistic and outdated. In the first generation of customer success, CSMs became a catch-all for any activity requiring customer interaction. As CS evolves in its second decade, customer success practitioners’ deep insight into customer data and multidimensional health scores puts them in a more strategic seat. With an eye on helping customers achieve their outcomes, CS is also well-positioned to bring the rest of the go-to-market leadership team together to deliver maximum customer value at every touchpoint and interaction. Put another way, the customer journey must be everyone’s responsibility—and that starts with driving alignment at the executive level so that our marketing, sales, product and CS teams are working towards the same goal.
Before we tackled this topic in detail during our TSIA panel, I took an informal poll of session attendees via hand raise:
|As CS leaders, which C-suite relationship do you feel has the most opportunity for improved collaboration and partnership?
Roughly one-quarter of the audience revealed they would like to improve their relationship with marketing and the CMO. More than half raised hands for sales and the CRO, and when asked if they felt the relationship with product teams could be enhanced, even more hands shot up.
Interestingly, our Totango 2022 CS Industry Report revealed 44% of CS departments reported spending around a quarter of their time collaborating with marketing, a 17% increase from the previous year. 31% of CS teams also reported spending up to half of their time with sales.
To me, this felt like a real disconnect. Despite CS teams spending half of their time with key cross-functional partners in sales, many CS and cross-functional leaders still feel a gap in collaboration. This reflects an opportunity to drive better alignment from the top.
In customer success, we often talk about the “hand-off” that occurs at key milestones like a closed-won deal, but in reality, we can build alignment collaborating on any key moment that needs attention and drives value. During our conversation, Andy illustrated how Veriforce is choosing to invest in more effective collaboration at the onboarding stage. By empowering sales, marketing and customer success teams to work together more closely, his team can ensure initial goals and metrics are clearly understood and the appropriate milestones are transparently agreed upon.
Customer success leaders have a unique vantage point on the customer journey as they have access to everything from customer health scores to adoption and usage metrics. With this end-to-end visibility, Veriforce’s example demonstrates why CS leaders can be the new shepherds of outcome-driven alignment for customers. While CCO and CS leaders are in a position to lead this charge to align our businesses around delivering customer value, it’s just as important for CMOs, CROs, and CPOs to step up and advocate for this C-suite partnership to maximize value and growth opportunities.
“Executive Connection” will be the new CS superpower
My second takeaway from TSIA ties right into the idea of CS as a cross-functional sport. As leaders who set the tone for our companies, it’s our responsibility to empower our CS teams and CSMs to support executive relationships within the customer journey.
We’ve known for a while that we need to identify, embed, and invest in executive relationships and milestones, which means we need to define the who, what, where, and when. In other words, we must ensure each player who is critical to each customer milestone is invited to bring their expertise to the table where and when it’s needed. Not only will this help us develop holistic relationships with customers, but it will also empower us to identify and refine the KPIs that align with business goals and desired outcomes.
The challenge before us is that we have yet to identify a comprehensive way to empower our CS teams and CSMs to sustainability identify and invest in those executive relationships.
During our conversation, Andy also shared that Veriforce is launching an “Executive Connection Program” to integrate executive and senior level team members into customer journeys at the VP+ level. The program aims to accomplish a higher level of partnership by investing in resources that set clear expectations for executives, along with senior-level outcomes and metrics.
At Totango, as a partner in our executive sponsor program, I focus on aligning with our internal teams to fully understand the goals for each account for which I’m responsible. This means constantly collaborating to build relationships with executive customers to ensure we not only understand their business goals, but also how and where we must iterate to improve product efficiency and effectiveness.
The transformative opportunities of AI begin with defining the ideal customer journey
In today’s “do more with less” economy, that concept of efficiency has become paramount. Generative AI could not have stormed onto the scene at a better time—and the opportunities for it to enhance our products and our own productivity were clearly a hot topic at TSIA. Unsurprisingly, this promise is the heart of my third takeaway.
Generative AI can give our teams a boost in productivity by reducing time spent on day-to-day, repeatable tasks. That time saved can now be redirected to focus on more strategic initiatives, including investing in development of relationships at the executive level.
When I asked Andy and Dennis for insight on where they see the biggest opportunities in applying generative AI throughout the customer journey, their ideas only scratched the surface. They mentioned content summarization, automated business reviews, and faster integration of APIs, as well as creative executions like crafting more customized communications that are consistent in brand voice. Andy also highlighted the possibility of quickly bringing leaders up to speed with an AI-generated account and customer health summary, which is invaluable when running an executive program like Veriforce’s “Executive Connections” initiative.
At Totango, we’re thrilled to have recently announced a partnership with Jasper, along with the release of new generative AI features in our Composable CS Platform. As we start our learning and experimentation journey with this exciting technology, these inaugural AI capabilities enable teams to use natural language queries to generate code for integrations or to surface customer segments with common attributes, like being up for renewal in the same timeframe.
If we accept CS as a cross-functional sport, the most value-generating opportunities to use AI to enhance the customer journey will naturally transverse marketing, sales and CS. That said, as we embrace AI, we must curb our instinct to try to “cram and slam” it into every nook and cranny of our businesses as quickly as possible, as Zach Anderson, VP of Customer Success at Jasper, warned in our Next Gen CS webinar. As leaders, we should instead work together to define where in the customer journey it can be applied to increase the value delivered and begin our implementation there.