Totango + Catalyst customer success experts reveal top takeaways from TSIA World INTERACT 2024

Top takeaways from TSIA Interact 2024

“AI may not replace me, but AI will definitely change the way I work.”

This bold statement, shared during a keynote at the recent Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) World INTERACT conference in Orlando, set the stage for a series of thought-provoking discussions and insights from industry leaders. As CS grapples with rapidly evolving AI opportunities, executives from top companies gathered to share their hot takes on the advancements that will shape the future of the industry.

In our exclusive on-the-ground reporting, we bring you the most compelling revelations from the conference, straight from the minds of those leading the industry. From the urgent need for organizations to operate like startups to the surprising disparity in AI adoption between CS and support teams, these experts didn’t hold back. And, we’re glad they didn’t.

Explore the current challenges, market opportunities, and transformative potential of AI in CS as Totango + Catalyst leaders Chris Winkler, Head of Product Marketing, and Kellie Vivanco, Head of Customer Growth Marketing, share their take on key takeaways from the event.

#1: For CS to jump ahead with AI, teams will need to operate like a startup

Startups are known for their agility, adaptability, and willingness to experiment. Setting clear goals and understanding the role of AI is essential, but it’s becoming just as apparent that businesses find a new level of flexibility to help them be open and adaptable to adjustments along the way. 

According to TSIA research, CS lags behind other customer-facing functions, particularly support and service, in terms of AI adoption. So, while over 40% of CS organizations report having already invested in AI, the surge of AI investment in CS is expected to grow in the next three years. That’s a lot of money and a lot of opportunity on the table if it’s not embraced with an agile learning approach. During the Ask the Experts: Innovation Challenges with AI in CS discussion, the panelists shared several practical ways that companies can apply a startup mindset in their AI journeys:

  1. Identify a baseline before you start. Experts repeatedly reminded attendees that AI is not the goal. AI is the means to a new solution. Building a baseline strategy helps ensure AI initiatives align with the company’s objectives and desired outcomes.
  2. Ensure your data is clean and accessible. Quality data is paramount for effective AI training. Collaborating with cross-functional teams can help ensure data integrity and accessibility, both critical for project success.
  3. Hire a prompt engineer. A dedicated strategist with expertise in AI models and experimentation isn’t a bad investment to help drive better outcomes and optimize AI responses.
  4. Prepare to showcase customer value. Establishing clear metrics, out-of-the-box templates, and KPIs to demonstrate the value of AI features ensures that AI initiatives deliver tangible benefits and effectively address customer needs.

Our takeaway: The impact value of AI begins and ends with business goals. If your business, pre-and post-sale, lacks alignment on business goals and customer outcomes, then the value of identifying, implementing, and measuring the opportunity for AI is irrelevant.

While it’s irrational to think a large, global, or multi-product and service enterprise can “act like a startup,” a tiger team or a project team often can. Stated differently, create a dedicated space for AI. One way to do this is to focus on a single, well-known workflow and pinpoint where AI can be tested to improve the process or open up opportunities. By focusing on an established workflow, you’ll begin with an idea of what “good” looks like, so measuring effectiveness will be simpler than trying to build AI into a new activity or sequence. 

#2: Aligning CS and Sales is the key to driving revenue growth

Revenue growth and customer-led growth (CLG) were unsurprisingly played like a steady drumbeat at the conference, setting the rhythm for various discussions and insights shared by industry leaders. TSIA research reiterated that CS’s roots lie in adoption (95%), retention (83%), and expansion (68%), with an increasing focus on expansion year over year.

This shift highlights the overwhelming pressure on companies and C-suite leaders to achieve revenue growth more efficiently and the need for CS teams to rethink their success motion and KPIs to take on this responsibility. During the TSIA Executive Roundtable, Chris Dishman, SVP Global Customer Success at Totango + Catalyst, shared how the company’s CS team now owns a larger portion of expansion revenue than in years past—at the same time, acknowledging that this attention can also surface the cracks and the opportunities to build stronger connections across the GTM team to ensure business goals are met.

Our takeaway: For businesses looking to thrive, it’s essential to refine CS success motions and KPIs, ensuring they are aligned with the broader company objectives and are a force in fostering stronger interdepartmental connections to achieve these goals. Building on this approach, it is important for CS to drive alignment and close collaboration with sales counterparts to ensure the right information, like the customer’s initial goals and desired outcomes with your solution, are clearly transferred in a hand-in-hand process with post-sale teams. A bold move is to establish shared or joint OKRs and KPIs between GTM teams that quantify and measure the effectiveness of this collaboration in terms of customer outcomes and value. 

#3: Gender biases are perpetuating a growing skill gap for revenue leaders

In a poll conducted in partnership with the Women of Customer Success Community, 96% of respondents want more access to training and skill development in financial literacy and business acumen, and only 6% rated their current training as “Excellent.” 

Totango + Catalyst sponsored the Women of C-Suite Panel and fundraising event at TSIA World INTERACT, recognizing that most organizations face this challenge, and it’s a business-critical opportunity incumbent upon wider tech and CS communities. Today’s competitive environment shows us that all go-to-market (GTM) teams and leaders are being held accountable for revenue generation—regardless of industry or stage of maturity. At the same time, Karen Budell, Chief Marketing Officer of Totango + Catalyst, shared that women hold less than one-third of revenue-generating management roles in our organizations. Gender and diversity inclusion yields higher-performing teams and better-quality organizations. We’re doing our businesses a disservice until we take a more active and accelerated approach to shrinking the skill gap that is necessary to carry our businesses forward.

The women on the panel inspired attendees by highlighting the current landscape of rapid change and evolution due to AI and emphasized the need to demonstrate impact. They underscored that now is a serendipitous moment to be bold, curious, and confident in their pursuit of continued growth.

Our takeaway: Businesses and leaders who truly want to lead in terms of innovation and business growth have a responsibility to actively assess and develop the business and financial acumen of their teams and organizations. It behooves us to recognize barriers and biases that often mask what our team members need to be fulfilled and challenged in their roles.

Several of the panelists urged women to take a confident step forward in skill development, encouraging them to seek board positions—at any age—with nonprofits, school boards and other opportunities. Starting earlier in their careers will build tactical business and leadership skills more quickly. 

Additionally, given the realities of remote work and more intra-organizational collaboration, there’s a wider network through which employees—especially women—can seek mentorships and community. These advancements have expanded our access to online functional communities and leaders beyond our physical offices. By seeking such associations and relationships, we can challenge our thinking and accelerate skill development.

Final conclusion: B2B businesses are responsible for driving customer outcomes 

The opportunity for AI to help businesses accelerate customer outcomes is undeniable, but to get there, businesses are going to have to break some conventional ways of thinking and make investments in wider skill-building and skill-resourcing to open the door to a new level of impact.

No one has truly cracked the code on AI — yet. As organizations grapple with whether to be a leader or a fast follower, AI is already improving efficiencies, saving time, and providing leaders with quick access to data. To stay ahead of the curve, leaders must create opportunities for blue-sky discussions around AI. They must give teams the agency to incorporate AI and new processes in its current form. They must drive a culture and narrative that minimizes fear and reflects the wider potential of all team members to be revenue drivers and revenue creators within their businesses.

Follow along Totango + Catalyst as we continue our journey to deliver the most powerful customer growth platform on the market, or connect with us now for a discussion and demo.

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