TECHtonic Podcast: Customer Success and the Fight for Survival

TECHtonic Podcast: Customer Success and the Fight for Survival

Check out the latest episode of TECHtonic, the TSIA podcast. In this episode, you’ll learn all about recent trends in Customer Success from experts Thomas Lah and Stephen Fulkerson, TSIA’s VPs of Customer Success Research.

If your organization is ready to make Customer Success a strong channel for overall customer satisfaction and organizational success, this episode is for you, packed with essential strategies and great insights, including:

Tune in to TECHtonic today to take advantage of this captivating discussion that will reshape your understanding of Customer Success.

Smart Tip

Take proactive steps to streamline Customer Success operations, break down departmental silos, and foster collaboration with sales teams. Improving cross-functional communication and alignment can enhance overall customer experiences and contribute to organizational success.

Introduction to your KORE Score

During their discussion, Thomas and Stephen delved first into Customer Success metrics, focusing mainly on the importance of the KORE Score.

KORE, an acronym for Keeping Organizational Outcomes: Retention, Renewal, and Reference Excellence, is a comprehensive framework to evaluate relationship strength. Unlike traditional metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS), which often pose challenges for executives, KORE Score offers a holistic view tailored to running a business effectively and meeting company objectives.

The KORE Score is intended to instill confidence in Customer Success leaders by prioritizing critical business metrics such as retention, renewals, outcome achievement, and overall reputation. Its dynamic nature sets KORE apart; unlike one-time metrics like NPS or CSAT, KORE provides ongoing insights into brand awareness and performance.

Ultimately, what makes the KORE Score so unique is its adaptability to various organizational contexts. Whether dealing with nascent startups or established corporations, KORE offers flexibility by incorporating existing telemetry data. By converting this data into a comprehensive score, the KORE Score empowers organizations to gauge their overall brand awareness much more effectively.

How Customer Success organizations define success

Today’s Customer Success organizations are under more pressure than ever to show their value and define “success” within the company. And more often than not, success encompasses meeting internal business and customer success metrics for renewals and ensuring customer success. It’s a multifaceted endeavor.

Another crucial aspect highlighted in this episode is the importance of benchmarking scores. Whether you’re a small software company or a big hardware corporation, companies must create a database to compare their KORE Scores, helping their Customer Success teams track their products, processes, and functions as compared to others.

Customer Success organizations grappling with adoption

Despite the TSIA Adoption framework being readily available for several years, organizations are only now beginning to embrace it. Why? 

There are likely three key factors at play here:

Many Customer Success organizations are still in their early stages

The fact of the matter is that many Customer Success organizations are still nascent in their evolution. In these early phases, a pressing need for more clarity or understanding regarding the overall importance and benefits of a structured adoption framework may be needed.

Additionally, the total resources and expertise dedicated to developing and implementing such frameworks may still need to be improved on an organizational scale, further delaying progress.

Organizational silos pose a significant challenge to communication

Another major obstacle to establishing a robust customer adoption framework is the presence of organizational silos. Unfortunately, within large organizations, different departments often operate in isolation, with woefully limited communication and collaboration. 

A cross-functional alignment is often necessary to develop and implement a cohesive adoption framework. With effective communication and coordination across departments, including sales, marketing, product development, and customer success, efforts to establish a unified approach to customer adoption will likely thrive.

Bold promises and fulfillment

Additionally, discrepancies between bold promises made during the sales process and the actual fulfillment of those promises during the customer adoption phase may also impede the execution of a well-defined adoption framework.

It’s imperative that sales teams fully consider the practical implications for customer adoption and onboarding to sell a product’s or service’s capabilities or benefits. Without doing so, Customer Success organizations are often left to navigate the gap between customer expectations and the reality of product or service implementation, usually leading to the need for more precise guidance and support.

Ultimately, the slow implementation of a well-defined customer adoption framework can be attributed to various factors, and overcoming these challenges requires a concerted effort across the entire organization. Companies must prioritize developing and implementing structured adoption frameworks, fostering cross-functional alignment, and ensuring a seamless transition from sales to customer adoption.

Changing job titles: Renewal Specialists

According to Fulkerson’s research, there has been a significant increase in the number of companies that have created a dedicated Renewal Specialists role—a remarkable 47%. So what’s driving this trend? Why are companies increasingly opting to appoint dedicated Renewal Specialists?

An issue of complexity

As outlined in our book, “Complexity Avalanche,” many organizations often struggle with managing the complexity inherent in their technology offerings and internal processes. 

Unfortunately, this complexity consumes significant time, particularly for Customer Success Managers. Considering the time spent on activities like adoption, expansion, and retention—what TSIA refers to as the LAER model—pulling CSMs away from these core motions poses an unmistakable risk. 

With the increasing complexity of multi-million-dollar deals or multi-year renewals, there’s a growing recognition that companies need dedicated Renewal Specialists to handle these intricate processes. This frees up CSMs to focus on their primary responsibilities related to adoption and expansion.

The shift toward appointing Renewal Specialists reflects an industrywide strategic response to the evolving demands of the Customer Success landscape. As organizations grapple with the intricacies of the renewal process, it becomes evident that specialized expertise is needed to navigate these challenges effectively.

Lack of commercial charter training

Customer Success Managers often come from backgrounds that emphasize skills related to adoption, expansion, and retention. However, they may need to gain the skills to negotiate contracts and secure renewals. This skill gap underscores the need for dedicated Renewal Specialists who can effectively handle the commercial aspects of customer relationships.

The appointment of Renewal Specialists addresses the complexities associated with renewal processes, ensuring that organizations have the necessary expertise to maximize renewal opportunities. By leveraging specialized skills and knowledge, companies can streamline their renewal efforts and drive greater success in retaining customers.

The rise of Renewal Specialists emphasizes the strategic importance of renewal processes in driving long-term customer success and satisfaction. It’s about equipping organizations with the resources and expertise needed to navigate the nuances of customer relationships effectively. 

Utilize AI capabilities in customer engagements

TSIA firmly believes that AI will significantly disrupt the workflows of virtually every tech professional. No one is immune to its impact. However, AI’s rise also presents a wealth of opportunities. So, how can Customer Success take charge of utilizing AI capabilities for customer engagements? 

Evaluate your organization and strategize

Customer Success leaders must possess a competitive mindset and constantly evaluate their organization to develop strategies that make them stand out from other departments, such as Professional Services or Sales. AI provides a unique opportunity to differentiate Customer Success through innovation. To leverage AI effectively, an innovation mindset is crucial.

Organizations must demonstrate perseverance in leveraging AI

In addition to competitiveness, perseverance is another essential attribute for Customer Success organizations to succeed as they leverage AI. For example, AI makes it far easier for organizations to persevere and gain deeper insights into customer behavior and preferences. By doing so, organizations can better weather difficulties as they arise, understand how their customers utilize their products or services, and offer personalized recommendations for improvement.


In this episode, Thomas Lah and Stephen Fulkerson thoroughly examine the critical role of customer satisfaction in ensuring organizational success. They introduce the KORE Score, a comprehensive metric for driving organizational success. 

Additionally, Lah and Fulkerson discuss the importance of streamlining Customer Success operations to help define Customer Success metrics, break down departmental silos, and foster greater collaboration with sales teams.

They also explore the significance of evolving job titles within Customer Success, such as Renewal Specialists, and how these changes impact overall compensation metrics and career paths. Furthermore, the episode covers the importance of effectively utilizing AI capabilities in customer engagements, providing insights into AI’s ability to enhance customer experiences and help achieve business objectives. 

This episode offers actionable strategies and insights for organizations looking to elevate their customer success initiatives for greater satisfaction and organizational success.

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