When many of us in the business world (yes, even those of us in customer-facing roles) hear the phrases ‘Customer Success’ and ‘Customer Experience’, we often think of them as interchangeable. After all, don’t they both deal with engaging customers? As modern SaaS customers have changed and grown more complex over the last few years, the roles of customer success and customer experience have also changed.
In this post, we will look at the differences between customer success and customer experience and explore how finding the sweet spot between the two can help optimize and nurture long-term customer relationships.
Understanding Customer Success
At its core, customer success is the culmination of the value of a customer relationship in the eyes of a vendor. It’s the combination of all the ‘business’ parts of a customer relationship: onboarding, kick-off calls, cross-sell opportunities, and more. Customer success is, simply put, a snapshot of how profitable and, of course, successful a customer is throughout a vendor relationship.
As part of this mission, customer success managers (CSMs) are responsible for the ongoing ‘success’ of a customer account. While there are many different measurements of success in the industry, many CSMs are tracked and measured against KPIs like account expansions, customer churn or attrition, NPS score, or even the total calculated lifetime value of an account. These are often hard numbers that executives can easily measure or account for.
Looping in Customer Experience
Customer experience, on the other hand, is a little more cerebral in nature. Customer experience is often defined by how key customer stakeholders and spokespeople are feeling or thinking after an interaction with a vendor. Every customer interaction, whether it’s a conversation with marketing about a case study or a negotiation with a CSM over an expansion opportunity, influences the customer experience.
In the last few years, customer experience has quickly caught up with customer success as a critical focus for account management teams. Amazing customer experiences often lead to recommendations and testimonials, which in turn usually mean an account renewal or upsell. While customer experience might still be seen as an offshoot of customer success, both are required in the new age of customer engagement.
Leveraging both angles for an optimized customer relationship
For a long time, customer experience was looped in with customer success, and for good reason. As the main point of contact between a brand and a customer, CSMs are largely responsible for driving a high-quality customer experience as well as ongoing customer success. To that end, CSMs play a huge role in promoting a positive customer experience while nurturing a successful and profitable customer account.
Modern CSMs are in a unique position to be readily proactive and outgoing in matters of both customer success and customer experience. This means being open and honest with clients and constantly open to their feedback. Additionally, if a customer gives feedback, CSMs should use it and implement it in their day-to-day engagement with a customer.
Once customers start to realize their CSMs are dedicated and focused on providing and cultivating this unique brand experience, they will be more open and interested in the in-the-weeds conversations around new products or platform renewals. CSMs – and, frankly, anyone working with customers on a daily basis – should be aware of the subtle differences between customer success and customer experience and be ready to work on both with a customer.
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