Customer Success vs. Customer Support

Teresa Becker

Customer Success Strategist

In today’s B2B technology world, it seems common that the phrases “customer success” and “customer support or service” are often intertwined. After all, they’re both about serving the customer and ensuring they’re finding success with your product or service, right? Yes. But by using these phrases interchangeably, it can cause confusion both to your customer, as well as to your internal team as to what the job responsibilities include. Both of these functions are critical to the success of your organization, but it’s equally important to define their differences and to understand what the lines are between the two functions.

First, let’s define what exactly “customer success” means versus “customer support or service”:

Customer Success Defined:
What is customer success? It’s a proactive, real-time sales approach consisting of building relationships with existing customers, understanding in depth their company and product goals, and helping the customer meet those goals through day to day contact. Each customer has different needs and uses for your product, so it’s up to the Customer Success Manager (CSM) to thoroughly understand each customer and to be their champion throughout their entire customer journey. The role of the CSM is a value-add and is usually not a fee-based service.

The function of customer success really came into existence just a few years ago, so the role of a CSM is still being refined. The customer success function was born out of the need to retain customers and help them see the full value as well as provide opportunities for further product offering “upgrades” throughout their customer cycle. This was a result of companies and their investors and advisors paying much more attention to recurring revenue for subscription-based SaaS companies. Churn (losing customers) became an important topic of discussion and remains that way since SaaS companies strive to be as predictable in their revenue as possible. The CSM plays an incredibly important role in creating revenue predictability.

Customer Support/Service Defined:
What is customer support or service? While it often times is tucked under the umbrella of customer success, customer support is truly its own function. This group, which seeks to solve individual product issues or provide product guidance for specific customers, is often more reactive in nature as the customer is usually calling to report a ticket or a problem they are encountering. Often times, B2B SaaS businesses have varying levels of service offerings and usually operate on a fee-for-service model.

How Do These Functions Work Together?

As we said before, both functions are crucial for your organization and often times these two functions do (and should) work hand-in-hand. When a customer service professional encounters the same problem time and time again, they’ll work with the product team to fix the bug and then let the CSM team know about the changes. Similarly, when a CSM helps a customer in a more proactive approach and on a daily basis, they become the customer’s champion for change. If they see a recurring issue or notice difficulties with the UI or customer experience (no matter where that problem may be in the organization) they are empowered to help improve the process.

For more information on how the two functions can work together, the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) recently wrote a blog post that does a great job of explaining how Customer Success and Customer Support both fit within your organization, and what their focuses should be.

No matter your role, whether a CSM or a Customer Service Representative, your role in serving the customer and helping them see success is invaluable in your organization. Because both roles are important to have, it’s also a must to define these functions with your internal teams, your customers, your investors and advisors, and anyone else that interacts with your company so the roles are clear and the goals are measurable.


 

eBooks:

5 Ways to Surprise & Delight Your Customers

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Blog Posts:

The Golden Rule of Customer Success: 8 Guiding Principles

6 Listening Techniques of Great Customer Success Leaders

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong Customer Success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

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