How to Align Customer Success & Customer Support

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist

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Importance of Aligning Customer Success & Customer Support

Perhaps the most critical alignment in an entire organization is that of customer success and customer support. Customers are the lifeblood of an organization and are the sole reason for company growth, expansion, and revenue—year after year.

Important Brand Touchpoints

With the exception of new business sales, customer success and customer support are the two teams that work most closely with customers and play a big part in how a brand is truly perceived.

Working Hand-In-Hand

Both customer success and customer support are crucial for your organization and often times these two functions do (and should) work hand-in-hand. When a customer support 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 can help to improve the process.

Pains of Nonalignment

But what happens if customer support and customer success aren’t in complete alignment?

Miscommunication, product misses, unresolved issues, and perhaps even lost revenue or churn.

Driving Alignment

However, as demonstrated above, the good news is that if the two teams are aligned in the way they set process and have clear lines of what each team is responsible for (and not responsible for), then together they can achieve incredible success internally, but also provide incredible value for the end customer.

Let’s first start by defining each of these teams:

What is Customer Support?

Customer Support: While it often times is tucked under the umbrella of customer success, customer support is truly its own function. This group which is often more reactive to customer problems, 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.

What is Customer Success?

Customer Success: It’s a proactive account management approach consisting of building relationships with existing customers, understanding in depth their company and product goals, and helping the customer meet those goals through frequent 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 CSM plays an incredibly important role in creating revenue predictability.

Define Handoff, Ownership, and Processes for Each Team

Perhaps the most crucial step for the two teams is to determine who is responsible for what—and who isn’t. Typically, a good way to think about this is anything more reactive to customer issues, such as product problems or user help, should be solved by the customer support team. Anything that is proactive, such as product training, upsells, and renewals, should be handled by the customer success team. The most important part is having alignment around who owns what. That is the first step to success.

Delineate Responsibilities Clearly

Having a clear delineation of responsibilities will ensure that nothing slips through the cracks when it comes to working together as a team to support the customer. But even more importantly, your team will come across as a cohesive unit, which is absolutely critical.

For example, if a customer has a product issue and works hand-in-hand with a customer support representative, but the CSM has no idea these issues are happening and goes into a renewal call blindsided, the customer is put into a difficult position. Similarly, if a customer support representative helps a customer by answering user questions and the customer has a very positive experience, it’s also helpful for the CSM to know so they can help other customers who may be having similar issues.

The two teams must operate in complete unison—always with the customer at the center of the equation.

Examples of Alignment and Defined Processes – Considerations

When it comes to defining process, the customer support team has many considerations—especially as it relates to the details of how they will work with customers and around what parameters. While there are no “right or wrong” answers to these, there are several considerations that the team must work through and communicate not only to the customer, but also to the customer success team to ensure alignment. These considerations include:

  • What is the process for a customer to submit a product bug or issue? Is the process seamless or does it require multiple steps?
  • When a product bug or issue is submitted, how does the CSM become aware? What is the protocol for having the CSM follow-up with the customer when the issue has been resolved?
  • What response time to the inquiry should the customer expect? Are response times and protocols posted, such as within 30 minutes or within 1 business day?
  • Are support hours posted, such as 24/7/365 support or 8am – 5pm EDT?
  • Is a chat function utilized as a method of support and if so, is someone manning it at all times when the chat is “online”?
  • Are support documentation links and responses easy to understand and articulated in step-by-step guidance?
  • Is information updated frequently based on customer feedback and product updates?
  • Is it easy to get to a live person if needed?

The Two Teams Must Be In Constant Sync

No matter your role, whether a CSM or a Customer Support Representative, your ultimate goal should be serving the customer and ensuring a successful journey. Both roles are critical to the organization’s success and both teams have goals and success measures. Ultimately, one team can’t be successful without the other and the two teams must communicate constantly and work together to communicate updates regarding each customer account as well as changes that affect an entire customer segment.

If the two teams aren’t in constant sync, they can easily lose sight of the customer and get caught up in the daily job requirements that over time, will surely have the customer picking up the slack by relaying messages from one team to the other—or worse, ending the partnership due to the lack of alignment.

Check out our resources below for more customer success best practices and insights for how your organization can approach customer success with the customer at the center:

eBooks:

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Blog Posts:

How to Build a SaaS Unicorn with Customer Success at the Core

The Customer Success Framework: Relationships, Risks, Revenue

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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