Customer support vs customer success: Differences you need to know

In today’s combative and fast paced world of endless B2B products, services and offerings, it must be noted that the terms, ‘Customer support or service’ and ‘customer success’ are often thrown around and used interchangeably. Although it is true that at the end of the day, they are about serving the customer and ensuring that they find satisfaction and success with the product or service but it is not so when it comes to the definition of these terms. 
Both customer support and customer success are critical to the triumph of any organization or brand. But using these phrases in an intertwined manner can only lead to confusion and vagueness. While Customer support and Customer success are indeed intertwined and rely on each other to work in congruence and absolute harmony, they are undoubtedly not the same. 

Source: https://customeruplift.com/

Customer support and Customer Success: Let’s break it down
Customer support, though often found tucked under the broad umbrella of customer success; is really a function on its own. This group implements their approach by solving individual product or service problems or by providing product or service guidance for various customers. Quality customer service or support involves helping customers overcome a problem or issue that they happen to have encountered while interacting with your company’s product or service. Let’s keep in mind that in addition to deep product understanding customer support professionals are expected to prioritise the needs of the customer at every stage of the interaction while also being empathetic and well-timed. It is often looked at as an extension of the product itself and according to Chase Clemons, a member of Basecamp’s customer service team, customer support is looked at as a feature of the product. 

Source: Nextiva

According to a survey conducted by Nextiva, 89% of customers will undoubtedly switch to a competitor following a poor experience with customer service. This is the challenge and also the objective of customer support which is basically issue resolvance quickly followed up with customer satisfaction. Customer support teams are primarily responsible for resolving product or service-related issues. They also tend to educate customers regarding the product and empower them through resolution or solutions that will help them stay ‘satisfied’ despite their temporary reproof. The definition, roles and responsibilities of customer support continue to evolve as the expectations of customers keep changing and growing. 

Customer success fundamentally focuses on nurturing intimate customer relationships by helping customers succeed with your company’s products and services. This group implements their approach by 

  • building lasting relationships with the customers.
  • Helping customers meet and surpass their expectations and goals
  • Facilitating the implementation of the company’s products or services successfully. 

 The primary focus of customer success would be to identify how customers can relate to the company’s products and services and how they want to find success with the same. Furthermore, customer success works to help customers achieve their goal in every aspect of their customer journey. This function came into existence pretty recently and originated out of the need to help existing customers see the full value of the products and services and being in a position to access the new product upgrades and development throughout the lifecycle of the customer; thereby retaining them. 

Customer success teams proactively work with customers to understand their use of the products and services and help them find success with the same, thereby escalating the lifetime value of the customer. Each customer has their own needs, their agenda for the product or service and different expectations that need to be met, so it is up to the customer success professional to deeply understand his customer and be their champion throughout their customer journey directly contributing to the success of reducing churn and creating revenue predictability.

Source: GrooveHQ

The real difference between Customer success and customer support. 

While both teams have the same goal to offer help and deliver an exceptional customer experience; there are a few key areas wherein these prime functions differ from each other. 

  • Intent 
    Customer support focuses on the resolution of customer issues and the avoidance of the same while making sure the customer is satisfied at the end of the interaction. 

Customer success aims to attain desired business outcomes as the journey of the customer continues with the company. 

  • Approach 

Source: customeruplift.com

In customer support, when the customer needs assistance, the objective is to provide them with that and possibly more. Hence the approach here is reactive in order to fulfil the needs, desires and expectations of the customer. 

Source: customeruplift.com

Customer success, in contrast, is proactive in helping the customer identify their goals and facilitates bringing their goals to fruition. 

It is as simple as customer support receives, responds and resolves whereas customer success; discusses, analyses and strategizes. 

Source: Storyxpress

  • Duration 
    Customer service and support interactions are transactional in nature and that means that they have a defined beginning and an end. These interactions begin when a customer reaches out to the company and ends when their issue is resolved. The relationship ends with that interaction and goes no further. 
    With customer success, the team takes a customer-first approach and attempts to actively help the customer without waiting for them to approach the company. This is more relationship-based as it begins the moment the prospect becomes a customer with no defined endpoint. The relationship will continue as long as the customer continues to be a customer with the business. 
  • Field Maturity 
    Customer support or service has been around for a long while now. The field has been in existence for over 25 years and has a large knowledge and database for being in the field for so long due to which there are sure-fire ways of doing and getting customer support right. 
    Customer success, on the other hand, is a relatively new field and has been around for a little over 10 years. Due to this, there exists a certain amount of uncertainty and loss of clarity as there are no pragmatic and definitive solutions to perform customer success for each business. 
  • Recruitment 
    Being a mature field, customer support has well-defined job functions and best practices concerning hiring are well established. Therefore, owing to over 20 years of industry experience, customer service skills, therefore, is a category in its own right. 
    Given its recent entry into the business world and its prominence in a wide range of disciplines, customer success requires the hiring skill roster to range from marketing skills to analytical skills to product or service expertise to sales skills. 
  • Metrics 
    As with most companies, the metrics in customer service focus on measuring the speed and quality of support interactions while also aiming at improving the same with each customer exchange. These metrics specifically measure CSAT, NPS, CES, AHT, resolution time among other metrics that can be found here

Source: Sciencesoft

Customer success metrics tend to focus on the positive downstream impact of business such as customer expansion, retention, repeat purchase rate, overall lifetime value and long-term business metrics.

Source: customeruplift.com

  • Measurable ROI 
    Customer support is well understood and so is their ROI as most organizations view this as a necessary operational cost of doing business. It is documented that if customer support channels were to break down; it would result in a massive decrease in satisfaction ratings, retention rates, lifetime value of customers etc. Therefore companies identify this as a core function and consider it as a necessary cost. 

Source: teamsupport.com

The ROI of customer success is harder to determine and measure but important to keep track of as it is an essential business function. Customer success ROI can be measured by the volume and velocity of referrals, average daily users, product adoption rates, a natural increase in revenue not tied to the efforts of marketing, and an increase in cross-sales, upgrades and retention rates.

            Source: strikedeck.com

  • Business Impact 
    Customer service/support is vital to running a successful enterprise as customer questions need to be answered and their grievances need to be addressed. 
    Customer success, on the other hand, is a value-added business operation that helps in driving revenue and enables expansion and growth.

Support and Success works best in each other’s company

Both customer support and customer success, as mentioned above, are essential and influential business processes that will help in retaining, improving and growing customer relationships. While they are individual departments and in addition to the clarity in the goals, roles and responsibilities, they should attain the autonomy for working incongruence and in unison with each other. All of which will directly translate into improved bottom lines and overall company success. By keeping both the sections informed and on the same page of one another’s prerogatives and activities, customer data can be leveraged to make better and informed decisions that will positively impact the overall subscriber and consumer base.

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