Customer Success vs. Customer Service – and How to Master Both

Be Proactive and Foster Stronger Customer Relationships with a Customer Success Solution

In 1876, with Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone, customer service took a giant leap forward. People were able to reach businesses for help without having to physically travel. This basic accommodation has since evolved exponentially, and today, customers expect far more than basic accommodations.

Customer service and customer success are intrinsic to the customer experience. So what does each term mean and how can your business execute each for an optimal customer experience?

What is the Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Success?

If you’ve never considered the difference between customer service and customer success, it may surprise you – and you’ll likely realize you’re already differentiating the two in your business approach.

However, the goal here is to help you understand the differences so you can be more purposeful in how you execute customer service and customer success and effectively measure them so you know what you’re doing is working.

Customer service, which we can also think of and refer to as customer support, is when you assist customers with their problems and needs. It is a more reactive approach to business because people contact customer service or customer support when they already have an issue and need help.

Customer success is when you enable customers to reach their goals by using your product. It is a proactive approach to business because you’re solving customer problems before they even have them.

The following table helps further delineate key differences between customer service and customer success, as well as some important similarities.

Customer Service/SupportCustomer Success
Focused on solving customer problemsWorking directly with the customer throughout their engagement with your organization
Addressing and solving customer problems as they occurProviding tools, resources, solutions, and software to empower your customers to meet their business goals
Interacting with customers through different touchpoints on multiple channelsReaching customers through different touchpoints on multiple channels
Tracking metrics to evaluate the level and quality of service customers receiveTracking metrics to understand how your strategies are impacting customers

With both approaches, you’re providing help to your customers. However, customer service and customer support alone won’t get you very far in today’s business landscape. A customer success approach adds vital layers of customization, attentiveness, and proactivity to customer service, enhancing the customer experience and driving loyalty.

Let’s Break it Down: What is Customer Success?

The customer lifecycle is a big part of what makes customer success, well, successful. You must understand the customer lifecycle to ensure you’re providing the tools, resources, solutions, and software that not only meet their needs at each stage of their lifecycle, but addresses the common pain points users have so their experience with your brand is more seamless.

The customer lifecycle is how your organization views and responds to the customer’s activities, which you do primarily by using metrics. And it begins in earnest as soon as a lead is converted into a customer.

If your organization has a customer success team, they should be working alongside sales and service so everyone understands how their roles fit into the customer lifecycle. There are a few ways to drive customer success activities among different teams:

  • Set clear goals and objectives for each new customer engagement based on information the customer has provided and the roles of each team.
  • Develop an effective onboarding process that teaches the customer how to use your product, provides helpful tutorials and reference information, offers in-person training sessions, and provides ongoing support and troubleshooting.
  • Leverage a single platform solution to ensure customer data is easily accessible, and to give all involved team members visibility into their respective roles throughout the customer lifecycle.

When it comes to the customer experience, there are specific customer success activities that ensure you’re anticipating and meeting their needs.

Meet your customer where they are, and then go further.

Take the time to understand your customer’s business, unique situation, pain points, and goals so you can create a tailored, purposeful experience. For example, numerous Certinia customers use our Configure Price Quote (CPQ) software – but each customer is using it differently and for different reasons. Some use it because they need more accurate estimates, and others are focused on growing efficiencies. Knowing your customer and their business goals will help you deliver the best experience – and help them scale.

Always be upgrading.

Offer timely risk management or compliance upgrades to help customers stay in line with regulatory requirements. Every industry has different compliance regulations and any software solution should not only keep customers in compliance but provide reliable third-party vendor security.

Always be updating.

Collect, analyze, and apply customer data to measure their experience and identify room for improvement, such as new enhancements, efficiencies, or features that could add greater value to their business. This is one area where you can drive customer success by anticipating and delivering on customer needs before they even know they have them.

Foster collaboration, communication, and feedback among customer groups.

One way to empower your customers and enhance their success is to create customer communities where individuals in similar industries or using the same solutions or tools can interact and share notes. Additionally, another great way to spark communication is by disseminating periodic customer surveys. When done properly, these surveys can garner excellent feedback from customers about their experiences, helping you enhance your approach to customer success.

Make sure they know how smart you are.

You know your business best, so you’re the most qualified to share that knowledge. Gather your organization’s subject matter experts and provide thought leadership content such as webinars, video tutorials, and demos to help customers understand how your offering addresses their pain points before they have to ask for help. You’ll be making your customer smarter and more empowered, and you’ll get a leg up as a thought leader in your industry.

Make proactive, data-backed recommendations.

Build milestones and measurement tactics into the customer lifecycle so you can track the customer’s experience and provide them with suggestions for new or different strategies to improve performance. You may see room for improvement that they aren’t privy to, and making proactive recommendations is a boon to their success.

What Are Customer Success Metrics?

Your organization needs to track customer success metrics to understand how your efforts are impacting your customers. Here is a quick look at the top 5 customer success metrics you should be tracking:

  • Return customer rate: If your customers have made repeat purchases, it’s a great sign that your product is desirable and they value their relationship with your brand.
  • Life of customer: How long have your customers been with your brand? Long customer retention rates indicate satisfied customers and an effective success strategy.
  • Customer churn: On the flip side, if you’re constantly losing customers (churn) – especially within short periods of time, it is a red flag.
  • Net Promoter Score: When surveyed customers are asked on a scale of 1 to 10 how likely they would be to promote your business, those who answer 9 or 10 are considered Promoters. If your net promoter score is high, you’re in a good spot. However, scores from 0-6 indicate an opposite effect – those customers could be detracting from your business and it’s time for you to evaluate why.
  • Customer satisfaction: This metric is another that can be obtained through customer surveys. Asking customers how satisfied they are following an interaction provides valuable feedback about the quality of your service. However, this metric does not tell a complete story about how effective your customer success approach might be, so you shouldn’t rely on it as a sole indicator of success.

How Can Customer Service and Customer Support Become More Proactive?

Just because customer success is a more proactive approach to doing business doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive in your approach to customer service and support as well.

We noted in the table earlier in this post that both customer service and customer success utilize a multi-channel approach to customer engagement. This point is important because when it comes to customer service, multi-channel communication is key to greater proactivity.

Customers will reach out to you via phone, email, chat, web form, social media, and even text. Not only should you be able to respond quickly on every channel, but you should be able to shift from one channel to another easily. For example, if a customer sends a message via a chatbot and someone on your customer service team receives the message, following up immediately with an email or phone call based on the customer’s information is a seamless transition that enhances the customer experience.

Other ways of being proactive with customer service include:

  • Making help or troubleshooting tools and resources readily available
  • Allowing the customer to connect with customer service quickly and easily – meaning, no complicated web forms, no frustrating automated phone services, and no chatbots to nowhere (no one wants to talk to a robot for too long!)
  • Giving customers access to support communities where they can find answers from other users
  • Providing FAQs and other resource banks for customers to navigate as needed
  • Creating interactive content experiences that provide clear guidance to commonly-asked questions or address known pain points

A significant driver of customer success is being able to access customer data and information quickly and easily across your organization. Only by doing so are all involved teams empowered to better serve the customer at all lifecycle stages.

Contact us today to schedule a demo and learn more about how you can drive customer success on the Certinia Customer Success Cloud to streamline your operations – and your customers’ operations – and put your customers at the center of everything you do.