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?
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/Support||Customer Success|
|Focused on solving customer problems||Working directly with the customer throughout their engagement with your organization|
|Addressing and solving customer problems as they occur||Providing tools, resources, solutions, and software to empower your customers to meet their business goals|
|Interacting with customers through different touchpoints on multiple channels||Reaching customers through different touchpoints on multiple channels|
|Tracking metrics to evaluate the level and quality of service customers receive||Tracking 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.
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:
When it comes to the customer experience, there are specific customer success activities that ensure you’re anticipating and meeting their needs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.