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Customer Success Vs Customer Support: Know The Difference!

Kate William

7 min read

If customer is king, then knowing how to serve royalty is paramount. Imagine your customer is a restaurateur with Michelin star chefs and gourmet cuisine. In the same analogy, how do we differentiate customer success vs customer support? Customer support would mean making sure the king is getting his daily newspaper. 

And customer success would mean the king gets that newspaper he needs. This newspaper would be one that helps the restaurateur take informed decisions. But how, you ask?

  • It would have news that he needs to know about the latest food trends and rising chefs, ingredient prices, quality, taxes and quality control.
  • Would be delivered at the right time.
  • It would be in the mode he prefers.

On the surface, it seems like there is little difference between both. They seem to make the customer happy, seem to need the same skill set and seem to obtain value from your team and product. But in the world of customer service, customer support vs customer success is a real battle. Let’s see how each works, shall we? 

Customer Success vs Customer Support

Let’s start with the basics. Customer success is not the same as customer support. While there are a number of differences between the two, the most significant distinction comes down to this:

  • Customer support is reactive.
  • Customer success is proactive.

While customer support and customer service teams respond to incoming customer communication, customer success works to proactively purge customer problems before they have reached the level of customer support.

What is Customer Success?

When any business takes an effort aimed at helping their customers be more successful, both with their product and more generally, it’s called customer success.

Customer success teams take a proactive, data-led approach to helping customers more effectively use a product. This helps business reach goals like:

  • Increasing renewal sales and revenue.
  • Inspiring customer loyalty and retention.
  • Reducing churn.

By ensuring customers are successful with a product, customer success increases the likelihood that customers will stick around. To know more about the impact of customer success in an organization, you can read our State of Customer Success report

What is Customer Support?

Customer support is the act of providing support to both prospective and existing customers. Customer support teams commonly answer customer questions through in-person, phone, email, chat, and social media interactions. This may be done in person, with a professional answering question behind a screen or with chatbots, as seen with many websites. Since they are the first point of contact with customers, some experts also tend to see them as the face of the business.

Unlike customer success, customer support waits to receive a request from a customer who needs something. The agent then replies to the customer with the necessary information, and the request is closed.

If we take our restaurateur’s example, the customer support team would help the patron get a reservation, know how the service was or get feedback about the restaurant. On the contrary, the customer success team would identify earlier on when peak business happens, prepare the on-ground team accordingly and work with the feedback to improve customer retention, attract new customers and use it to meet the business goals. 

Now let’s look at the major differences between both.

How Do I score?

Customer Support teams assess the quality and speed of their interactions with SLA, CES, NPS and CSAT. For example, using SurveySparrow’s Customer feedback survey can tell if the patron at the restaurant enjoyed their meal and the ambience. 

To create such customer feedback surveys or customer satisfaction surveys, you can signup for FREE on SurveySparrow…

Meanwhile, customer success focuses on metrics related to long term business impact like customer retention, repeat purchase, expansion and overall lifetime value. Building a loyal customer base is one of the customer retention strategies employed by the customer success teams. SurveySparrow’s NPS help measure and analyze the performance of customer success teams. Simply put, happy customers reveal that customer success teams are doing well.

Approach

The Smart Receptionist: To start with, the goal of customer support is to give him what he wants. Does our restaurateur have a problem in his logistics? How to solve the delay in his logistics chain would be the concern of the customer support team. It’s a reaction to a singular problem, solving product-related issues. Once that is sorted, the conversation ends. Till the next issue comes along. 

Mary Fiore from The Wedding Planner: Customer success is a proactive approach. It starts with understanding the customer’s business goals and vision, identifying potential problem areas early with possible solutions. Say there is a political crisis, leading to an embargo and the supplier has to stop supply. So our restaurateur may not be able to serve meals that use that ingredient till the situation improves. The customer success team would already know that the ingredient in question could face an unexpected shortage, come up with alternate sources of supply and maintain the quality so the patrons of the restaurant can continue having their favorite foie gras.

Remember Mary Fiore, who wants her client to have the perfect wedding, while being on the watch for any possible problems? The customer success team, like Mary, they will try to keep the perfect customer experience. Like Mary, it is always on its toes, keeping an eye for possible trouble spots. The goal here is to enable the customer to meet his goals.

Raison D’être 

(noun – the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence)

The customer support team focus on troubleshooting, issue resolution and avoidance, while customer success teams work to achieve desired business outcomes as the customer journey continues.

Jason Whitehead, the co-founder of SucessChain, simply summarized it here – “Get the customer to think past the immediate need. Help them look at what happens next”.

Is this going to take long?

When our restaurateur has his booking arrangements in disarray, it will be the customer support team who will be coming to his rescue. They will figure what went wrong and fix it. Since the results depend on how fast an issue is resolved, it will end there. 

The success team would be working side-by-side to make sure all aspects of the business are running smoothly. They are with the customer till he’s king, i.e. he is their customer.

Return on Investment:

Most organizations view customer support teams as a necessary element of their business, a cost center nonetheless. There will be complaints popping up now and then, and these have to be addressed quickly. 

The need for customer success teams is often debated. But without a doubt, quality customer success teams generate revenue. They can retain customers, lessen churn and focus on growth. This is seen when the restaurateur is able to come up with customer retention strategies like loyalty benefits, cross-selling or offering tie-ups with similar establishments in other locations. 

Where is my toolkit?

Customer Support comes with a mountain of tools that have evolved over three decades. Different insight tools like SurveySparrow’s Relational NPS help analyze specific areas to improve. They also have detailed customer service email templates that can be used as it is or personalized to meet specific requirements.

Customer Success is a relatively new arena. Customizing it for every business remains to be developed. 

Hiring Skills

There are few differences but important differences in the skill set requirements. Customer support professionals possess skills that coincide with marketing and operational teams; essentially, they know what the business is about.

 As mentioned earlier, customer success is relatively new so it can extend to a wide range of disciplines and industry expertise. What works with one organization may or may not work with another. So the experience and ability to apply this experience is what matters.

How do you measure customer success? 

Here are some common metrics to measure customer success

1. Churn Rate – Client churn is the percentage of your customers that leave your service over a given time period.

2. ARPA – Average Revenue Per Account is the revenue generated by all customers during a defined time period.

3. NPS – Net Promoter Score measures how likely a customer will refer your company to someone else. Normally measured on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is least likely, and 10 is very likely. The NPS is calculated as a percentage.

4. CRC – Customer Retention Cost is the total expenses a company typically commits in the form of technical support to keep and cultivate its existing customers. Calculating CRC involves the addition of all the costs necessary for customer retention and engagement. 

5. CSAT – Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is a basic measurement of a customer’s satisfaction with a brand’s product and/or services.

6. CLV – Customer Lifetime Value is the metric that indicates the total revenue a business can reasonably expect from a single customer account. 

7. MRR – MRR stands for monthly recurring revenue. It’s a great metric to use to determine how much your number of customers or their spending has grown since they started working with your business. 

With all these differences, are both teams mutually exclusive?

Actually, no. Despite their differences, ideally combining of customer support teams and customer success teams make customers happy, give them irresistible service thereby making their business successful.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon said, “We are not competitor obsessed. We are customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs, and we work backwards”. 

High-quality customer support and success requires both of these teams to work together in sync. When working together, customer support can handle transactional, reactive measures to improve the overall experience for the customer. The customer success teams can proactively connect with those clients, empowering their journey and building their success at the same time.

With information from the customer support team, the success team can stem the transactional output required and make it a seamless experience for the customer. Meanwhile, with timely inputs from the customer support team, the customer success teams can resolve customer issues quickly. 

When trained properly, the end customer feels they are all one team. The customer support team and customer success team should be complementary to each other. Their common goal is to make you work together to support your customers in their journey to success; you can foster trust and brand loyalty from the first point of contact to the most recent customer conversation.

There is something else both teams keep in mind. Each customer is unique and, as such, will have different uses for our restaurant’s services (and products, if any). Hiring a Customer Success Manager (CSM) who can fully understand the individual needs of each customer would be a good idea. He/she can promote fulfillment of those needs throughout their journey with the business.

Winding it up..

Our restaurateur will need all teams to work cordially for his restaurant to be successful. Needless to say, the customer success team and customer support will need to be working in unison. They need to be like the peanut butter to the jelly in a PBJ. As someone who is constantly chasing success, Elon Musk said, “You want to be extra rigorous about making the best possible thing you can. Find everything that’s wrong with it and fix it”. Combined, both support and success teams work like a well-oiled machine that keeps customers happy and growing.

 

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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