Customer Success vs Customer Support

Customer Success vs Customer Support

We live in the customer centric era. Business relationships have made a significant shift from a less-personalized role of “supporting” the customer by troubleshooting and solving occurring issues, to the goal-driven “success management,” provided through the understanding of client’s needs and making every effort to guarantee the top-notch user experience.

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Businesses all around the world are continuously researching on new ways to please their customers. And it turns out that clients are no longer relying on the flashy advertising companies and the mere existence of the customer support team. Things like product’s innovative features and fancy design are getting superseded by the customer-oriented approach and the value that product’s provider delivers.

In the framework of the non-stop development of customer-oriented strategies, it seems like businesses invent new terms every day. Phrases like “customer loyalty,” “customer experience,” “customer satisfaction,” and not to mention “customer success” has been around for quite a long time. Nevertheless, their meanings might differ from what you could have seen in the Merriam Webster’s 😉

For example, terms “customer support” and “customer success” are often intertwined. If both of them are about serving the customer, finding effective solutions for their difficult situations and ensuring the high level of satisfaction, why wouldn’t we just pick up one of them and use accordingly?

The thing is that although both terms refer to the same final objective, they, in fact, represent two different branches and have their own peculiarities. Obviously, we don’t want to confuse our customers and fellow colleagues, so the best thing we could do is to write an article, where we would find and explain the subtle difference between customer support and customer success services.

Customer support

Humans realised the power of trade very early on. Some thousands of years ago merchants became the part of the society. As trade relationships were becoming more advanced, salespeople started thinking how to sell more products. It did, however, become evident very early that in order to sell more, one should treat their buyers better. Everyone, from a local baker to a wealthy silk merchant had to define and meet the needs of their customers and develop what we now call a marketing strategy.

The invention of the electronic phone in 1876 was a significant milestone in the customer support development. Buyers got a possibility to simply make a call to the shop owner, instead of travelling long hours to report a problem.

The advent of the Internet has changed the rules of the game, introducing the concept of e-commerce and putting customer satisfaction on the very peak of business strategies. Such weird terms as “Satisfaction Score,” “Customer Effort Score,” “Net Promoter Score,” etc., had suddenly appeared and become firmly rooted in the emerging world of corporate values and customer-oriented businesses.

The greatest challenge of a support agent lies in ensuring that all customers had their issues solved and knew how to make the best use of the product. This process is often reactive since clients are reporting the problem and expect that an agent would help them to handle it. Although the responding time varies, depending on the issue and the quality of the support service, it doesn’t take long hours to hear back from the company’s representative.

In simple terms, primary functions of customer support service are the following:

  • Solving product-related issues
  • Answering product-related questions
  • Providing pre-sales and after-sales assistance

So, as you see, support service is not generating new revenue. Its aim is to please customers and ensure that they won’t stop buying from their company.

Whatever level of professionalism and enthusiasm support agents have, they are just not capable of resolving universal adoption issues. In addition to that, it can be difficult for them to monitor ongoing progress of each individual customer. There comes a time to hire a customer success manager:)

Customer success

First things first, we should understand that not every business needs customer success services. For example, the company that sells hats would not be interested in the success of their clients. People buy it, wear it, like it and, frankly, it’s enough. At the same time, if you are running a SaaS company and your customers don’t make the best use of your product, business is likely to screw up soon enough. And, as we’ve already mentioned above, customer support can’t solve this issue. Such company needs something to keep track of the client’s ongoing progress and ensure that every aspect of the product is used for its intended purpose, understandable and therefore contributes to the success of the customer’s project. That’s what we call “customer success.”

Generally speaking, customer success is the next step in the evolution of customer service. While customer support is dedicated to the resolving of an issue arising during the usage of products and services, customer success is aimed at ensuring that clients achieve what they need to achieve in the way that they want to achieve it through interactions with the team of a company.

Along with introducing customer success into your game plan, you integrate goals and outcomes of clients into the operations and strategy of your company. By doing so, you get the better understanding of customers’ needs and then can use this information to find individual solutions for every client. So, basically, it’s a win-win situation.

Let’s sum it up and define the role of customer success at every stage of the business development:

Understanding the target audience

In the framework of expanding the business to new market segments or just rolling out a new product, there are very few things as valuable as customer development. And here customer success management can, and will, stand you in a good stead.

By making a little research on the desired outcome of your potential consumers, you can understand their needs and develop the decent game plan to meet them. The experience of your customer success team members can boost the efficiency of this process to the whole new level.

Attracting new clients

Customer acquisitions typically take a lot of time and effort. Attracting the right customer is a lot harder than that. If you don’t find the right customer for your product, if the acquired customer doesn’t fit with your service, you’ll have a hard time trying to please them.

Don’t you think it’s better to confront future issues at their roots? Of course, customer success is not an ultimate solution, but working alongside with your sales management, the success-driven approach can become a powerful tool for attracting new customers. Use it to make inroads into your product and reach out to the right people.

Product sales

The stage of customer acquisition ends up with a deal. The task of customer success team here is to clarify the path from the first interaction to the successful Trial or Demo of your product and monitor significant milestones of the sales process. It’s crucial to keep track of the things that can maintain the consumer from buying the product or service you provide. So if you yet don’t have the customer success manager taking care of analysing the usage of products and billing customers, we strongly recommend you to get one.

Onboarding

Doesn’t matter how smooth the deal went down, if a customer fails to start using your product successfully, they are not likely to buy from you again. Thus, the major responsibility of your customer success managers is to ensure that a customer is making the best use of your product.

If your company offers Free Trial or Demo options, involvement of success services can promptly turn your new customers into loyal clients and evangelists, all it takes is to lend a helping hand to newbies 🙂

From Trial to Activation

So, the Trial of a customer has expired. What options do they have?

1 Activate the product
2 Reactivate the trial
3 Quit doing business with you

Obviously, the second option is not a thing you should be seeking for. At the same time, the third one is what you wish would never happen with your company.

If you fail to engage a customer, there is a high chance that you’ll lose them forever. Your task is to make sure that clients on this stage achieve their goals through your product. Otherwise, a customer will quit, wandering off into your rival’s hands.

You can analyse the success of the client on this stage through the particular metric – Time to First Value (TTFV). It stands for the period of time it takes to go from the purchase of a product to the achievement of goals set. The shorter this period, the better the work of your customer success team.

Ongoing support

This process takes place during the entire customer lifecycle. Although it’s the core responsibility of the customer support service, customer success also plays an essential role here.

Don’t wait for the issues to occur, prevent them. Customer success managers should reach out to users and help them to avoid possible errors. Right answers are those provided before the question is being asked.

Through the close cooperation with the support team, success agents examine every ticket and check the ways to solve issues before the customer reports them. Remember that the growing number of open tickets and unsolved problems may result in the low-level customer satisfaction and, as a consequence, a high rate of client loss.

Think about assigning few clients to every customer success manager. It will not only contribute to the qualitative dialogue and mutual understanding between your team and your buyers, but the individualistic approach can also bring you higher NPS (Net Promoter Score), turning your most difficult clients into the loyal evangelist of your services.

Follow-up after exodus

Clients can quit sometimes, and we’re not always able to control it. But even when we can’t retain a customer, it’s crucial to understand the reasons behind. If they left due to some circumstances beyond our control, it’s fine. You are not married, so there’s nothing to cry about 🙂

However, if clients are leaving unsatisfied with the quality or functionality of products or services, it’s time to think about some improvements. Good customer success management doesn’t abandon even those who decided to churn. Try to contact them after a cooling-off period, ask about the reasons for the exodus and suggestions to improve your services. You can use some of the customer satisfaction metrics, but don’t be surprised when you’ll get the negative NPS result.

Conclusions

Term “customer success service” has emerged not a long time ago. Nevertheless, it’s already introduced in the business structure of such big market players as Slack, Trader Joe’s and MailChimp. Fancy joining them on the pedestal of the most customer-oriented companies? Well, effective customer success management will help you with that. Do your best to ensure the success of your clients, and they would bring you as much success as you brought to them.

George Svash
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