What is the difference between Customer Success and Customer Support?

Anika Zubair
Sep 10, 2018 · 3 min read

A few years ago Customer Success was the buzzword in the SaaS industry. Before becoming its own department, very few organizations knew how to properly define the difference between a proactive approach to customer management versus a reactive one. Customer Success has now become a company culture and a proven way to increase conversions, improve customer happiness and reduce churn. It’s kind of a no-brainer as to why Customer Success has moved from an optional department to a mandatory one at most SaaS companies.

Customer Success becomes more and more pivotal in business, it is important to understand that taking your tech support or sales team and renaming it “customer success” isn’t going to cut it. In today’s SaaS and B2B technology world, the phrase customer support and customer success are commonly used interchangeably, when they are actually very different departments that serve different functions. It is understandable that these departments can be confused as they are both focused on serving the customer and ensuring the customer is happy, right? Yes. But these departments are very different.

Customer support is reactive in nature while Customer Success is proactive. Using customer support and customer success interchangeably can actually cause a lot of confusion for both your customers and your internal team. One cannot replace the other, both of these departments are critical to the success of your customer, but it is important to define their difference from the start to prevent confusion.

What is Customer Support?

Customer support has been around long before the software industry and will last into the future, but what is it exactly? This department is usually apart of an organization to react to solve product issues that have occurred or to provide product guidance. Customer support is more responsive in nature, as this department was created to answer customer tickets, calls, and chats.

What is Customer Success?

Customer success is the proactive approach made to build and maintain relationships with existing customers. The main goal of this department is to understand how the customer uses your product, understanding in depth their company and product goals, and ultimately making sure the customer meets those goals through proactive contact. The Customer Success Manager (CSM) job is to make sure that he/she understands each of their customers and becomes their champion throughout the entire customer journey.

Customer Success is still a relatively new function in the B2B and SaaS world, meaning that the role of the CSM is still being defined and redefined year after year. But the main driver to have a customer success team would be the need for a business to retain their customers and have a team in place to make sure their customers see the full value of their product. The major driver for having a customer success team would be the fact that with a SaaS-based business model in which customers are free to cancel where brand loyalty is at an all-time low and switch to a competitor at short notice, you have to be able to predict revenue and churn as much as possible. The CSM plays a major role in identifying predictable revenue versus customer churn.

How do customer success and customer support work together?

Both of these departments are crucial to any SaaS business, and often times these departments will work side by side to make sure that the customer reaches their desired outcome with your product. When a client submits a bug ticket, the support team will work with the product team to sort this out, but they will also let the CSM know about the changes happening. This is also the case when a CSM helps a customer in a more proactive approach. When the CSM sees a recurring issue or notices customer difficulties within the UX or customer experience, they have the opportunity to improve the process and report back to internal teams to fix the issue.

Whether you are a CSM or a Customer Support Agent, the end goal is to always serve the customer and be helpful. Both roles are crucial to have, so it is important to define these functions to your internal teams, your customers, your investors, and the world! It is so important that anyone that interacts with your company understands the roles and the goals that each team is measured by.

Anika Zubair

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“Customer Success” is not a destination, it is a journey.