Pixelbliss - Fotolia

Customer success vs. customer support: What's the difference?

Customer success and customer support are important terms for businesses to be familiar with if they want to provide great CX. They sound similar but are different.

Consumers expect businesses to provide first-rate experiences, so it is important that companies know the difference between customer support and customer success.

There are many strategies and departments that contribute to customer experience, and it is easy to confuse their roles. Customer support is a specific type of customer service that typically addresses customer issues with products and provides technical assistance, while customer success focuses more on long-term customer service and support to ensure positive ongoing relationships.

Here are the differences between customer support and customer success:

Customer support

Customer support is typically a team that belongs in the customer service department. Customer support offers technical assistance with products, as well as troubleshooting. The customer support team provides guidance to customers who have issues with electronic equipment, software and apparel -- depending on the industry. Some of the key tools that help a customer support team operate efficiently include contact center software, call management systems, customer self-service tools and field service and dispatch systems.

Chatbots are a tool commonly used within customer support departments to help customers outside normal business hours. Chatbots can vary in complexity, but businesses frequently train their chatbots to answer more questions.

Customer success teams make sure that the product works properly and that the customers know how to use it.

Customer success

Customer success is a strategy that helps businesses keep ongoing positive relationships with their customers. Businesses use this strategy to ensure that their products meet the needs of the customer. Customer success teams make sure that the product works properly and that the customers know how to use it. Customer success also provides post-sale support.

There are three steps that are key to customer success:

  1. Installation. A professional services team sets up the software and ensures that the product functions properly.
  2. Training. The customer success team trains software users in how to use the product.
  3. Account management. Customer success teams focus on maintaining a relationship with the customer post-sale. Account management is important because customer success teams can ensure that products work properly, gather feedback and make improvements to the product and drive contract extensions and add-on services.

Differences between customer support and customer success

While they sound similar, customer support and customer success are different entities that contribute to the overall customer experience in their own ways.

  1. Reactive vs. proactive. Customer support is reactive -- meaning that customer support teams provide service when the customer reaches out for help. On the other hand, customer success teams handle proactive support -- meaning that customer success teams offer customers the resources to solve and prevent problems, to avoid reactive support altogether.
  2. Metrics. Customer support metrics measure speed and quality of customer interactions. Businesses may measure this performance through net promoter scores, which measure customer loyalty; customer effort scores, which measure the customer's experience in terms of the overall effort it takes to use the product or service; and customer satisfaction scores, which measure how likely the customer would be to refer a peer to the company. Customer success metrics measure the downstream positive effects the business has on a customer. This includes retention rates, repeat purchases and upsell rates.
  3. Skills and best practices. Customer support as a field has been around for many years, so the roles, skills and best practices are well-established. Customer success has not been around quite as long, so it may be hard to determine the "right" way to do customer success for every business. Customer success skills are quite broad and include customer service, subject matter expertise and sales knowledge.
  4. Transactional vs. relationship. Customer support interactions are transactional. The customer reaches out to the business for help and the customer support team addresses the problem. Customer success also addresses a customer issue, but the interaction is not the last one the business has with the customer. Customer success aims to provide an ongoing relationship with customers to ensure a continuous positive experience.

How customer support and customer success work together

It is important for customer support and customer success teams to work together to provide the best customer experience. Businesses should ensure that both departments stay in close contact with each other so they can use customer data to make better, more informed decisions. For example, if customers frequently face the same issue and share that with the customer support team, it is important that the customer success team also knows about that issue so they can work with other departments to solve the problem.

Dig Deeper on Customer experience management

Content Management
Unified Communications
Data Management
Enterprise AI