Understanding the Differences Between Customer Success & Customer Service

Customer service is a reactive tactic that focuses on fixing problems in order to keep customers satisfied. Customer success, on the other hand, is a proactive strategy for understanding and supporting your customers’ desired business outcomes.

Customer Success vs. Customer Service

Proactive vs. Reactive

Customer success organizations preemptively and proactively identify and address problems that prevent customers from realizing their goals. They create real-time visibility into core issues and coordinate resources to help customers overcome challenges. Customer service representatives, on the other hand, are reactive, putting out fires as they arise.

Goal Achievement vs. Issue Resolution

While customer service teams work to resolve unique, customer-specific issues as quickly as possible, customer success teams work to eliminate systemic process bottlenecks that jeopardize overall customer goal achievement.

Customer Value vs. Satisfaction

Customer success organizations aim to maximize value by helping customers to achieve their goals via the SaaS product. Satisfaction, the goal of customer service teams, is only the baseline for customer success teams. A customer success team’s performance is ultimately measured against customer outcomes.

Customer success heroes

Long-term vs. Short-term Perspective

Customer success organizations look at the entire customer process and lifecycle in order to resolve universal adoption issues and other common bottlenecks that prevent customers from achieving their goals. Service organizations, on the other hand, confine their view to immediate technical or usage issues in order to resolve contacts quickly and prevent follow-up contacts.

Revenue Generating vs. Cost Center

Customer success organizations focus on growth, not just retaining the customers they have. In addition to preventing churn, they also drive expansion via up-selling, cross-selling, and new business via referrals. Customer service organizations focus strictly on driving customer satisfaction to prevent churn.

Company-wide Initiative vs. Functional Initiative

True customer success requires fully integrated, cross-team collaboration that looks at customer needs holistically. In contrast, while traditional customer service can provide insights on how to reduce an organization’s supports costs, it rarely, if ever, involves collaboration with other parts of the organization.

You can learn more about the differences between customer success and customer service through real-life examples in our free, downloadable eBook, which you can access below.

Marketing Manager, Pricing Strategy

Brandon Hickie is Marketing Manager, Pricing Strategy at LinkedIn. He previously worked at OpenView as Marketing Insights Manager. Prior to OpenView Brandon was an Associate in the competition practice at Charles River Associates where he focused on merger strategy, merger regulatory review, and antitrust litigation.
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