“The customer is always right” is an ancient phrase, which is still valid today as organizations strive to become more customer-oriented.
Customers are often considered as the most important part of the business (justifiably!). Hence, they are being carefully onboarded, nurtured, guided, and supported by dedicated professional teams of every organization.
These customer-facing teams, responsible for existing customers, are usually divided between Customer Success and Customer Support.
So many words were written on the similarity and differences between these 2 groups. I see them not as overlapping or similar functions but as 2 different functions that complement each other perfectly.
Proactive vs. Reactive
While Customer Success is more proactive towards the customer business plans, projects and future needs, Customer Support is more reactive, assisting in inquiries and solving customer issues, providing technical guidance and more.
Customers will usually work and meet with their Customer Success Manager (CSM) regularly during their onboarding and ongoing period but contact Support only if needed.
Strategic vs. Tactic
Customer Success activities nature is often more strategic, pushing the customer to utilize the product, get the highest business value, complete the onboarding process successfully, and foresee the next projects or customer business initiatives.
At that time, Customer Support is usually the one to act on an ad-hoc basis, solving immediate pains of the customer either due to an issue, missing knowledge, or know-how. The team’s focus will be to close ASAP the customer’s open inquiry with the best available solution. Therefore, naturally, Support team will be seen more tactic than the CSMs.
Trusted Advisors vs. Technical Experts
Since the CSMs are often the main point of contact for the customer, they are positioned as the customer’s trusted advisor to provide both business as well as technical insights. Usually, they will set up the customer and kick off the customer’s project or work.
Having said that, in many cases we find that technical issues or deeper complex needs will be taken by Customer Support engineers who usually have a broader under-the-hood knowledge as tech-savvies than a typical CSM.
In many cases, we see issues that start with the CSM and then moving to Support for a solution as experienced technical experts. In some cases, Support is also working directly with R&D if and where needed.
Customers Timeline vs. Tight SLA
Timelines and schedules for Customer Success and Customer Support are very different.
While CSMs are aligned to the customer schedules, usually based on project start and end dates, the Support engineers’ work is measured based on a tight SLA.
The Support team is obliged to work based on their SLA, depending on priority, severity, business impact and other factors. In order to adhere the timelines, Support groups usually have various engineers/agents in different time zones, etc.
Another common practice is building SMEs within the Support group to have a focal point for specific products and domains, in order to have another “tier” before escalating to R&D.
VOC Ambassadors vs. Product Ambassadors
As organizations are trying to provide their customers with the sense of being heard internally, Customer Success is usually acting as the central function to keep and represent the voice of the customer (VOC).
CSMs are often seen as the customer ambassadors within the organization, making sure the customer needs/requests are being considered in any relevant discussion and decision.
At that time, Customer Support usually acts as the product ambassador where they provide to the product house (and R&D) feedback including customers common serviceability issues, technical (and business) quick-wins, product ideas based on their experience working with the entire customer base of the company and more. This part is crucial as the Support team sees ALL the customers while a CSM usually manages just a branch of customers.
Usage and Adoption vs. Product Stability and Enhancements
While CSMs are pushing for product usage and comprehensive customers adoption as their key priority, the Support team usually oversees the product stability and ongoing enhancements as their top ask.
One of the primary responsibilities of a CSM is to guide the customers through their journey and ensure they use the product and produce the highest business value. Ongoing value will always mean excellent adoption and eventually a renewal.
This is why having an intelligent product usage and adoption metric platform is a must-have in every CS organization to ensure all CSMs are monitoring their customers, ensuring good health anytime.
Speaking about Customer Support, their main drive will be to have as stable and robust a product as possible, with ongoing enhancements and new functionalities. This will ensure the closure of critical customer issues.
To conclude, when I’m looking at Customer Support and Customer Success, I see them as the perfect match. Having well-defined groups, structured working processes, ongoing collaboration and of course – top-notch teams is a MUST-HAVE for any organization.
We at Panaya were luckily blessed with first-class Customer Success and Support teams, making sure our customers are happy anytime.
What about you?