Customer Support vs Customer Success: How They Go Hand-in-hand

Customer support and customer success are often seen as two separate groups within an organization that compete for results, like sales and marketing.

But that couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be further from the truth.

Customer support is key to satisfying customer problems and producing great experiences. For freeing up jams in the system and continually improving the product and user experience.

But customer support without success (and vice versa) is only half of the job.

Customer success is key to empowering customers and keeping them happy and successful on your platform, as well as coming back for more.  

In this article, we’ll detail the differences between these two functions and how they work together to improve your growth and customer satisfaction.

Customer Support vs Customer Success: Breaking Them Down

When discussing support functions of a business, most people either lump success and support into the same category with no fundamental differences or treat them as competing groups fighting for credit and appreciation.

Unfortunately, that isn’t good for both groups of customer support and success.

Breaking each team down, customer support is often associated with being reactive, whereas success is proactive.

Reactive Support Proactive Support

While customer support can be both reactive and proactive, customer success is mainly proactive.

Customer success is focused on investing in the long-term, building the lifetime value of customers through consistent support and investing in their business as if it were their own.

On the other hand, customer support focuses on winning the one-time transaction. Helping a customer in need who is having issues with their account, the software, or any function that involves your business.

Think of customer support as acquisition and customer success as lifetime value.

The first interaction with customer support will be a critical determining factor in their propensity to continue doing business with you:

Even eight years ago in 2010, 82% of consumers would bail on a company after a single negative experience with customer service.

Plus, 51% of consumers will never return to a company after having a bad experience in customer service.

Not only will a single bad experience cause people to jump ship and test other brands, products, and services, but it often also seals your fate: losing the customer for good.

Customer service is your second acquisition test behind actually acquiring that customer in the first place, making it a vital role in the success of any given customer or company.  

Meanwhile, customer success is focused more on empowering customers to succeed with your product or service in the long term, rather than solving issues in the short term.

In essence, success teams are focused on helping customers achieve greater value and are genuinely seeking to improve their business.

Support roles generally fall under conflict resolution, responding to tickets, answering phone calls from struggling customers, and responding to all customer concerns.

Success teams focus on preventing conflict from happening, giving customers the power to improve their business, and developing systems that help customers to find continual success.

While both teams are slightly different in process, goals, and success metrics, they work together in harmony from acquisition to building customers for life.

Focus Customer Success on Long-term Impacts

Customer success, as we discussed, is heavily focused on long-term impacts: helping customers grow their own business for years to come. In turn, that directly impacts the company bottom line by producing clients with higher lifetime values.

Success reps are usually in a quota-based role where their key performance indicators (KPIs) revolve around growth and directly tie to revenue. Common KPIs of customer success teams are lifetime value, up and cross-sell rate, customer churn, Net Promoter Score, and more.

Customer support is measured by factors like speed and quality of help received, which can also tie into the Net Promoter Score.

But the key, unique differences between the two lie in the downstream impacts that customer success teams generate: bigger returns on investment, more reselling, better retention, and higher order values.

Unbounce, an infamous landing page building tool in the marketing tech space, is one of the best examples of a stellar customer success teamServing over 14,000 unique brands, customer success is a vital aspect of their company success. Ryan Engley, Director of Customer Success for Unbounce, notes these key points about customer success and support hiring:

“Empathy, kindness and curiosity are the traits I’ve found to be most effective….our team cares so much about our customers and you can’t teach that. It has to be innate.”

Customer success is built on a genuine desire to see your customers grow and achieve their dreams.

Working directly with the customer support team, they both share data for the common goal of improving Unbounce as a whole:

“At Unbounce, the feedback we receive from our customers is a huge factor in determining future integrations and features. We are a company that heavily relies on feedback to help us better understand our customers needs and continue to improve our web app.”

With diverse support options, customers can reach out at any time to speak with real humans, create a support ticket, or find answers on their own through the community or knowledge base documents.

After getting support, customers can provide feedback like the NPS or detailed info that Unbounce support relays to the success leaders who implement it back into their process for continual improvement.

Both teams work hand-in-hand and play vital roles in the experience.

The bottom line:

Customer success teams should focus their efforts on the account level, taking an almost account-based marketing approach to customer success. Treating each account as their own unique market allows customer success teams to immerse themselves in the client’s business, working to achieve common goals.

Customer Support and Customer Success Can Relay Information

Customer support is one of the early steps in the overall customer success journey. Without customer support, customer success can’t begin. If you’re a new customer to a product, you’ll likely need support in one way or another.

Whether that’s through phone calls, live-chat with an agent, or using knowledge base documents to solve problems and learn systems. For instance, at FreshDesk, we offer multiple routes for customer service based on preferences and needs:

Customer support teams spend their days in the trenches, helping customers solve problems and improve their usage. This first step opens the door for successful teams, allowing the shared information of how support calls went and looking at specific needs and wants of each customer.

Customer success can then run with the new data to provide the right tools for them to succeed in the future. On top of that, they can assist in the onboarding process by creating a friendly rapport between support and the client.

So while both groups are ultimately driven by helping real people, support groups are more reactive, and success groups are more proactive in daily work.

Conclusion

It’s commonplace to see interdepartmental teams as competitors for credit. We see it all of the time with sales and marketing teams. And customer support and success teams are no different.

But great customer support and success requires both of these entities to work together in harmony. When working together, customer support can handle transactional, reactive measures to improve the experience for a given customer. From there, success teams can proactively connect with those clients, empowering their journey and building their success at the same time.

Combined, both teams work like a well-oiled machine that keeps customers happy and growing for years.

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