Things used to be simple – a customer had a problem? Your customer support department would take care of it. End of story. Today, with the advent of software companies providing more volatile services such as MSSPs, creating new customer success departments has become a necessity.
Although sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, the division between these two business functions is rather stark. After all, the wording used to define “customer support” (also known as customer service) and “customer success” seemingly explains it all – the former is just to help your clients with something, while the latter provides them with tools to achieve what they need.
Both these services are extremely important in all industries and verticals – from software houses to telecoms, SaaS companies, e-commerces, manufacturers, and even health care organizations. Let’s find out how having the right customer success strategy can help your enterprise make it or break it.
What are the differences between customer success and customer support?
The biggest difference between customer support and customer success lies in the timing. Customer service is just reactive – your employees will act once a customer seeks their assistance because they ran into a problem.
Let’s illustrate it with an example: a broken washing machine. To repair the leaking appliance, a customer will contact the support team. This means that a customer service team may be more or less effective in fixing issues – true success on the other hand, is achieved when issues never happen in the first place.
Customer success, is an entirely proactive service. Its purpose is to enable your customers to get the most out of your product or service by adding value to the existing offering. It often involves the collaboration of different departments, ranging from customer support to design, marketing, sales, engineering, etc.
Let’s get back to the example mentioned earlier, the washing machine. Customer success representatives will teach the customer how to use the machine properly and maximize its potential. Further information about new features or product upgrades will also be delivered by them.
Targets and goals
Though often considered as one, customer support and customer success have two differing objectives. The former delivers one-time technical assistance to overcome product failure, and it aims at providing robust answers to any potential customer’s question. The latter focuses on building long-lasting customer relationships to increase retention and reduce churn. It’s a more people-oriented rather than product-oriented service.
Customer support focuses on the outcomes – i.e., the product has been fixed, and it’s now operative again. Customer success aims at ensuring that all customers’ experiences with the organization are consistently positive.
Duration and costs
Cost is another huge difference between these two departments. Customer support relations are transactional in nature – every interaction is handled as it happens and has a beginning and an end. For customer success in contrast, you have to plan proactively, and the relationship with the customer continues as long as he or she is retained.
This, in turn, makes customer support a cost center since helping clients fix their problems with your product or service do not generate any new revenue for the organization. It is however a vital service since it prevents further losses that may include losing a client, facing a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled customer, or dealing with a damaged reputation.
It can save money but doesn’t generate it, so the metrics used to measure the efficiency of customer support are the speed and quality of the support interaction. There’s nothing beyond this interaction.
Customer success is entirely focused on growth rather than just retaining (although preventing churn is still an important part of it). The idea is to expand the business, change how the clients perceive your services, and ensure that they enjoy your products to their full extent.
In other words, it can bring new revenues by getting referrals, cross-selling, and upselling. Unsurprisingly, the metrics that rate a good customer service are all centered on downstream, long-term business impact. Speed and turnover time are substituted by repeat purchase rate, customer retention, and other metrics that are often shared by marketing teams.
It’s worth remembering that customer success doesn’t exist without customer support, and customer support doesn’t exist without customer success. They’re a perfect match that ensures customer satisfaction and loyalty at once. Usually, many smaller companies have a team that does both
However, when an enterprise has grown large enough and has sufficient manpower, establishing a customer success department is often a priority. In fact, the stronger a customer success team, the less need there is for customer support.
Why are both customer success and customer support key assets to a company?
The first interaction with a company is critical to determine the propensity of a customer to continue doing business with it. When an issue occurs, establishing an effective communication channel with the client is paramount to generate value.
If the right support is provided, a problem that could lead to discontent, negative reviews, and complaints, could be transformed into a unique opportunity to secure a new loyal customer.
Customer success brings lifetime value, while customer support is part of your acquisition strategies. Did you know that more than half of customers will leave a company forever after they had just a single negative experience with customer service? If that sounds scary, well, it is.
Especially today, when they can simply jump ship and find another 10 brands ready to offer their services, if you fail to provide outstanding customer experience, well. You’re done. And this problem alone should be more than enough reason to define customer support and customer success as “key assets” to your organization.
As Jeff Bezos once said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” We couldn’t agree more with Amazon’s CEO, indeed.
Who can provide customer success?
Larger companies have the human and financial resources to create a fully-dedicated customer success department. However, while customer support requires a dedicated team, customer success can be provided at various levels other than the (obvious) support one.
The executives of any company are the people who have the best and deepest understanding of the product or service offered. In turn, they can use this knowledge to provide customers with the best experience, identify the best clients that should be reached, and where the other departments should focus their efforts to improve the product.
Marketing and sales
Marketing and sales departments can showcase the product or service by allowing customers to experience it in the real world. This way they can collect precious feedback on the challenges encountered by new users, understand its limits, and test it together with end-users. If they play their cards correctly, they can let users feel the product is growing together with them – it’s a win-win situation.
Design and development
Designers and developers often have a hard time understanding why their product does not perform as they expect it to. Working together with customers will help them find the details that often end up falling through the cracks.
At the same time, consumers will enjoy the opportunity to work and test the functionalities with the people who created the product, and feel like they’re part of the creation process.
Real-life examples of customer success
While support can be complex, it’s easier to define the nuts and bolts of it. Success requires more work to find out what makes the customer successful and makes them want to return to use your consulting services, again.
We collected a few of customer success use cases from some companies and startups. These real-life examples will show you what customer success is or could be in its many iterations to help you understand how it works in practice.
Brosix Instant Messenger
Brosix is a company that knows very well the difference between a common instant messenger used for leisure, and the level of quality required to deal with the much more complicated enterprise needs.
They offer a demo session during the free trial period of their business communication software – which, as you can imagine, is a very demanding service from the company’s point of view.
Brosix provides the user with the tools needed to run a session with video chat and remote desktop sharing, and helps him or her test its functionalities in a real-world environment.
Then the user is instructed on how to set its control settings on the control panel to maximize the performance. With instant messengers, users often stop at the first challenge. The audio drivers don’t work? Cool.
The product is thrashed, and a new one is downloaded. Who’s going to read the user manual to know about all the hidden functions, too? Helping the user learn about all the most interesting features of their tool, and assisting them during the most delicate set up phase ensures Brosix a greater chance to retain their clients and make a good, long-lasting impression.
This simple lightweight screen recorder is gathering steam in the world of business as a quick and secure way to communicate. Instead of sending lengthy emails, ScreenRec users capture screen videos and screenshots and simply send a secure shareable link.
The ease of use certainly contributes to a great customer experience but the reason why we featured ScreenRec in this article is that it’s also a great example of social media customer service done right.
A few months ago, one of the thousands of ScreenRec users, Mike, contacted the customer success team about an issue that was caused by his operating system. Since ScreenRec is a free tool, Mike didn’t expect an answer at all but only a few minutes later his messenger lit up with a text, “Hi! How can we help you?”
ScreenRec’s customer service agent examined Mike’s logs and helped him fix the issue within a day.
Voice customer success and support
The customer success department worked with him to debug his issues and it turned out the reason why he couldn’t use the voice recorder software was his microphone which wasn’t connected properly.
Speek’s customer representatives used their own product to give him sincere voice messages in response to his problems so that he could see it in action. Instead of just helping him solve the issue, they also found a smart way to showcase all the functionalities of their tool in a real-world setting.
Eventually, the customer was so impressed with the service and product that when he figured out what the problem was, he sent out Speek to his entire email list.
GeoMetrick Enterprises is a company that ensures that all laboratory software and information systems are usable and maintainable. In their example, they had a customer who needed an interim system administrator and they had to provide support to their software.
As bugs were reported by the user, the customer support department worked to determine what the issue was and how to correct it. This is just as simple as it gets.
However, before they even started their bug squashing sessions, the customer assistants talked with the client about how they could make the whole platform work better for them. They found out that the software was used for a highly sensitive production system that couldn’t be shut down or changed too casually.
The needed to create a process to address the issue as quickly as possible, but the people at the laboratory were constantly busy and could only be asked a few questions since they could not be taken away from their work for any real period of time. Writing-up bug reports were out of question too, since people on the production line couldn’t be bothered either.
Rather than presenting them with some canned set of best practices, Geometrick took the burden of investigating all the details of the bugs, send weekly updates to the managers, and generally allowed the customer to be as hands-off as possible.
In this instance, with a few basic rules of communication to keep the right people in-the-loop, they managed to provide the client not only with what they needed but with what they wanted as well.
In the end, customer service is about assisting your customers and helping them with their needs whereas customer success is all about adding that extra value to what you’re offering.
Customer Service improves satisfaction.
Customer success makes your company more successful.
Nikola Baldikov is a Digital Marketing Manager at Brosix, a secure instant messaging software for business communication. Besides his passion for digital marketing, Nikola is an avid fan of football and he loves to dance.