Customer Success vs Customer Experience: The Difference Between the Journey and the Destination:Customer experience concentrates on touchpoints, while customer success focuses on the end game
Customer success is fast becoming one of the most vital functions for software as a service (SaaS) companies providing subscription solutions that deliver personalized services to customers for minimal investment. With this model, customer value is attained over time through recurring revenue, subscriptions renewals and upsells rather than capturing it at a single sale point. This has fueled the need for a more proactive approach to managing customer relationships that goes beyond positive customer interactions or exceptional customer service and support.
Customer success is a longer-term strategy that focuses on cultivating deeper relationships with customers by helping them achieve their desired goals for using a platform or application. It spans the entire customer journey, from product development and adoption to customer retention and growth. Aligning your goals with those of your customers not only helps them gain greater value from your platform, but it also encourages mutually beneficial growth: Your customer enjoys sustained value, while your organization benefits from their prolonged cycle of renewal.
Customer success began as a tactic for preventing churn in SaaS firms, but it has now evolved into a growing discipline embraced by firms throughout the digital economy. Nonetheless, the concept still gets confused with another prevalent and similar-sounding industry term: customer experience.
This term is an outgrowth of the increased emphasis on consumers and the shift toward making their experiences as easy, pleasant and seamless as possible. Most companies in today’s highly competitive digital economy realize that winning the hearts, minds and wallets of customers hinges on delivering experiences that meet or exceed expectations at all stages of the customer journey. Not only does this solidify consumer loyalty to a brand, but companies with above-average customer experiences regularly outperform their competitors financially.
Customer experience (CX) roles tend to be more common in the business to consumer (B2C) market, while Customer Success (CS) roles are more popular in the business to business (B2B) sphere. That goes back to the nature of their purchases. Individual consumers typically make a purchase to fill a need or want, but they also crave an enjoyable experience with the product or service they buy. On the other hand, having an enjoyable experience with a B2B vendor is a plus, but it isn’t enough to justify purchasing a product. Businesses expect to see measurable value from the purchases they make, along with a return on their investment.
Two Customer-Centric Approaches
But the distinctions between the two terms go beyond their niches in the industry. What’s the best way to differentiate customer success vs customer experience? It’s the difference between the journey and the destination.
Imagine that you are flying to another city for a vacation. How do you feel about the journey? What experiences do you have booking your flight, arriving at the airport, checking your luggage, getting through security and boarding the plane? Now think about what happens when you arrive at your destination. What is your mood as you settle into your hotel, meet the locals, and explore the food and culture? The feelings you have when you travel versus when you arrive at your destination is a good metaphor for the difference between customer success and customer experience.
Customer experience refers to the feelings, emotions and perceptions customers have when using your platform, while customer success focuses on the value they get from using your product. Back to our travel metaphor, customer experience is comparable to how easy and enjoyable your flight is, while customer success is more about what happens when you arrive at your destination.
Customer experience is based on all the interactions and engagements customers have with your platform across various digital and physical touchpoints before, during and after a purchase. It starts with their experience as they discover your platform and purchase a subscription and evolves based on their experiences logging in, using the platform, customizing it to their needs and troubleshooting issues. But customer experience is more than just the sum of these experiences; it’s a culmination of the impressions customers develop about your platform at every touchpoint along the way.
Customer success is about ensuring that customers achieve their desired outcomes through their interactions with your platform. This encompasses everything from aligning your product to consumer demands to onboarding, training and ensuring customers are maximizing the features that will give them the highest return on investment. It’s a measure of all the actions you take to help customers accomplish their goals for investing in your platform in the first place.
To put it simply: CX teams look at the overall impression customers have across all interactions and strive to create more positive experiences, while CS teams analyze the end results of those interactions and find ways to improve experiences for customers and ensure their continued success with using the platform.
Customer experience is interactive, with the goal of making it easy and enjoyable for customers to use your product and interact with your team members and orchestrating their overall perception of your organization. Customer success is proactive, with the goal of helping customers use your product better so they can gain greater value from it and increasing the lifetime value of your customer base.
Customer experience concentrates on the here and now, while customer success is focused on making things better in the future, but you need both. Maybe you have a customer whose users only occasionally log into your platform. No matter how positive their experience is when they interact with your product, usage will drop if you aren’t meeting their business goals. To ensure the customer continues to use your product, it’s up to you to establish relevant goals and metrics to increase their ROI.
How CS and CX Works Together
Despite the differences in customer success vs customer experience, the two are inextricably connected. The customer is at the heart of both disciplines—and each share the objective of helping organizations understand customers better so they can manage their journey more effectively and earn their loyalty. In both instances, customer loyalty can and should be tracked and measured through metrics such as net promoter scores, customer satisfaction scores and churn scores. Though their responsibilities, aims and benefits overlap, CX and CS functions are often siloed, with CX initiatives launched by marketing or service managers to bring more customers on board and CS efforts headed up by inside sales specialists or account managers to retain existing customers.
But encouraging more of a symbiotic relationship between both is important not only for acquiring customers and keeping them happy, but also for building a customer-centric culture that enables your enterprise to grow revenue and establish a loyal customer base that allows you to compete with industry disruptors. The businesses that thrive in the modern digital marketplace are those that never stop learning from their customers or trying to improve the product experience.
When CX and CS efforts are coordinated, they can deliver stronger results. Take customer onboarding, for instance. CX initiatives that make onboarding intuitive and logical, including messaging that recognizes personalized goals and milestones (e.g., “Congratulations, you’ve passed this module and are just three steps away from becoming an expert.”), could be part of a larger CS effort to familiarize users with certain features in the platform so they can integrate them into their daily workflow faster. The sooner they begin using the product in its entirety, the sooner they will see the value of it.
Understanding what the customer is trying to achieve helps you pinpoint what you can do to push them toward that goal. This enables you to launch a more streamlined effort that uses consistent messaging, targeted interactions and relevant experiences to drive improved customer retention, brand advocacy and cross-selling.
Customer success software can be helpful for capturing the insights needed to better understand the overall customer experience and how to make it more successful. It enables enterprises to distill customer data—from demographics to details on feature usage and license utilization—into metrics that can guide proactive engagements with customers. An automated customer success platform can help organizations track usage through different phases of the customer journey and trigger alerts and actions to help CX and CS teams work together to deliver more personalized, cohesive experiences for customers that provide greater value.