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What Is Customer Success and What It Is Not

what is customer success

Gone are the days when businesses used to run only for the success of their own. Now the customers have become an integral part of your ecosystem. Your success would not be prolonged if the whole ecosystem around you is not growing. It’s the collective growth that drives a business of today’s world. Your customer’s business has to grow along with yours for you to keep doing business with them. This thought brings a very important topic of customer success into picture. So let’s examine it, what is customer success.

Understanding Customer Success

For any business that has recurring revenue as a part of their business model, maintaining customer relationships is important. Now this customer relationship should not be misunderstood as a traditional way of keeping the customers happy with your service. Modern SaaS companies make sure that their customers are really gaining benefits from their products. This is the only way to retain customers and continue business with them.

Acquiring new customers is only the first way towards the growth of any business. If you do not have the right framework to retain those newly acquired customers, or even the older ones, all your efforts, time and money in their acquisition are getting wasted. Through customer success, you can make sure that you take every measure in helping them succeed through your product. This will make them stay with you long-term. Now, when I say “succeed” what do I mean? It means that their expectations with your product are getting fulfilled. It also means they are able to fetch their ROI by paying for your product.

So, to put it in simpler terms, customer success is a philosophy, strategy or a business process through which you help your customers achieve value from your product. Why do you want your customers to achieve value from your product? To answer this, we must look into the below topic.

Benefits of Customer Success

To understand what is customer success more elaborately, along with its definition, you must understand its benefits as well. Here are a few.

Reduces Churn

As long as the customer is benefitting from your product, why would they leave? Through customer success you help your customers achieve their desired outcome and that makes sure they stick with you for long.

Increases Revenue

When your customers stay with you for longer term, they provide you with many opportunities to generate revenue. Subscription renewals comes first, followed by many upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Attracts More Business

When the customers turn loyal to your brand, they tend to recommend your product to others. This creates a positive loop in your business that drives more new customers to your sales funnel.

What Customer Success is not?

Customer success has evolved from many similar business functions in the past but is not the same. Many companies, who are yet to grasp the whole expanse of customer success, usually confuse it with other traditional functions and business processes. So, let me clarify each of them individually.

Customer Success vs Customer Experience

When you think about what is customer success, you often hear an ancillary term – customer experience. Customer success enables customer experience which is the perceptive aspect of your product. Customer success helps your customers drive value from the product in a more specific and measurable way. They often use data to support their efforts towards achieving their objective. 

Whereas customer experience is the perception your customer builds while using your product. What do they feel about your service? What psychological and emotional state does your product usage induce in your customer? How great or worse is their experience while using your product? All these points form the basis, though not all, of customer experience.

Customer Success vs Customer Service

Customer service forms a part of customer success. For your customers to succeed using your product, you have to make sure to provide exceptional service to them. This can be through the technical staff you deploy to resolve their technical glitches with your product. Customer service is a reactive approach towards serving the customer which comes into picture only when your customer faces a problem in their product usage. The most important aspect of what is customer success is that it is proactive and ensures a smoother journey towards product adoption and usage by your customers.

Customer Success vs Account Management

While customer success managers work with clients to nurture a long-term relationship with customers, account managers form relationships with clients by specifically targeting towards selling them new products or services. Account managers do not get involved in the customer’s daily work routine and serve only targeted customers. 

Their focus is more on selling new solutions to the clients than retaining them through existing one. They help communicate clients about the marketing and sales campaigns for other products that they are not using. When it comes to what is customer success, customer success managers are more integrated with the client’s business and provide them solutions that fit their business context.

Customer Success vs Customer Support

Customer success is an ongoing process that invests in the client’s business as if they were their own. While the customer support is the one-time process that serves the customer only when they need them. Customer support teams have less to do with building individual relationships with their clients. 

They are mostly occupied in resolving issues of multiple clients that are waiting in line in a day. They solve one issue and move on to the next one without giving individual attention to the client’s holistic business environment. Hence, you can say that customer support is a small part of customer success which is called for only during specific times.

Customer Success vs Sales

Sales team comes into play only when there is a financial transaction happening with the clients. This is either during the customer acquisition phase or upselling or cross-selling opportunities. Customer success builds the whole ground for the sales team to finally pitch-in and do their job. A simple analogy would be that customer success is about all the processes in farming from irrigation to manuring to weeding until the yield grows for the sales team to finally harvest. 

During the first purchase, the customer gets in touch with the sales team. When the transaction has happened successfully, the sales team gives handoff to the customer success team. Then the CS team is in charge of maintaining the overall relationship with the client until the next sales opportunity arrives.

Final thoughts

I hope through the above comparisons you are able to understand what is customer success. It is not just a buzzword that has come to the usage in the modern SaaS companies. It helps companies align their business strategies with that of their customers. To stay competitive in the modern subscription based economy, you need to be always ahead of the curve. Just one miss in serving your customer can cost you to lose them to your competitors.

Hence, customer success is not just a siloed department that doesn’t affect other business areas. Whole organization has to be aligned with this philosophy and work towards giving greater service to the customers. Only then you can lead a sustainable business and aim towards a thriving future.

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