Nov 9, 2018

Read Time 5 min

How Customer Success Differs from Customer Service, Experience & Everything Else!


The following is a guest blog post by Kayleigh Alexandra content writer for Micro Startups. 

How Customer Success Differs from Customer Service, Experience & Everything Else!

There’s customer service, customer success, customer experience, customer happiness, customer loyalty, customer retention… and a lot of customer confusion. Industry terminology can be useful, but it can also prove wildly disruptive when it comes to actually agreeing on strategies for getting things done — it isn’t enough for the development team at a SaaS company to know what the goal is if the person who approves the budget is completely baffled.

As such, you need to cut through the noise and set things out perfectly clearly. It doesn’t actually matter if you take a slightly different slant on a topic than the rest of your industry — what matters is internal consistency. When you say “customer success” in a company meeting, everyone there should be thinking roughly the same thing.

But to get the ball rolling, it bears taking a look at what some of these terms are typically used to mean. Once you’ve established the usual differences in your mind (and throughout your team), you’ll be all set to get strategizing. To that end, here’s how customer success differs from customer service, customer experience, and everything else customer-related:

What customer success is all about

First, let’s sweep through these other terms we’ve introduced to provide some context for the essence of customer success. Here we go:

  • Customer service encapsulates how you treat your customers in general — how you seek to deal with their questions and complaints, and how you show that you care.
  • Customer experience is what it’s like for a customer to engage with your funnels and systems. How does it feel to use your products or navigate your designs?
  • Customer happiness is the ultimate goal of the customer success mindset. It’s when a customer is 100% happy with your company, including its products and services.
  • Customer loyalty is an attachment to your brand that keeps a customer working with you and not your competitors. You earn it through fantastic customer service.
  • Customer retention is how well you manage to turn new customers into loyal customers. The more customers you lose, the faster you need to replace them.

Now that we’ve done that, we can say what customer success is all about: it’s an approach to customer service that replaces the old standard of customers being satisfied with their customer experiences. Instead, a company that prioritizes customer success will strive to help its customers achieve their goals, even those that don’t involve the company (more on that later).

Because the subscription-based SaaS model makes it necessary to look at the long-term value of a customer, it’s not enough to convince someone to buy once and then forget about them. You need to win them over and keep them won over, thus reducing churn.

Why you must serve overall goals

When they first start to embrace the customer success approach, businesses can focus very strongly on the specific goals that a customer has when using a system or a product. For example, someone using an online event booking system will likely have a primary goal of booking a particular event or finding a suitable event to book, and of course those goals need support — but that’s the bare minimum that should be done.

For instance, suppose that you’re a proud parent looking to book concert tickets to see your child’s favorite band. What’s your overall objective? Is it to book the concert tickets? Well, that’s more of a means to an end — the end being to make your child happy. If you get the tickets but the event is underwhelming, you’ll be unhappy, even though you achieved your primary goal. On the other hand, you might find the tickets unavailable, but be offered a strong alternative and be supported so well by the booking company that you end up entirely satisfied.

So just providing the tickets isn’t enough to make the business flourish. Of course an event booking system should be able to book events. What would be the point otherwise? Customer success gets interesting when you look beyond those basic goals to the general goals that fuel and surround them. Let’s look at a specific B2B example:

Harvest is a time-tracking solution for businesses that want to meticulously stay on top of their resource use, and it nails the presentation with the scrollable list of wishes pictured below. What the copywriter clearly understood is that people don’t want to track time because it’s fun — they need to track time because it supports them with achieving other objectives, such as keeping projects moving and maintaining morale by fairly distributing work.

When an overworked project manager starts looking for time-management software, all they want to know is how they can ease their burden — and since no one really likes tracking time, the purpose needs to be crystal-clear. It’s far easier to justify a SaaS subscription if you can simply point to all the overarching benefits.

If Harvest had simply said “Our software allows you to track the time your team spends on projects”, that would have been accurate, but it would have missed the point entirely.

How customer success breeds goodwill

General customer service specifically concerns problems with the company or whatever it happens to offer. If you provide a software system and it doesn’t work as the user expects it to, the onus is on you to step in and rectify the problem, whether by correcting a bug, advising on appropriate use (the issue can be with the UI), or releasing an update. And if someone has a pertinent question, you should be ready to answer it as usefully as possible.

But typical customer support, however comprehensive, is fundamentally reactive. If someone lacks confidence in your ability to help, they might not think to consult you — and then there are all the additional things you could do to assist them that they would never think to ask about. Even someone who has subscribed to your service might not be aware of every feature.

Embracing customer success is about being proactive, thinking about every possible way in which you could assist your customers with achieving their broader goals and reaching out to lend a helping hand. By anticipating needs and meeting them before your customers are even consciously aware of them, you can show your in-depth understanding of their lives and turn your business into a brand recognized for truly caring about being of maximum value.

As a customer, which type of company would you prefer to deal with? One that requires you to put in all the effort to optimize the return on your investment, or one that eagerly seeks to prove that it not only wants your money but also wants you to have the best possible experience? The latter approach is the key to winning goodwill and earning a level of customer loyalty that will be extremely hard for anyone to displace.

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups, a site dedicated to supporting startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. She likes to see businesses getting holistic with customer journey analysis. Visit the blog for the latest entrepreneurial news, and follow along on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

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