CRMs vs. Customer Success Platforms: A Tech Tool Showdown

February 10, 2021

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy, Customer Success Tools, Digital Customer Success

Hello ladies and gentlemen! Today’s tech tool face-off is brought to you by one of the biggest debates in Customer Success – the familiar face of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, versus purpose-made Customer Success tools. When the CS industry needed a more customized approach to track relationship data after purchase, these CS platforms made their debut in a big way. Now, we are putting them head-to-head against the CRMs we know and love, to see which tech tool will take home the championship title of Best Software for Customer Success.

In one corner, we have legacy sales technology – hard-hitting, hardworking CRMs (think Salesforce, Hubspot CRM, or Zoho).

And in the other corner, we have the latest, the greatest in churn fighting tools, the Customer Success platform (like ChurnZero, Gainsight, Totango, Strikedeck, and ClientSuccess).

Who will win this tech tool showdown?

Let’s get ready to…explore some tech tools!

Now that you’re properly excited, let’s take a step back to where this battle began. In the Inaugural Customer Success Leadership Study, we found that 81% of respondents were using a CRM in their CS tech stack. Built to manage sales pipelines, these CRMs are incredibly useful for tracking sales operations and nurturing new customer leads. They help manage the internal workflow of sales teams and can even include marketing automation features. While it is wonderful to see CS organizations embracing technology, CRMs aren’t specifically designed with the full spectrum of CS needs in mind.

As for Customer Success platforms, only 47% of those surveyed said they use them in their tech stack. Yet, in TSIA’s The State of Technology 2020 report, the adoption of CS work management technology increased from 30% in 2018 to 54% in 2019, demonstrating that businesses are very interested in investing in maturing and scaling their CS organizations. So, why the disparity? It’s possible that if sales teams already have a CRM in place (which most do), organizations are tempted to extend the reach of those existing systems. The same argument could even be made for CS using an existing Business Intelligence (BI) tool.

As we well know, embracing digital Customer Success is the foundation for optimizing your customer experience at scale. But we need to remember that it can’t be just any old application jury-rigged for Customer Success like an egg beater duct-taped to a power drill! Your tools need to match their purpose to build a truly mature, efficient, well-run organization that stands the test of time. This is why we are here, in our tech tool showdown, to find out just which one will be the champion of Customer Success.

CRMs bring the heat, but do they bank the fire?

As veterans in the SaaS space, CRMs are strong contenders for the best supporting tech tools title. (Say that five times fast!) Software products like Salesforce have already been around the block and have evolved over time to become a technology behemoth. CRMs provide a platform for sorting and analyzing a wealth of sales and marketing data. With them on your side, you can access detailed insights into every lead, every sales opportunity. Features like data visualization and automated drip campaigns can help teams go a long way toward being a fully optimized, lean, mean, deal-closing machine.

But fancy dashboards are only as good as the data captured within them. Do CRMs have the ability to collect the right customer information after the purchase has been made? Do they enable Customer Success teams to proactively engage customers with customizable messaging and lifecycle management features? CRMs tend to focus on transactional relationship data, which could be useful during a renewal event, but maybe not so great at understanding product usage or customer health scores in the interim. Remember, if you’re doing Customer Success right, renewal will feel like a continuation of the customer journey, not just a singular sales event.

Customer Success platforms jump in the ring with signature moves

Customer Success tools have entered the ring! Though these fighters are newer to the arena, they’ve jumped in strong with powerful purpose and functionality designed specifically with CS best practices in mind. It’s all about fostering customer relationships after purchase for these contenders. Streamlining your CS team’s customer engagement from onboarding all the way through renewal (with a little cross-sell, up-sell opportunity thrown in for good measure) and beyond, these tech tools maximize internal CS efficiency.

Automating onboarding, recording and tracking customer satisfaction and health, and building out an all-in-one portal for CSM workflows are just a few of the Customer Success platform’s signature moves. To rapidly scale a CS organization, you really can’t go without one of these in your tool stack. Their hyper-focus on Customer Success means that is exactly what they do – enable Customer Success.

And the winner is…a surprise tag team for the ultimate finish!

What’s this? At the last second, the CRM and Customer Success platforms have joined together to create the ultimate customer relationship strategy system. What a twist! It turns out, product integration is the secret sauce for these former opponents to work together like a dream. When you combine sales and sales ops using a CRM that’s integrated with your Customer Success software, you get one juggernaut of technology and collaboration that puts customer engagement front and center. Who really wins when these tools work together? Your customer.