Why Success & Support Need Each Other (But Aren’t the Same)

December 7, 2021

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy

Customer Success, Support…Support, Success…what is the difference?

Both Success and Support share the same ultimate goal – to create the best customer experience (CX) possible – but they go about it in very different ways. Support is reactive whereas Success is proactive. You need both of these groups to kick things into high gear as your business evolves. Better still, you need both of these groups working together in synch to best serve your customers and create a consistent CX that keeps them coming back again and again.

Some companies in their early stages will lump Support and Success together while they work on building out their offering. On the flip side, some larger enterprises struggle to maintain relationships with their customers as they transition from traditional on-prem software to a XaaS model. In both cases, the lack of delineation between Support and Customer Success hurts the business and risks customer satisfaction. The ideal scenario is to have the right amount of technical or product support to assist customers with ticket issues and a dedicated Customer Success team to proactively manage customer relationships.

Customer Success vs. Customer Support

As quickly as Customer Success is evolving, it can be hard to put your finger on a single specific definition for what it is. It can be many things and take on different forms depending on the organization’s needs – from various CSM roles to a dedicated CS Ops group (or even a Customer Success Center of Excellence) and a mix of everything in between. Yet, one thing remains consistent across all working definitions: Customer Success is meant to provide proactive, informed customer engagement.

It’s inevitable that CSMs will spend some of their time reacting to customers’ needs, but most of their time should be dedicated to anticipating what they can do to add value for their customers. If your CSMs are spending all their time chasing support tickets, they won’t have the time (or mental capacity) to establish a deeper partnership with their customers, building those relationships from cooperation to collaboration.

On the other hand, Customer Support is purely reactive, responding to customer requests for assistance as they are submitted. They focus on the issues at hand, helping customers resolve problems in a timely and efficient manner. They are usually highly skilled in providing the best customer service possible and understand all the technical ins and outs of the product.

Because their role is so laser-focused on technical issues, Customer Support has a limited view into customer data, usage, and trends over time. Customer Success looks at the entire customer lifecycle and, therefore, has a much more holistic view of the data. Consequently, Success is ideally positioned to be the one to leverage these insights to continuously improve the customer experience.

A vector for powerful engagement: (Customer Success, Customer Support)

It should never be Customer Success versus Customer Support because they are both necessary components to build the best experiences for your customers. Think about Success and Support as the X and Y axes of a powerful vector. As the X-axis, Support provides your customers with necessary assistance on any technical issues that come up, laying the groundwork for Success, as the Y-axis, to take the relationship to new heights. Together, they form the coordinates of your engagement vector, CX. The better they are, the more powerful your CX vector becomes.

Did I lose you? Okay, maybe my metaphor is a little…skewed. (Puts a dollar in the math pun jar.)
The point is that Customer Success and Customer Support need each other. When they find the right angle to best serve their customers, everybody wins. (Okay, okay, I’ll stop.)

Sharing is caring

It’s common for the lines between Success and Support to get a little blurry. To make sure that each team is doing what they do best, communication is key. Silos are the enemy. Build pathways for these teams to share data and information quickly and regularly. Tools like ticketing systems and Customer Success platforms make it simple to update and automatically relay useful information.

Support needs to share when issues or bugs arise that could impact a customer’s experience. With a heads up, Success is then better positioned to proactively reach out to their customers with solutions before the problem is even spotted. In turn, CSMs can share which issues are causing customers the most trouble so that Support can properly prioritize their time.

Both Support and Success benefit from being able to send and see updated support ticket information. CSMs gain a more precise window into each of their customers’ active issues, and Support doesn’t have to deal with CSMs hovering and requesting constant updates to their customers’ requests. These systems also make it easier to document and share any workarounds that Support comes up with, so CSMs can pre-emptively address known issues before some customers run into them.

The highest functioning organizations have dedicated Customer Success and Customer Support teams that perform their different functions while supporting each other. Information constantly flows between the two groups, and leaders work across teams to make better big-picture decisions. It’s all in the name of our ultimate shared goal – creating the best customer experience possible.