customer success vs customer service

A successful organization operates in much the same way as a prestigious orchestra. Both are made up of individuals with a specialization—say, playing the clarinet or managing a Customer Success team. While individual success is important in both cases, you also need overall harmony. Just as the individual musicians and sections of an orchestra must work well together to make good music, the employees and departments of an organization must work well together to do good business.

In today’s customer-centered economy, this is particularly true of Customer Success and Customer Service teams. Each of these fills different functions within an enterprise, but both are ultimately responsible for building and maintaining vital connections between your company and your customers. Understanding the difference between customer success vs. customer service and how these two teams can best complement and support one another is essential for both preventing churn and promoting revenue growth.

What is the Difference Between Customer Success vs. Customer Service?

The main difference between customer success vs. customer service lies in their respective approaches to customer interactions. Customer service is reactive, focusing on solving problems as they arise, whereas customer success is proactive, focusing on preventing problems and fostering long-term growth. It drives value for customers and helps them achieve their goals.

Customer service is more in-the-moment and reactive. It’s about zeroing in on specific issues and complaints, such as a technical malfunction or customer confusion surrounding a certain process or application, and figuring out the most effective way to solve them—all while providing customers with the best possible experience. Ideally, customers will walk away with their problems solved—and an increasingly positive perception of their relationship with your organization.

Customer success, meanwhile, is about the big picture. It involves taking customer data insights and turning them into strategic actions that will help your customers achieve their business goals (which, in turn, will help you achieve your own). The idea is to accomplish this while providing customers with a great experience. The focus is on optimizing the value your customers derive from their investment in your products or services.

Both customer service and customer success are important instruments for achieving positive outcomes and growth. Even more important than their individual impact is how well they play together.

How Customer Success Supports Customer Service and Vice-Versa

Despite their differences, neither customer success nor customer service can truly operate effectively without the help of the other. Without clear, open communication between the two, important data and insights will inevitably get lost in translation. Customer experience will take a hit, since information will likely have to be repeated when speaking to members of both teams—who may receive contradictory answers or advice that will only serve to increase their confusion and frustration.

Achieving harmony between the two teams ensures that all employees are on the same page in terms of each customer’s individual needs and challenges, using transparency and open communications at every step. This allows for a more streamlined experience overall, as both teams will be aligned on which solutions and strategies will optimize both customer experience and success.

Customer Service Responsibilities

It is up to the customer service team to keep the success team abreast of the problems an individual customer may be facing, particularly if the issue is ongoing or recurring. If you’re using the right solution, then your teams don’t have to set up a lot of meetings to find out what’s going on—the data should tell give them that insight seamlessly. It’s one of the reasons that you should connect all of your data streams to create a more complete picture of the customer.

They should communicate not only the nature of the issue, but also their approach to solving it. Customer success teams can then use this information to inform their strategy moving forward and, ideally, prevent the issue from arising again, or at least minimize the impact of the issue on the customer’s overall success.

Customer Success Responsibilities

Customer success teams are responsible for providing support teams with context for the issues they help customers solve. Understanding a customer’s larger business goals and brand identity can help customer support optimize the solutions they offer in order to achieve the best possible results.

In short, the more effectively your teams can collaborate, the better the outcome will be for both teams and your customers.

Communication is Key to Optimizing Service and Success

So how do you ensure your customer success and customer service teams have what they need to work together successfully? Focus on these steps:

  • Making sure all customer data is easily accessible to both teams and that both teams are seeing the same information. The best way to accomplish this is to gather all data in one central location which can be accessed by members of either team at any time.
  • Facilitating data analysis and setting up a reliable system to ensure no pattern is overlooked and no trend is missed. Whether a customer is ready for an upgrade or needs a little extra support, it is vital that both teams are not only aware of the situation, but know exactly how to address it.
  • Granting both teams the ability to communicate clearly and efficiently with one another. A simple question or quick memo can be sent and received instantly via a digital platform, saving the unnecessary time it would otherwise take to physically track down someone in the office in person.
  • Allowing team members to communicate clearly and effectively with customers whether digitally or over the phone. This means making sure they can access the customer data they need, when they need it, and making sure that data is always up-to-date.
  • The platform your teams work in should facilitate transparency. Think fewer meetings and easier access.

The key to accomplishing all of these goals is the same: A streamlined, intuitively designed customer success platform that can maximize productivity, optimize communication and reporting, and illuminate customer trends and best practices for addressing both current issues and potential future hurdles. Think of it as sheet music. Not everyone will be playing the same instruments or notes, but together they will all be reading and playing the same beautiful symphony, one that will be music to your customers’ ears.

Totango specializes in scalable, customizable solutions that make it easy for customer success and customer service teams to communicate and operate effectively. When you’re ready to start giving your customers the experience they demand, create a free trial account to get started today.

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