Customer Success vs Account Management: Important Differences

customer success vs account management

Understanding the fine nuances between customer success and account management will help you consider them as complementary teams that have the same objective on their agenda. 

Both account management and customer success teams work towards improving customer satisfaction and loyalty, but their roles in a SaaS environment are quite distinctive.

In this article, we’ll thoroughly explain the similarities and differences between these two functions and their unique contribution to user engagement and customer retention. If you wish to learn more about the given topics but also get answers to questions like “What is a customer success manager?” and “What is an account manager?”, stay with us!

What is a Customer Success Manager?

The customer success manager in SaaS (CSM) is responsible for creating and implementing various effective customer success strategies to ensure ongoing engagement, satisfaction, and overall success of customers using your SaaS software. The main goal of customer success managers is to speed up and facilitate the product adoption stage and help customers derive the most value from it in the shortest time possible.

Customer success teams should make sure that customer relationships are positive and productive so that customer retention rates and recurring revenue are both on the rise. To fully understand account management vs customer success differences, you first need to understand what customer success managers do and how their responsibilities differ from account managers’.

What Do Customer Success Managers Do?

Customer success managers focus on driving long-term success. Their role includes different aspects of customer engagement and assistance during the entire customer lifecycle. Here are the key tasks that they handle in SaaS:

  • Guiding customers through the onboarding process to ensure a seamless SaaS software implementation.
  • Providing customer training to help them understand how to use the software and all its features. 
  • They maintain proactive communication to build trustworthy and strong client relationships and hopefully address issues before they escalate.
Analysing customer data
  • By analysing comprehensive customer data, customer success managers can assess and evaluate the health of customer accounts and track essential customer success metrics. With the given information, they can identify weak points in the customer success strategies and improve them to fit customers’ needs. This process is usually automated by using a customer success platform like Akita, which serves as a hub for all your customer data. Akita allows you to perform customer segmentation based on any trait, monitor health scores, and include automated triggers for accounts that have stalled or are at risk of churn.
  • Customer success managers collaborate with internal teams to ensure timely issue resolution and a positive customer experience.
  • They manage and motivate customer renewals by showing the ongoing value of the software. Also, they are responsible for upselling or cross-selling to potentially interested parties.
  • Gathering customer feedback is the surest way to know how they feel and what they think about your software and service. CS managers do it regularly and share the given data with product service and development teams to help them align the product with the client’s needs.

What is an Account Manager?

The SaaS account manager is responsible for nurturing and managing relationships with existing customers. They serve as a link that connects your business and the customer or account and remain in close communication with a client to understand their needs and find ways to meet them. In the end, account management teams should increase customer lifetime value, reduce customer churn, and drive revenue and referrals.

What Do Account Managers Do? 

As the name suggests, account management is the procedure of managing customer relationships to improve the customer experience, drive account growth, and cultivate long-term relationships. Having in mind that there are some overlaps in the account management vs customer success team responsibilities (cross-sell and upsell, issue resolution, renewal), now we’ll talk about  the activities unique to the SaaS account management department:

  • Building solid relationships with clients by understanding the customer’s business goals and needs and making sure that the given SaaS solution aligns with their objectives.
  • By helping customers explore new features or upgrades, account managers can identify opportunities for account growth.
  • Moreover, they need to have in-depth knowledge of the SaaS software’s features, upgrades, and functionalities to effectively communicate the value proposition to customers.
  • They communicate to clients openly and clearly about the reports, updates, and performance metrics to show the impact their SaaS solution has on the client’s business. Also, account managers usually provide insights on how the given solution can adapt or improve to meet changing client needs.
  • Finally, account management teams often motivate satisfied customers to act as brand advocates for the SaaS platform by asking for testimonials, referrals, or case studies that serve as proof of successful implementation and a positive customer experience.

Customer Success vs Account Management: Similarities 

Customer success and account management are both focused on building and nurturing healthy and strong customer relationships. Although they come with different responsibilities, there are easily noticeable similarities in the efforts toward customer retention and overall business health and growth

business health data
  1. They both focus on customer relationships by prioritizing their needs and challenges.
  2. Account management identifies growth opportunities and customer success teams remain proactively engaged with customers to foster long-term relationships and improve customer retention.
  3. Both departments should communicate effectively and transparently with clients to convey the value of the given SaaS solution.
  4. Also, they should tightly collaborate with other teams like support, sales, and product development to address customer needs effectively.
  5. Feedback collection is crucial for both functions to refine strategies and improve the customer experience.
  6. Both departments should monitor crucial metrics to evaluate client relationship statuses.

Customer success often works side by side with other teams, such as sales teams or customer service teams as they have the same goal as CS teams, and that is customer satisfaction.

Customer Success vs Account Management: Differences

Let’s see the key differences between account management and customer success:

  1.  Customer success ensures that customers achieve their goals and success with the given SaaS solution, while account management focuses on expanding the scope of customer’s engagement with your company.  
  2. Customer success has a long-term focus on building lasting relationships, while account management usually has a short-term focus – managing renewals and recognizing opportunities for immediate account expansion.
  3. When it comes to customer interactions, customer success teams communicate with customers to understand them better, while account managers interact with clients to identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. They work towards maximizing revenue from existing clients.
  4. Customer success metrics include NPS,  usage patterns, and product adoption rates, while account management metrics include revenue growth, renewal rates, customer lifetime value, etc.

Customer Success vs Account Management — Conclusion

Being familiar with the nuanced differences in customer success and account management is crucial for maintaining successful client relationships. Although both departments act with the common goal of fostering customer satisfaction, they differ in focus, metrics, and time horizons. Leveraging these essential differences allows you to better organize internal teams, optimize client interactions, and ensure sustained growth for your business. On your road to success, customer success platforms like Akita can serve as an effective tool for understanding your audience and providing them with the best possible service that matches their unique needs and preferences. Give it a try and never fail to deliver an outstanding experience to each client.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can one person handle both account management and customer success roles?

In some cases, it can be possible for a single individual to handle both roles, especially in smaller SaaS companies or startups. Still, as the customer base grows, it is for the best to differentiate these roles for more focused approaches.

How can a SaaS company integrate customer success and account management for the best results?

By communicating openly between teams, implementing extensive customer data analytics, and making sure that each role compliments the other in delivering outstanding customer experiences.

Is it necessary to implement customer success efforts throughout the entire customer journey?

Yes, it is highly necessary! Customer success is responsible for maximizing value delivery, ongoing relationship building, smooth onboarding, renewal management, fostering advocacy, and finally, improving customer retention.

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