Customer Success vs Customer Service: A Simple Guide

customer success vs customer service

Now more than ever, SaaS is all about innovation and user-centricity. Customers rely on SaaS solutions to answer their technological demands, but they also expect impeccable experience and support. This is why both customer success and customer service strategies must be well-designed and efficiently implemented.

In this article, we will explore the nuanced differences and parallels between customer success vs customer service within SaaS. We also will help you understand how these two pivotal components differentiate and complement each other, with the goal of not only providing an outstanding software experience but also cultivating healthy customer relationships.

Let’s dive in!

What’s Customer Success?

There isn’t a single answer to explain what customer success is because customer success consists of various aspects that cover different stages in the customer journey – onboarding, education, product adoption, etc.

Customer success is a set of strategies with the aim of ensuring that customers achieve their desired goals within your SaaS service or product. You should guide your customers smoothly and proactively throughout their journey and help them maximize the value they derive from your software. In the end, the main goal of customer success is to foster long-term and mutually beneficial customer relationships and ensure your SaaS business has stable revenue flow, a good reputation, and a desirable position in the over-saturated SaaS market.

What is Customer Service?

Explaining what’s customer service is a bit more straightforward. Customer service is a set of services or activities that assist customers in resolving issues related to your SaaS software. This department provides technical assistance in the realm of installation or configuration, facilitates customer interactions (via email or phone), tracks ticketing systems, and empowers users to resolve the issues on their own by maintaining a comprehensive user knowledge base.

Before we continue, let’s make a tiny diversion and share with you the crucial difference between customer support and customer service (as they are often used interchangeably and both have the goal of improving the customer experience). Customer support, unlike customer service, is more specialized and focused on resolving specific technical issues, while customer service tries to anticipate and fix problems before they even happen. In other words, a customer service agent hopes to build a relationship with a client and acts as a facilitator. So, what is customer support in SaaS and why is it important? Customer support agents should be there for customers when they need them the most.

Now, let’s go over the main difference between customer support and customer success. Customer success has a proactive approach that helps the customers achieve their objectives within the software, while customer support is more reactive as it addresses a specific problem that a user is faced with. 

Customer Success vs Customer Service: Differences and Similarities

Although we covered what the given terms represent in a business, you may be still asking yourself, “Is customer success the same as customer service?” Therefore, let’s see more on customer service vs customer success dilemma to eliminate any confusion.

Proactive vs Reactive 

As we already mentioned, customer success is primarily proactive, as it focuses on ensuring customers achieve their objectives within your SaaS platform and get the most value from it in the shortest amount of time. On the other hand, customer service is mainly reactive, as it addresses certain issues that customers encounter in their customer journey. Still, customer service can also be proactive when it focuses on coming up with preventative strategies to avoid any customer service issues (conducting customer surveys to find out what the customer thinks of your service).

Different Skills Needed

Both customer success and customer service require excellent communication skills to understand their customers’ needs and provide guidance. Quick problem-solving is a key for customer service agents, while the CS team should make sure to address potential challenges proactively before they even become issues. Related to that, the CS team should think more strategically to align customer goals with the SaaS product and have in-depth knowledge of the given SaaS product to provide effective guidance for its features and functionalities. 

The customer service team should always adapt rapidly to changing technical environments and maintain a customer-focused approach where understanding the impact of tech issues on the customer experience is paramount. Finally, the CS team should have the right tools for customer data analysis. With Akita, you can streamline all your customer data into a single hub, perform customer segmentation based on any traits you find crucial, and track customer success metrics to understand how customers’ goals align with your SaaS platform.

CS Team Should Be the Source of Feedback for the Product Team

This is a fact! The CX team plays a huge role in providing valuable feedback to the product team in SaaS, as they are in regular contact with customers and have insight into their challenges, needs, and experiences. In addition to regular user insights, the customer success team often receives improvement suggestions and feature requests from customers, and sharing this feedback with the product team can help implement the needed changes. 

The same rule applies to onboarding, customer satisfaction metrics, product adoption, and customer lifecycle. All this feedback is crucial to understanding your customers and aligning your offer with their expectations.

Different Focus: Nurturing Relationships vs Transaction-oriented

Customer success is primarily focused on nurturing customer relationships, while customer service is often transaction-oriented as it aims to address specific inquiries or issues (immediate needs).

two animated figures pointing to different customer metrics

Different Metrics

Monitoring both customer service and customer success data and metrics is crucial in SaaS to evaluate performance, identify weak spots, and improve them, ensuring a positive customer experience. Now, let’s take a look at the crucial metrics for both functions:

Key customer success metrics

  1. Customer retention rate
    • CRR measures the percentage of customers retained over a certain period.
  2. NPS (Net Promoter Score)
    • NPS is a survey-based metric that provides insight into overall customer sentiment and likelihood to recommend the SaaS software.
  3. Customer health score
  4. Churn rate
    • It is the opposite of customer retention rate; measures the percentage of customers who stopped using your platform.

Key customer service metrics:

  1. First Response Time
    • FRT measures the time needed to respond to a customer support request or inquiry.
  2. Resolution Time
    • It measures the time needed to resolve an issue from the moment it is reported.
  3. Customer Satisfaction Score
    • CSAT is a survey-based metric that evaluates customer satisfaction with the received support.
  4. Resolution rate
    • It shows the percentage of support tickets that are resolved successfully.

To learn more about similarities and differences between customer success and other fields, check our articles on sales and customer success or account management and CS.

Conclusion

Knowing the main distinction between customer success vs customer service is essential so you can optimize the customer experience within your product or service. Although both customer service and customer success share a common goal of ensuring and improving customer satisfaction, their approaches, focuses, and metrics differ. Customer success aims to drive long-term customer value, while customer service focuses on resolving immediate issues.

Understanding your customers and using high-edge customer success tools like Akita is crucial for ensuring a harmonious balance between reactive issue resolution and proactive guidance that leads to the common goal that all SaaS businesses share — sustained customer loyalty and business growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between customer success and service management?

The difference is that CS is more long-term customer goal and relationship-oriented, while service management deals with the efficient delivery of support services and maintains overall service health.

Is client service the same as customer success?

No, they’re not the same. Client service refers to service delivery like support or assistance, while customer success is more strategic and aims to ensure that customers achieve their desired goals within the SaaS platform. Still, they both have the same objective of improving the overall customer experience.

What is the difference between customer success and customer experience?

The difference is that customer success aims to foster long-term customer relationships, while customer experience covers the overall interaction and perception a customer has with your brand, including each touchpoint from marketing efforts to post-purchase phases. Therefore, customer experience is a broader concept that includes the entire customer journey.

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