Customer Success is Proactive, Customer Support is Reactive

By its very nature, Customer Support addresses problems that have already reached the boiling point, whereas the goal of Customer Success is to create in an environment in which these problems (one of the greatest of which is churn) become impossible.

Customer Success is Strategic, Customer Support is Tactical

Customer Support addresses the immediate, the here and now. If there is a problem, their entire focus needs to be on resolving the problem and taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Yet the role of Customer Success is to help clients achieve their business goals. Huge difference, and it requires planning for the long term plus working across many different departments within their client’s organization, all while encouraging their best customers to contribute testimonials, referrals, and product improvement suggestions.

These two functions are rewarded in completely different ways.

Customer Support is incentivized based on the number and duration of open tickets, because this is one of the key indicators of churn: they are rewarded according to the outcome which we want to AVOID. Conversely, Customer Success needs to be compensated based upon adoption, advocacy, and Customer Lifetime Value (LTV). They are rewarded based on the behaviors and actions we want to ENCOURAGE.

Is there overlap between these two business functions? Absolutely. Customer Support is on the front lines, and they can often be the first point of contact with a customer; they have a unique opportunity to see not just the tip of the iceberg but the whole shebang. This type of complementary intelligence is crucial for Customer Success, and the culture of the organization needs to encourage this high level of mutual trust, cross-functional communication, and cooperation. And that’s really what this is about: culture. As a company, how do we define success? Are we reactive or proactive? Tactical or manipulator at casino? These are not black and white questions, but rather a matter of priority which the founders need to agree upon at the very beginning.

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