Customer Success vs Customer Service: Why Both are Vital

Customer Success vs Customer Service

August 6, 2019

Customer Success vs Customer Service

Customer success and customer service are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are two separate terms that solve different client needs. If you want to optimize the growth of your subscription business, it’s vital to build both into your business strategy. We’ll cover the most essential aspects of customer success vs customer service and offer tips on how to optimize each one to boost customer engagement.


Customer Success—Proactive Ways to Add Value and Demonstrate Product Benefits 

Customer success focuses on ensuring your customers can meet their business goals through your products and services. Specifically, customer success is:

  • Proactive: Customer success anticipates a client’s needs and goals before they approach you.
  • Unlimited: Customer success has no beginning, middle, or end. Rather, it’s an ongoing process of continuous on-boarding, improvement and relationship building.
  • Understanding: Customer success relies on knowing your client’s business and tailoring your suggestions and offerings to their unique needs.
  • Communicative: Customer success relies on proactive, regular, open communication between your customer relationship team and sales team and your client. 

A good customer success process will build trust with your clients and increase your subscription retention rate and maximize customer lifetime value. It will delight your customers and turn them into advocates for your business. 


Customer Service—Reactive Ways to Resolve Issues and Meet Specific Needs

Customer service resolves issues and helps your clients out with specific needs from your products and services. More accurately, customer service is:

  • Reactive: Clients will typically approach you or your customer service team with their problems and expect you to resolve them.
  • Restricted: The scope of a particular customer service interaction typically runs from when a problem is reported to when it’s resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.
  • Questioning: A customer service agent will ask specific questions to identify and resolve an issue.
  • Communicative: Customer service relies on reactive, as-needed communication between your customer service agents and your client. 

A good customer service process focuses on quality and speed of resolution. It helps clients feel listened to and ensures you’re taking their issues seriously. It reduces the frustration your customers may have with your products or services, but is not a substitute for an effective proactive customer success program. 


How to Enhance Your Customer Success Strategy

There are several approaches you can take to enhance customer success and build it into the DNA of your subscription business.

1. Make Customer Success a Central Part of Your Offerings

It’s easy to provide lip service to customer success and just deliver it on an ad hoc basis. If you really want to take advantage of customer success, you need to get buy in from your most senior stakeholders and make it a central part of your client outreach. That means:

  • Explaining the benefits of customer success to your leadership team and senior sales managers.
  • Building customer success into your overall business strategy.
  • Creating customer success as its own business function, either within your sales team or as a dedicated customer success team.

2. Create Customer Success Resources

You will need specific resources to add value for your clients. These resources will depend on what your subscription business provides, but could include:

  • Online, interactive guides to getting the most out of your subscription service.
  • Tutorial and training materials to get new users up and running quickly.
  • Tailored consultations to help your client boost sales, maximize revenue, or get more value from your products.
  • Online and offline seminars and conferences where you can network with customers and answer their questions. 
  • Multimedia approaches including video, audio, and interactive content.
  • Free trials and demonstrations of new or up-sell product features that help your client achieve more with your products. 
  • Understanding of which feature usage patterns tend to drive highest customer satisfaction and lead to subscription renewals for different customer segments.

3. Build Customer Success into Your CRM and Client Outreach Processes

Your customer success processes and client outreach should live within your customer success platform and customer relationship management software. Build customer success into the daily interactions that your sales team has with your clients. Provide reminders and process steps to ensure your customer success team shares resources with your clients. Track achievements within your customer success or CRM software so you can continually refine and enhance your approach to customer success. 

4. Track Customer Success Metrics

A good customer success process will impact the headline metrics for your subscription business, including:

  • Customer churn
  • Retention rates
  • Subscription values
  • Length of subscriptions
  • Customer lifetime value

Make sure you have robust measurements in place for each of these areas and see how trends change as you introduce more effective customer success processes and resources.


How to Enhance Your Customer Service Strategy

Customer service is ingrained in every successful business, but there are still ways to improve how you support your clients. 

1. Ensure Excellent Communication Between Customer Service and Clients

One of the most frustrating aspects of customer service from a client perspective is lack of communication. Insist that proactive communication from your customer service team is central to how you manage support, and provide regular status updates on ongoing issues.

2. Use Incidents to Identify and Fix Underlying Problems

Issues reported by your clients may be the first sign of deeper issues with your products, services, or processes. Ensure that every incident is properly investigated to understand if there’s an underlying root cause, then create actions to resolve those causes. This will enhance the stability of your products and services, and prevent incidents from recurring.

3. Ensure Customer Service Agents Have Access to Good Training, Technology, Workarounds, and Knowledge Bases

A customer service team is only as good as the resources it has—you can: 

  • Implement regular, robust training for all agents on product updates, customer management, communications, and more.
  • Introduce technology that helps agents troubleshoot and resolve client issues more efficiently.
  • Create a central, constantly updated set of workarounds for known issues that have not yet been fixed.
  • Create a knowledge base to help agents respond to common questions from clients.  

4. Track Customer Service Metrics

Customer service metrics are operational and based on specific issues and problems. Customer service metrics you can track include:

  • The urgency, importance, and priority of specific client incidents.
  • How quickly client incidents were resolved.
  • The quality and accuracy of resolution.
  • The quality and timeliness of client communications.
  • How often incidents identified underlying problems.
  • How underlying problems are resolved. 

You can use these metrics to enhance customer service over time.


Although customer success and customer service are different disciplines, they often work closely together. When your subscription business focuses on improving both, you can delight your customers, reduce your churn rate, and grow your business. 



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