What Is Customer Success and How Is It Different From Customer Experience?

series of growing mountains with "Success" at the top of the highest peak

If customer experience can be defined as how customers feel about every single interaction they have with a company, then what is customer success?

Business-to-business (B2B) companies often have “customer success” departments, but these are only part of the customer experience. GetFeedback, a customer experience feedback platform, aptly defines customer success as “responsible for post-sales onboarding, adoption, and usage monitoring” in its State of B2B Customer Experience Report.

With just one quick look at a job description for many “customer success” roles, though, it’s clear that “customer success” is just a euphemism for “inside sales.”

If a customer success team is not incentivized on client satisfaction, willingness to recommend, or even success of the engagement, and if the team is held accountable solely for getting each client to renew and ideally spend more money next year than they did this year, then that is a sales department. It is not a customer experience department.

Unfortunately, that kind of strategy puts the company at odds with the very customer it is trying to retain because that’s not how clients think. No matter how happy clients are with your SaaS (software-as-a-service) platform, they don’t want to pay more next year; they want to pay less.

Your job is to provide them with so much value that they can’t live without your product or service. That will plug the company’s “leaky bucket” and make price irrelevant.

Customer Success vs. Customer Experience

The GetFeedback study found that “about six of 10 organizations have a Customer Success team, but that by itself was not a differentiator. What matters more: teamwork. Sixty-two percent of Leaders say that Customer Success and CX teams work well together, versus just 49% for Laggards.”

In fact, the study continues, most B2B businesses lack a core CX team, defined as “responsible for collecting customer feedback in coordinating CX activities with other departments.” Forty-two percent of respondents did not have even one part-time person taking ownership for these CX activities.

Let’s say that again for emphasis: 42 percent of B2B businesses don’t have even a single person focused squarely on customer experience. This is why there is so much opportunity for B2B companies.

Don’t be distracted by the word “consumer” or “customer” just because you work with “clients.” Remember that your clients are consumers in their real life, and whether you like it or not, they are comparing you against the experiences they are having with consumer brands.

If you run an e-commerce site, who do you think your customers are comparing it to? Likewise, your business clients are comparing the experience of working with you to every other experience they’ve had as a professional or a consumer.

Beware Of The Client Handoff

In a typical customer journey, pain points are likely to occur whenever there is a transition or handoff from one department to another. This doesn’t just mean when a customer service call is transferred to another department; it can occur whenever a customer is passed from one part of the organization to a different part of the organization.

The most common yet preventable example? When a client is passed from a salesperson to an “account manager” or “customer success” associate.

Think about it: As consumers, we buy from people we like. How, then, are we supposed to feel when that person we like immediately ditches us after the sale?

Imagine if you met the partner of your dreams, dated for a long time, and decided to get married. Then right at the part of the wedding where you exchange the rings, your partner thanks you for dating him/her and passes you on to his/her “associate” who will take the relationship from there?

This hypothetical story may sound outlandish, yet it happens every single day to consumers and businesses that buy from someone they like, only to be serviced by someone else.

According to eMarketer in its Customer Experience 2020 report, “72% of internet users worldwide say a disconnected experience would make them change service providers/brands,” where a disconnected experience was defined as “failing to know my preferences across all the touchpoints I engage with and are unable to provide access to information I need within a timely manner.”

The ill-conceived handoff between a salesperson and another employee often creates that feeling of being “disconnected.” Does the new account manager know the terms of the deal and details that were discussed with the salesperson? Are they going to deliver on all of the salesperson’s promises?

Salespeople often continue to be incentivized on one key metric: new customers in the system. Marketing often operates separately, focusing on upper-funnel activities like brand awareness or acting just as a support staff for sales. And customer service? They’re not even involved in the sales process.

The problem with this setup? While it might make sense for the company, it doesn’t make sense for the customer. The customer wants a consistent experience and one that persists beyond the sale.

Should Customer Experience and Customer Success Work Together?

Yes! These two teams are integral to customer loyalty, customer lifetime value, and referrals. Here’s how Customer Experience and Customer Success Can Work Together:

  • Hold a formal transition meeting with the customer, salesperson, and Customer Success team when the time comes to move the client to a different management team
  • Ensure the Salesperson stays with all new clients for at least the first 90 days to ensure a smooth transition to the Customer Success team
  • Collect feedback from clients on a regular basis and share it with all teams that work with that client
  • Learn about each individual client’s needs to ensure that their team – and your product – are delivering on them every time. If you don’t know, ask!

 

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay. Excerpts from The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share (Morgan James Publishing), available for pre-order now.