Shamefully the distinction between customer service and customer success is something, even we as employers, regularly confuse. The reality is that the two functions are related, but are in fact quite different.
Today we wanted to impart some industry advice on the distinctions between the two and what to look for when interviewing for your next customer success role.
Customer service vs customer success…
What is customer support?
Customer support focuses on working reactively on the front lines — fielding one-off customer questions, issues, and requests over the phone, or email, or live chat, and social media.
What is customer success?
On the other hand, customer success focuses on working proactively and in partnership with your customers over the course of their customer lifetime.
They are concerned with helping customers get the maximum value out of a product, whilst working collaboratively with sales, marketing, and product to achieve that goal.
This ensures customers get the most value from your company and share their feedback with you. They are in charge of providing proactive outreach aimed at increasing upsells and cross-sells, positive word-of-mouth, and successful outcomes for customers.
It is the customer success team’s job to surprise and delight customers so that they stay with your business, and (hopefully) spend more money with you!
Some of their key responsibilities will be…
- Solving customers problems in a timely fashion/increase customer lifetime value
- Providing technical support, FAQs, knowledgebase / cross-sell, upsell, customer experience, product adoption
- Finding opportunities
- Operational focus / growth focus
- Reactive, short-term, time-critical / pro-active, long-term
- Solving cases: net-promoter score (NPS), average customer hold time/lifetime value, customer churn, customer usage, revenue growth
Why is customer success an important role within any company?
Today, businesses with online products need to have exceptional sales and marketing teams. But sales and marketing alone aren’t enough to sustain growth.
(Read our blog on is your marketing team working as effectively as they could be? for all things marketing.)
This is where the customer success role comes into its own. They are in charge of:
- Subscription-based pricing – this means that customers are paying for a continuous service so need continued support.
- Customer acquisition costs increase – means that looking after customers and making sure they don’t go elsewhere is vital.
- Annual contracts not working – businesses can’t rely on annual contracts, people are used to flexible pricing and service.
Customer success roles are found in most businesses, fast-growing technology companies, and Saas businesses.
But what should you look for when hiring your next customer success position?
- The ability to build relationships – any good customer success position requires the ability to excel in building relationships, both with co-workers and clients.
- Being empathetic towards clients – can they insert themselves into their client’s shoes (not literally, of course)
- Communicating with colleagues and clients alike – their role will require strong communication skills both written and verbal.
- Passionate about their work and your company – passion and positivity go along way when building relationships with clients.
Some example interview questions –
Knowing what to look for in an interview is great – however, what questions should you ask? Well, look no further *don’t say we never give you anything*
– “Can you give me an example of a time when you felt dissatisfied with the way you worked with a client? What happened?”
– “Have you had to overcome any personal or professional challenges where you have had to rely on your interpersonal relationships? What was the outcome?”
– “Can you recall a time when you had to work with a difficult client? How did you overcome the challenges this presented?”
– “What do you think will be the biggest challenges you will face in this position?”
– “Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond for a customer”
There you go – a definitive distinction between customer service and customer success.