Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Customer Experience and Customer Success: What's the Difference?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Time to tackle another differentiation!

Last week, I once again tackled the topic of the differences between customer experience and customer service. This week, I'm going to see if I can do justice to the differences between customer experience and customer success.

Controversial? Yes. I think there's controversy when trying to delineate customer experience with customer service, but the conversations become a bit more heated when it comes to customer experience and customer success.

Regardless, let me preface this post by saying: as long as we all work toward a common goal, as long as we all try to do what's right for the customer, it's all good!

So, let's start with defining customer experience again:

Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organization over the life of the “relationship” with that company… and, especially, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer has about those interactions.

What is customer success?

I have always defined it as ensuring that customers get the value they expected out of the products they purchased, that they achieve their desired outcomes. The business outcome is retention. I have typically associated customer success as a B2B endeavor, specifically B2B technology customers.

I did a little homework and came up with the following definitions from the customer success experts.

Lincoln Murphy, who wrote Customer Success: The Definitive Guide, defines it as follows: Customer success is when your customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company.

I wasn't too far off, but I wanted to keep looking.

Gainsight defines it as: The business methodology of ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your product or service. Customer Success is relationship-focused client management, that aligns client and vendor goals for mutually beneficial outcomes. Effective Customer Success strategy typically results in decreased customer churn and increased upsell opportunities.

I found this on Wikipedia: Customer success is the function at a company responsible for managing the relationship between a vendor and its customers. The goal of customer success is to make the customer as successful as possible, which in turn, improves customer lifetime value (CLTV) for the company.

Todd Eby of SuccessHacker says: At its heart, customer success is about understanding why your customer hired you, what are they attempting to achieve and then doing all that you can to help them achieve that.

Mindtouch says customer success encompasses the ongoing efforts of an organization to continue delivering value to its customers. A good customer success program aims to deliver value throughout every step of the customer journey, from pre-purchase to post-sale and beyond. This can include (but isn’t limited to) onboarding, product training, customer service and support.

Starting to see a pattern? Yes. Customer success is rooted in companies delivering value and customers achieving their desired outcomes. Guess what? So is customer experience. One more...

The Customer Success Association defines customer success as: a long-term, scientifically engineered, and professionally directed strategy for maximizing customer and company sustainable proven value.

Um...

So, I then took a look at some of the ways people differentiated customer experience and customer success.

Helpshift noted that customer success is just one part of customer experience, and includes a longer description of the differentiation, which you can find here, but the key part is summarized at the end of their article: The real key to a phenomenal customer experience is a company-wide, top-down philosophy on what the result of the customer journey should be. It’s not enough to just have good CSAT; you want your customers to have an overall positive association with your brand as a whole. Customer success is just one part of this macro vision of the customer.

Sue Duris of M4 believes that the two will converge, but until then notes that customer experience is strategic, while customer success is transactional and product-centric.

This one is interesting. The Future of CIO blog differentiated between customer experience, customer service, and customer success as follows: Customer service is reactive, available when customers need it, in the channel when customers want it. Customer experience needs to be interactive, to delight customers in every touch point. Customer success is proactive, identifying ways to help customers gain value from the product or service you provide. Customer Experience is the broad umbrella that you deliver from purchase throughout the full "journey." Customers need all of these areas to be a focus of the business if you want them to continue to buy and recommend your products/services to others.

ChurnZero differentiates the two by saying that customer experience is focused on the overall impression a customer has, while customer success is focused on the end results (or lack thereof) of those interactions.

***

I've read a lot of articles about customer success in the last few days, and the lines between customer success and customer experience are blurred by many; some don't even come close. There are differences, but it seems fuzzy, for sure. Here's how I've boiled it down.

Customer success is:
  • B2B
  • Product/value focused
  • Customer/outcomes focused
  • Account focused
  • Relationship focused
  • Retention/repurchase focused
  • Tactical in the scheme of things, but strategic as it relates to the account
  • One part of the equation, a subset of customer experience
Customer experience is:
  • B2B and B2C
  • People focused: employees and customers
  • Culture based/driven
  • Design focused - design products that deliver value, help customers achieve their desired outcomes
  • Product/value focused
  • Customer/outcomes focused
  • Relationship focused
  • Business outcomes focused
  • Emotions, feelings, perceptions
  • Strategic, enterprise-wide
Makes me question if the customer success role/discipline is really necessary. What do you think? Customer experience is the umbrella. Get the experience right - listen to customers, understand the problems they are trying to solve, innovate, and design and deliver a better experience - and customer success management becomes obsolete, no? After all... it's all about the customer.

Make everyone think about things from the customer’s perspective. -Mike Grafham


2 comments:

  1. Once again...very insightful Annette.

    They all resonate with me, but the one that does the most is the Future of CIO blog.

    At my company, CX is the umbrella of "the sum total of all interactions". CSM is the strategic relationship to discover and uncover the obstacles that our customers have in doing business with us. (not for the few, but for all) Customer Advocacy is another hat - reactive, tactical, and one that most individuals confuse the CSM role to be. Lastly is Customer Satisfaction - transactional by nature.

    Another way to generically look at it:
    Customer Experience - is the future
    Customer Success & Advocacy - is the present
    Customer Satisfaction - is the past

    Have a great week!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Chris! I appreciate you sharing your insights and how this works in your company. Love how you generally look at it. Have a great weekend!

      Annette :-)

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