There’s no denying that the SaaS industry is a crowded space. There are a lot of different companies, tools, and people vying for the same dollar. 

With this being the case, one of the best ways for SaaS companies to break through the noise is to create a great customer experience and ensure that customers get long-term value from using your products. This is where a customer success team and a customer support team each play a vital part. 

While the terms “customer success” and “customer support” may sound interchangeable, and their overall goal is similar, their responsibilities and tactics have some important distinctions. 

To help you better understand them — especially when it comes to how they influence customer satisfaction and retention — let’s take a look at the five major differences between customer success and customer support.

What Does Customer Success Really Mean?

Every company defines customer success a little differently depending on factors like type of products or services they’re selling, the length and size of their contracts, and any upsell opportunities that might be present. 

In general, customer success is proactive. Customer success teams are continually striving to identify new opportunities and solutions for the customers that they serve so that they maintain their investment in your product.

By helping customers utilize your SaaS products to their full potential and maximize their ROI, a great customer success team can accomplish a variety of goals for your company. This includes reducing churn and boosting customer retention, as well as increasing the average lifetime value for new and existing customers.

Customer support, on the other hand, is typically reactive. Customer support teams respond to help desk tickets as they’re created and focus on handling issues in a fast, efficient manner so problems don’t pile up. 

5 Ways Customer Success Differs From Customer Support

Customer success and customer support are both service teams that are dedicated to assisting a company’s customers. However, the methods these two teams employ and the objectives they work toward are entirely different. Let’s examine these differences in detail: 

1. Customer Success Is More Proactive Than Reactive

One of the most important distinctions between customer success and customer support is one we already mentioned. Customer support teams work to solve customer issues as they arise, while customer success is more about getting ahead of needs and questions, checking in, and nurturing the customer relationship. 

If a customer is having technical problems with a SaaS product, for example, it’s the customer support team that answers their request for assistance. Customer success teams, meanwhile, aim to present opportunities and solve issues before the customer even thinks about it. 

We’re not saying customer success teams are mind readers! This relationship is possible through regular communication, scheduled touchpoints, and feedback requests. 

2. Customer Success Is More Strategic Than Supportive

Customer success teams also exist to help customers overcome issues that tend to be more high-level, like onboarding the client’s team or strategizing ways that certain services or features could help them reach their quarterly goals. 

Customer success teams work to identify new strategies that customers can employ in order to maximize the return that they receive from the company’s SaaS products. While customer support focuses on everyday issues, customer success focuses on more long-term and big-picture strategies that will drive value and, ultimately, customer retention

At Sales Assembly, we’re committed to helping SaaS companies build customer success teams that will ensure the success of their company and customers alike through our industry-leading Customer Success Certification Program. This cohort-style course will level up your CS reps and connect them with experts and peers across the industry. For CS managers and directors, we offer an in-depth Customer Success Leadership Program as well.

3. Customer Success Is a Feedback Loop for the Product Team

When your product team is weighing ideas to expand, improve, or iterate on your product or service, the customer success team should be one of your first stops. As the department most familiar with the after-sale challenges and pain points your customers are facing, few employees will offer a better source of product feedback.

That said, the customer success team isn’t the end-all, be-all. At most companies, the customer support team’s entire job is to manage the day-to-day technical snags and confusion around product or service capabilities, and see if certain customer requests are possible. They’ll also have a wealth of insights from working cross-functionally with other teams to find solutions. 

4. Customer Success Focuses on Building Customer Relationships

Most of the reps that make up your customer support team aren’t going to be on a first-name basis with the customers that they assist. With customer success, however, the customer relationship is much more direct, defined, and personalized. This is especially true for your customer success manager (CSM), who may be on a first-name basis with all of your high-value customers. 

Since customer success is focused on assisting customers throughout the customer journey on a proactive and ongoing basis, customer interactions are much more common. Your CSM and reps will need the skills and training to maintain positive customer relationships in the long run and adapt to different customer needs, goals, and personalities.

5. They Each Prioritize Different KPIs (Support Metrics vs. Success Metrics)

The final difference between customer success and customer support that’s worth noting is the different metrics these two teams use to measure their results. 

Customer support teams acquire feedback through support metrics that are designed to measure the quality of support that a customer receives. Some examples include:

  • First Response Time: This measures the amount of time (minutes, dates, etc) between when a customer submits a ticket or requests support and when a support rep responds. According to one survey, 46% of customers expect an email response in four hours or less
  • Resolution Rate: This measures the number of issues or tickets that are solved versus received in a given amount of time. It’s usually calculated by rep to rank their efficiency, but you can also determine an overall resolution rate for your team and use it to set team goals.
  • First Contact Resolution Rate: This measures the number of issues or tickets that were solved the first time a customer contacted your business. It’s another lens to understand how promptly your team is getting to customers and resolving their requests.

The metrics used to gauge the performance of your customer success team, meanwhile, are more geared towards big-picture customer satisfaction. A few of these performance indicators include: 

  • Churn Rate: This measures loss over a specific period, either revenue churn or customer churn, and it’s a major guidepost for whether your customer success strategy is working. Churn is challenging to prevent, but you can perform a churn analysis to dive into why this number is shifting.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): This measures how happy your customers are with your product or service by asking a single main question: “How likely are you to recommend our product or service to a friend or colleague?” 
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): There are many ways to define and measure customer satisfaction, including quantitative options like NPS surveys and qualitative options like longer customer feedback surveys. CS managers are in a key position to understand warning signs of dissatisfaction and develop the right questions to identify and address these feelings before they lead to churn.  

Read our blog to discover more meaningful SaaS growth and performance metrics your team should be watching.

Develop an Optimized Customer Success Team With Help From Sales Assembly

Whether you’re hiring your first customer success or support employees, or simply looking for ways to optimize the performance of both teams, we hope this blog clarified the key differences between the two. 

At Sales Assembly, we understand just how important an effective customer success team is when it comes to reducing customer churn and optimizing customer satisfaction

Through our expert-led Customer Success Certification Program, we’re able to help SaaS companies of all sizes create and train customer success teams that are prepared to handle every responsibility that their all-important job entails. 

To learn more about signing up for this certification program and providing your reps top-notch with training and guidance, feel free to contact us today.


For more support in Scaling Better, Scaling Faster, and Scaling Smarter, Sales Assembly can help. Contact us for more information.