Customer success vs. customer experience: What’s the difference?

Pradeep Vasudev

July 6, 20239 min read

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In the realm of customer-centric strategies, we often come across two terms — "customer success" and "customer experience" that get confused, or even get used interchangeably in conversations about customer journeys. Even though they might sound similar, they are in fact distinctly separate concepts that are only linked by one idea — a great, positive customer experience is the foundation of good customer support. 

While customer success focuses on individual customer outcomes and retention in the post-purchase part of customer journey, customer experience takes a holistic approach, encompassing the entire journey — discovery to purchase and retention.  

Understanding the difference between customer success and customer experience is crucial for businesses to make good hiring decisions, define roles and responsibilities clearly and align the two teams such they complement each other and focus on creating the best customer journeys. 

In this blog, we’ll learn more about the concepts of customer success and customer experience, and how it’s necessary for them to work together for your brand’s success. 

Table of Contents

What is customer success? 

Customer success is a proactive business strategy that focuses on helping your users and clients achieve their desired outcomes by providing exceptional support, guidance and value, especially in the post-purchase phase of their customer journey.  

As opposed to customer service which is mostly reactive and transactional, customer success is proactive and relational. It aims to build strong, long-lasting relationships with customers in order to maximize their loyalty, retention and lifetime value. 

Customer success entails understanding the customers' goals, challenges and expectations, and then aligning the resources and expertise to ensure their success. It involves continuous engagement with customers, empowering them to derive maximum value from it through extensive education and collaboration. 

Examples of customer success in various industries can be as follows: 

  • In the software industry, a customer success team works closely with clients during the onboarding process, offering personalized training and dedicated assistance that will help ensure smooth adoption of their products/services.  
     

  • In the e-commerce sector, a customer success manager proactively reaches out to customers who have made recent purchases, offering product recommendations or troubleshooting assistance to enhance the users’ overall experience with the brand. 

In short, a customer success manager is responsible for: 

  • Onboarding and training new customers 

  • Gathering and analyzing customer feedback 

  • Monitoring customer health score 

  • Driving cross-sells, upsells and advocacy 

  • Aiding offboarding 

Objectives of customer success 

Customer success is a critical focus area that aims to achieve specific objectives to ensure customer satisfaction, engagement and long-term value. Below are the key objectives that are a part of successful customer success strategies. 

Customer satisfaction and retention 

Image 1

Customer success aims to ensure high levels of customer satisfaction by understanding and catering to user needs, resolving issues and delivering value consistently. Positive user experiences and strong customer relationships can help businesses boost customer retention rates and reduce churn rates up to 30%.  

Point to note: For SaaS companies, a robust customer success function can be a lifesaver since these companies suffer from high churn and rely mostly on repeat purchases/renewals for survival and growth. 

Better engagement and adoption 

Driving high engagement and adoption of the product or service among customers is also part of customer success. This involves providing guidance, resources and personalized support to help customers fully understand your product’s functionalities and use them to their advantage. 

Upselling and cross-selling 

Customer success also plays a vital role in identifying upselling and cross-selling opportunities. Aligning with your customers’ evolving needs and providing additional solutions or services can help your business expand customer accounts and drive revenue growth. Well-trained success teams can become revenue centers for your business. 

Acquiring new customers is 5-25 times more costly than retaining old ones 

Forbes 

Customer advocacy 

Through exceptional customer success efforts, businesses can transform satisfied customers into brand advocates. When customers achieve their desired outcomes and have positive experiences, they are more likely to share their success stories, refer others to the brand and contribute to the overall growth of the business.

Image 2

Know more: Listen, learn, love: Steps to driving customer advocacy 

What is customer experience? 

Customer experience, also known as CX, refers to the overall impression of a brand that customers have based on their interactions throughout the entire customer journey. Every touchpoint in the journey — including the pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase interactions across multiple channels — are optimized to ensure the best experience.  

A great customer experience involves understanding customer needs, preferences and expectations — and delivering custom-made experiences that exceed those expectations. Everything from designing intuitive user interfaces, providing exceptional customer service to fostering emotional connections with customers are considered a part of the experience package. Hence, it’s wider in scope than customer success. 

Learn more: 9 innovative customer service techniques to follow 

 To give you a few examples of customer experience in various industries:  

  • In the hospitality sector, a luxury hotel offering a personalized check-in experience, attentive staff and meticulously designed guest rooms to create an enjoyable stay is their attempt at providing great customer experience. 

  • In the retail industry, an online clothing store might provide a user-friendly website, easy return policies and quick delivery options to ensure a seamless and convenient shopping experience for customers. This would be considered as a great customer experience for that industry. 

As you can see, fulfilling customer expectations is a team effort that involves both customer success and customer experience. 

Objectives of customer experience 

The objectives of customer experience revolve around creating meaningful interactions and fostering long-term customer loyalty. Let's discuss them in detail.

Customer satisfaction and delight 

As with customer success, the primary objective of customer experience is also to ensure customer satisfaction by meeting or exceeding their expectations. Through exceptional experiences, brands can create a sense of delight, leading to better brand sentiment and positive word-of-mouth recommendations. 

Brand differentiation

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A well-crafted customer experience sets your brand apart from your competitors.Delivering unique, memorable experiences differentiate you from the crowd and build a strong brand identity that evokes a positive sentiment in your customers. 

Amazon: Case in point 
One famous brand that is always brought up in conversations about CX is Amazon. From its humble beginning as an online bookstore, Amazon has evolved into the world's largest online retailer by removing friction in the buying process and reinforcing customer centricity across every touchpoint, to provide the best customer experience for its users. Amazon Prime, its membership program with an adoption rate of 82% in the US market, also plays a big role in their CX equation to provide a premium experience to its subscribers. 

Personalized recommendations, one-click purchases, fast delivery, a robust return policy and 24/7 customer service — all of these are conscious decisions that Amazon made to enhance their CX, that has also improved its customer satisfaction rates. The key takeaway here is to keep yourself updated with the latest technology trends, which can help you understand customer behaviour better and use it to your advantage. 

Customer loyalty and retention 

CX has a huge role in nurturing customer loyalty in the long term. When customers have satisfying interactions with your business and also feel valued, they are more likely to remain loyal to a brand, repurchase products or services and even advocate for the brand among their social circles. 

Interested to learn more? Watch How exceptional customer service improves your CX and brand loyalty [WEBINAR]

Enhanced customer lifetime value 

A positive customer experience contributes to maximizing your customer lifetime value. By consistently delivering exceptional experiences, businesses can drive repeat purchases and potentially upsell or cross-sell additional products or services, improving revenue from a particular customer. 

Now that you’re familiar with the technicalities of the two departments, read about their differences in the next section. 

Differences between customer success and customer experience 

Here are the key differences between customer success and customer experience, based on their objectives, driving factors and metrics for measuring success:  

Parameters

Customer success

Customer experience

 🔠 Definition 

Focuses on ensuring customer achieves desired business outcomes

Focuses on overall perception and impression of your brand with customers 

 👥 Stakeholders

Collaborative approach between business and customer

The brand manages the whole experience themselves

📝 Process

Involves assisting customers to derive maximum value post purchase 

Involves effectively managing the journey for positive experiences

🔍 Focus areas

Emphasizes utilization and value realization

Emphasizes seamless and memorable interactions

 🔧  Personalization

Mostly personalized for every individual customer

Design and execution can be applied to all customers alike, or personalized if required

🎯 Primary goal

Primary aim is long-term customer retention, which is achieved through meticulous assistance and engagement 

Primary aim is customer satisfaction and loyalty, which also results in better customer retention

📈 Metrics

Key metrics include customer lifetime value, retention rate and customer effort score

Key metrics include customer satisfaction and net promoter score

Now that we know the differences, let’s see how these two concepts go hand in hand in improving the customer journey for a brand.

Customer experience and customer success — how do they work together? 

Customer experience and customer success are interrelated and mutually beneficial. While they have distinct focuses, they complement each other in driving customer satisfaction and business growth. 

Customer success has a direct impact on customer experience. Assisting customers in achieving their goals and maximizing value from your products is an integral part of your customer success efforts — and this contributes to improved CX via positive interactions, improved trust and long-term relationships. When you can understand customer needs to a great extent, you can then create tailored experiences that make them feel valued, which in turn improves their satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. 

Image 4

On the other hand, a great customer experience sets the stage for customer success. PwC research shows that 86% of buyers are willing to pay a premium for a stellar, memorable experience. Think about it: Don’t you opt for luxury brands like Nike and Apple as you’re confident of their after-sales support and experience? 

Positive experiences lay the foundation for successful customer outcomes, breeding trust and making it easier for customer success teams to guide clients towards achieving their personal goals. 

CX priorities in 2022: tips to provide a positive customer experience

But that’s not all. 

Both customer success and customer experience teams can actually collaborate closely to share insights and feedback. The customer experience team can provide valuable input to customer success teams about customer preferences and pain points, while success teams can share what strategies have worked best so far to reduce the need for experimentation and deliver consistently great experiences.  

Recognizing and leveraging the interplay between customer experience and customer success can enable businesses to create a virtuous cycle. Positive experiences lead to successful outcomes, which in turn enhances the overall experience and further drives customer loyalty and advocacy. 

Final Thoughts 

In the realm of customer-centric strategies, understanding the distinction between customer success and customer experience is crucial. By aligning these two facets, businesses can create a powerful working dynamic that fosters long-term customer loyalty, drives business growth and ultimately delivers exceptional value to customers.  

While we now know customer success and experience are interdependent, plenty of businesses still don't know the importance of understanding this relationship. In fact, customer success is still so unpopular among brands worldwide that only 38% of them employ a proper customer success solution — and almost 4 out of 10 companies (44%) feel incapable of monitoring their customer health scores, which makes them lose valuable customers and revenue. 

Sound familiar? 

This is why your businesses to invest in a holistic care solution like Sprinklr Service. A comprehensive customer service software built on the world’s first unified customer experience management (Unified-CXM) platform — Sprinklr Service empowers businesses to effectively manage both customer success and customer experience activities from within a single solution. With features that enable personalized customer interactions and seamless journey management, your brand can remarkably improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, and drive your business growth. 

TRY SPRINKLR FOR FREE 

Sprinklr Service
Omnichannel Customer Service Software | Sprinklr

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