Where Customer Support and Customer Success Goals Overlap


It should never be customer success vs customer service. Yet, somehow these departments have become separated and even disassociated from each other.

It has become common for customer success to be perceived as the driver of every aspect of customer satisfaction that results from customer interactions, while the support department is left feeling like a reactive cost center. Anyone who has worked alongside dedicated, knowledgable, and highly responsive support teams can easily see they provide much more value than that.

The truth is, there will never be success with customers if you’re intent on drawing a line in the sand.Support and success departments who work in tandem lead to a more positive customer experience. Andrew Spittle, Head of Support at Automattic made this point two years ago, and we’re still having this discussion.

customer success vs customer support

What’s the alternative?

Instead of reinforcing silos, let’s identify opportunities for shared success.

Your customer support and customer success teams need shared goals

There is no shortage of metrics customer support teams could be tracking. When everything from ‘average reply time’ to ‘number of swag packages sent’ is being measured, how does support benefit from establishing shared goals with their customer success colleagues?

Shared goals lead to increased value

Neither support nor customer success teams exist in a silo. Their work relies heavily on input from other teams to do their job, whether in the form of engineering fixing a major bug, or finance explaining the customer’s latest bill.

Establishing shared goals allows management teams to define overarching priorities that encourage joint ownership and collaboration between the two teams. This reduces the risk of customer issues becoming siloed and going unaddressed.

Unaddressed issues can derail a customer during onboarding, or sneak up just before their contract renewal.

These issues prevent customers from deriving the maximum value from your product, which decreases retention and growth.

When support and customer success teams work together, customer interactions with either team complement and reinforce each other, and internal teams benefit from having a complete view of the customer experience and satisfaction.

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Shared goals allows support and customer success teams to individually, and jointly, deliver more value to your customers.

Goals are highly specific to an individual team’s responsibilities, so it’s necessary to first identify areas of joint ownership where these two teams can collaborate together more effectively.

  • Onboarding
    • Example: increase percentage of users who reach “onboarded” stage
  • Retention
    • Example: increase net recurring revenue
  • Customer satisfaction
    • Example: increase NPS and CSAT scores
  • Product feedback
    • Example: help product team prioritize bug fixes and feature requests

Increase onboarded and active users

Goal: Increase percentage of users who reach “onboarded” stage

Onboarding is crucial for your company’s growth. It allows you to unlock the inherent value of your product for companies and end users.

After a customer signs up, a customer success manager will create a launch plan, map out major milestones, and set them on a path towards achieving their goals. But on a day to day basis customer success managers can’t be constantly available to every end user—it just doesn’t scale.

This is where support comes in. They remove barriers that prevent users from moving past key onboarding milestones. During the onboarding stage issues that might appear minor, such as receiving an error when trying to upload a file, often hint at much bigger issues—such as incorrectly mapping all imported data. This can significantly derail progress.

Customers who have moved past onboarding milestones enter the “onboarded” stage of the customer journey. When support is aware of these major milestones they are able to reinforce the work done by customer success managers.

By working together support and customer success are able to help more customers move quickly past the “onboarded” stage and towards seeing product value.

Increase retention of current customers

Goal: Increase retention to boost net recurring revenue

Happy customers stick around, and really happy customers buy more from your company.

Retention is not just about preventing customer churn, it’s also a chance to connect the value customers receive from your product with additional revenue for your company.

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As the team closest to your end users, support has valuable insights into customer sentiment. Support can keep an eye out for indicators that a customer is a churn risk, such as asking how to export their data out of your product, or when their subscription is up for renewal.

On the other (more positive) end of the spectrum, support can identify customers who could benefit from a having conversation around expanded usage.

Satisfied customers often contact support with questions about feature upgrades or want to brainstorm how your other products might benefit their business. These conversations should be passed over to a customer success manager who can dive into more details around the customer’s needs.

Support teams who can read into the customer’s broader issues and needs are an important part of your company’s retention cycle. When you add the cost of customer churn (ex. $50k MRR) with the revenue coming in from customer upsell and expansion (ex. $60k MRR), it’s possible to see a net increase to your company’s recurring revenue.

Proactively managing customer churn and expansion leads to an increase in retention and growth- transforming support and customer success into revenue generating departments.

Increase customer satisfaction and loyalty

Goal: Increase NPS and CSAT scores

Certain measurements of customer satisfaction (especially NPS) make it difficult to isolate the contributions each employee or department had on the resulting score. With so many inputs going into customer satisfaction scores, companies often make the mistake of leaving the ownership of the survey and feedback process undefined.

Support and customer success should share responsibility for the creation, collection, follow up, and generation of actionable feedback from NPS and CSAT scores.

NPS and CSAT both track customer sentiment and satisfaction:

  • NPS surveys aim to capture overall trends in customer loyalty.
  • Customer Satisfaction surveys (CSAT) measure whether your product meets or exceeds buyers’ expectations.
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While NPS should be measured at intervals, satisfaction surveys work best when used after interactions with your business.

Neither score is something you can set on autopilot and review the results of once a quarter, they need to be monitored and followed up on.

Jointly collecting and analyzing survey responses ensures support and customer success have a pulse on customer sentiment and how issues should be prioritized within the product roadmap.

Collect product feedback to help improve the product

Goal: Help product team prioritize customer issues

Support and customer success teams often handle the brunt of customer frustration around bug fixes and feature requests.

When each employee has their own siloed view of product feedback, there is a major risk that outstanding issues will continue to go unidentified or unaddressed.

Incorporating customer feedback into your product roadmap reduces this risk.

The first step towards ensuring customer priorities and requests are properly tracked and weighted is to create an issue log. Tracking customer requests moves feedback from the anecdotal to the tangible, and provides a list of potential subjects for additional user research.

Armed with this quantitative feedback, support and customer success can help prioritize issues that are affecting the customer experience and preventing customers from gaining the maximum value from your product.

Shared goals align support and success departments

Creating shared goals between support and customer success allows the work of each team to complement and reinforce the other.

Establishing common priorities lets these teams know what objectives they’re working towards together- from more successfully onboarding users to increasing net MRR. It also keeps the needs of the customer front and center by collecting and analyzing issues that affect customer experience and satisfaction, and allows these teams to present product feedback rooted in data.

When support and customer success teams work towards shared goals they are able to increase the value your customers derive from your product.

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