Customer Success Managers and Customer Service: Differences and Integration

business woman putting puzzle of success together

Customer Success Managers and Customer Service: Differences and Integration

Both customer success managers and customer service exist to make and retain money while servicing the customer. For our first post concerning customer success roles, we’ll focus on what makes these two different and how they support each other. Depending on the size of a company, these groups can be multi-tiered, have overlapping duties or be a single department trained in both. They each benefit from continually evolving, gathering data and adopting new solutions.

What Makes Customer Success Managers and Customer Service Different

There is more nuance to this, but these are the main differentiating factors:

  • Well crafted customer success management prevents issues before they occur (proactive). 
  • By contrast, customer service mainly solves issues after they occur (reactive).

Ultimately these departments work together. Customer service can also help prevent additional issues, but often they do so after a customer has already presented with a problem. Customer success managers (CSMs) also solve issues by providing suggestions for upgrades or adjustments to product services the customer has, for example. 

A system that enables service agents to connect with CSMs with upsell or other opportunities beneficial to both company and customer is a great way to integrate the work of these departments. The graphic below illustrates a basic workflow of this structure:

Customer success and customer service basic workflow graphic

CSMs develop rapport with customers directly, learning their needs, goals and challenges. In some instances a customer initiates contact by requesting a demo or being connected through another customer. Customer support comes into the flow once a customer has encountered a problem. It is possible the customer would bring the problem to their CSM first who may or may not connect them with customer service. In turn, customer service agents are able to notify CSMs of sales leads to offer more value to customers and further customer relationships.

The size of the company, budgets and growth level of the company influence the structure of success and service. These factors also impact when to bring on a customer service operations role.   

The Bridge: Customer Service Operations

CS Ops can be a single role, multiple people, or even teams. In larger companies with greater budgets allocated for customer success, customer service operations (CS Ops) act as a bridge between CRMs and customer service agents (CSAs) on a practical level. 

There is no point in gathering data if there is no bandwidth to apply it. CS Ops takes data from both sides and finds methods of streamlining and scaling.

 According to Zendesk, effective CS Ops review software, workflows, KPIs, forecast customer growth and churn, and improve service agent training and onboarding. 

The data from CS Ops help CRMs make the best recommendations to their customers. Training and onboarding tools make CSAs more effective. Identifying software improvements and creating workflows improve efficiency and communication across teams. 

Customer Success operations graphic showing what the department contributes

When a CSM has too many clients to be able to analyze data and make improvements alone or when there are multiple CSMs, adding a CS Ops role or team can smooth the bumps of scaling and improve customer retention. 

There are many other customer success roles and we will dive into some of them in a future post.

What does your customer success landscape look like?