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Distinguishing Customer Success from Customer Experience

Bibi Sofowote, CCXP

Imagine, if you will, a finely curated art gallery - the ambiance, the layout, the lighting, everything that’s been put together just so, to make sure you have a wonderful and inspired time… that’s Customer Experience. It’s what encourages patrons to explore and appreciate the art. Now, the guided tour that intimately explains the history and the narrative behind each piece of art, ensuring a richer understanding and appreciation, that’s Customer Success.

Let’s talk about it.

In today’s most-informed customer-centric business discussions, two terms often take center-stage: Customer Success and Customer Experience. To the uninitiated, they may seem interchangeable and are in fact often used in that way. But they represent distinct yet complementary facets of customer-centricity. A serious look not only reveals their individual meanings, but also the harmonious interplay that fosters a thriving customer relationship and, by extension, a successful business.

Customer Success is a proactive endeavor that focuses on ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes from the use of a company's product or service. It’s about understanding customer goals, and aligning efforts to aid customers in realizing those goals. Companies with a robust Customer Success model engage with customers right from the onboarding stage, offering guidance, resources, and support to ensure the customers derive value, thereby cultivating a positive, long-term relationship.

It’s essentially leaving no stone unturned in making sure the customer never has to question whether the product or service is truly helping them meet their objectives. This is particularly helpful when the company’s offering is in the form of a subscription that will need to be renewed by the customer. Customers are less likely to renew if they cannot point to the value they derive.

This is delivered through onboarding and training, where your team assists the customers in understanding how best to use the product or service to meet their needs; ongoing account management, which involves regular check-ins to gauge customer satisfaction and address any concerns or barriers to full adoption; and finally, identifying opportunities to derive additional value by integrating the use of other products or services offered by the company.

Customer Experience, on the other hand, encapsulates every interaction a customer has with a company, starting even before the customer makes their first purchase. It includes everything from navigating the website, interacting with customer service, to using the product or service. It is made up of the qualitative and quantitative impacts of the company that customers feel at every stage, it is the perception customers form through these impacts and interactions, and it is influenced by the emotions evoked at every touchpoint.

The insights gleaned from monitoring Customer Experience can be invaluable in refining your company’s Customer Success strategy. Understanding the pain points and delights along the customer journey can help in tailoring the guidance, support and resources provided to customers, making your Customer Success efforts more effective.

On the flip side, a strong Customer Success strategy often supports an overall positive Customer Experience. When customers achieve their desired outcomes and derive value, their perception of the company improves, which in turn enhances the entire Customer Experience.

So, Customer Success is more focused on the functional relationship between the customer and the company, while Customer Experience dives into the emotional and perceptual aspects. However, the benefits of interlacing the two are clear: A holistic approach that integrates both Customer Success and Customer Experience is essential for fostering a fruitful and enduring relationship with customers. Companies looking to elevate their customer-centricity must invest in nurturing both the functional and emotional aspects of customer interactions. By ensuring customers not only achieve their goals but also enjoy the journey, companies not only retain loyal customers but also transform them into fierce advocates, a positive thing for any business aiming for profit and growth.

And just like that art gallery we conjured up earlier, while it is true that you can have a Customer Experience strategy that doesn’t include Customer Success, aren’t we all likely to enjoy the immersion even more with that intimate guided tour?

Thanks for reading this article. How will you use this information to make your customer experience better today? What have you observed in your environment Reach out. Connect. I’ll be reading and responding. And learning.

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