Customer Success and Customer Service are both trends that have gained traction over the past few months. Despite their growing popularity, very few people understand what they truly mean, and even fewer understand what they mean to each other.

Customer Success

Broken down, Customer Success can fit into a lot of different categories. Is it a state of mind? A business model? A philosophy? How about all of the above. Customer success is subjective and the use case is entirely dependent on the business. In an article for Sixteen Ventures, Lincoln Murphy describes it as:

“proactive, holistic, and organization-level approach that leverages technology and real-enough-time visibility into customer health (not just usage data, but any contextual inputs) to ensure your customers – including those who directly use (users, administrators, etc.) and those who benefit from the use of your product – continually and increasingly receive value from your product over the course of their lifetime as a customer.”

SaaS companies have adopted the Customer Success mentality to strengthen relationships with the customer. How it works is simple to say, but hard to do: Make your product and interactions overwhelmingly positive for the customer, and you’ll see it reflected in your revenue. From creating a smooth onboarding program to strengthening your communication, work with your customers to make their experience with your brand a positive one. If your ultimate goal is customer retention, what better way to get there than pleasing your customer?

Customer Service

Customer Service, however, reflects the overall experience of the customer, down to every email and phone call. Your customers should never hesitate to pick up the phone to ask questions.

So what now?

Incorporate both into your business strategy. In order to establish a good customer success program, you need to approach it from a holistic perspective. Everyone from the CEO to your newly-coined customer success associate has to be a dedicated participant. I advise doing the following:

1.     Separate customer success vs customer service: After all, they’re not the same! Your front-line folks should focus on solving any issues that pop up in a timely and effective manner. Customer success, however, should be a proactive movement by account management and leadership. The end goal is to think long-term. How is your customer, and those affected by proxy, benefiting from your product? Can you make it better? Become the architect to create change.

2.     Don’t slack: Customer success has no end date and time. It’s 24/7/365.

3.     Track your metrics: Subscribe to a customer success platform to get a clear picture of your customer health

It’s also important to note that one doesn’t work as well without the other. If you have a customer success platform without a customer service team, you’re not going to go far. Much the same, a customer service program without the long-term thinking of a customer success program has no vision. Don’t shorten yourself (and your business). 

About the Author

Douglas Hanna is the founder and CEO of, a next generation provider of customer service software. Before, he was the CEO of A Small Orange, the homegrown hosting company. You can follow him on Twitter@douglashanna