customer success

What’s the difference between customer service, customer success and customer support?

2 min read Maria Fernandes, Customer Success Manager

Customer service, customer support and customer success are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to the same service. But do you know the difference between the three?

There is usually some confusion between the three services stems from the fact that these teams have the same overarching objective: to help customers and deliver memorable experiences. Customer experience is at the core of all three teams’ scope.


Let’s start with the difference between customer support and customer service by looking at the origin of both terms. Customer service is a somewhat outdated term that we tend to associate with long periods of waiting in line to speak to a not-so-helpful clerk. Customer support, on the other hand, seems like a slightly more modern term for the same function, and that’s why many businesses now choose to use it. These terms aren’t interchangeable, due to the very specific differences between customer support and customer service roles. They might overlap, but the actual process they follow to help customers solve their issues is different.


Customer support is related to technology: a customer support role requires a technical background and the ability to help troubleshoot product-related issues and educate its users about how the product works. Customer support teams work with other operational groups — such as Engineering and Product — to improve existing features while providing invaluable customer feedback for upcoming releases. They might be responsible for compiling top user issues reports, as well as handling suggestions and prioritising feature requests. In addition to customer service skills, customer support reps must use other tools and skills. Ultimately, customer service is the umbrella function, and customer support describes a more specific role underneath it.


Customer service roles tend to be entry-level positions, with few growth possibilities apart from management. On the customer support side, however, there are broader career options, including product management. Due to the technical aspect of customer support roles, support positions tend to be available in SaaS and e-commerce companies. Customer service happens almost in every industry, including retail, health and hospitality. Success metrics on the customer service and support side are related to operational efficiency, and include quality of service provided; turn-around-time; number of interactions until resolution…


And what about customer success? Customer success is about making your customers feel valued throughout their entire journey with your organization. The primary goal of a customer success team is to identify what success means to each of your potential customers and aim to deliver that. Customer success teams will work alongside support teams and use data science analysis to understand how new and existing customers use the product, jumping in whenever they need help. While customer service tends to be a reactive process, customer success aims to proactively identify potential issues and address them before they become a problem that requires support. Moreover, customer success teams can recommend additional product features based on usage stats and encourage users to fully utilise the product. Customer success managers want to help their customers grow their business, so they can renew their subscription every time. Customer success metrics are related to the business impact: customer retention; customer churn and overall lifetime value.


At the end of the day, and more than nomenclature, what matters the most is trying to provide the best experience to your customers and figuring out how your customer-facing roles can help your company deliver it.


Whether you’re managing Customer Success, Service or Support, it is crucial to offer these teams great onboarding and continuous training. After all, these are the teams that communicate more with your customers every day and are the face or voice of your brand. This means, they need to be up to date with company and product information, have the skills to handle all situations, and convey the company’s culture in a cohesive way.

Related content, you may like:

5 reasons customers leave and 5 tips to prevent it (article)

The Simple Economics of Customer Education (article and Customer Training ROI calculator)

Stop churn, facilitate growth: why customer education is key to success (article)


Tags: customer success, customer service, customer support


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