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Account Management vs Customer Success: Unveiling the Differences

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Account Management vs Customer Success: Unveiling the Differences

Account Management and Customer Success are two teams that play a pivotal role in sustaining customer relationships and driving business growth. The two roles are sometimes mistaken to be synonymous to each other at first glance but it is important to note that they are two unique terms in their own way. Their distinct roles and overlap often create confusion among professionals trying to optimize their strategies, so understanding these differences can profoundly impact how businesses operate and thrive. 

In this article, you will learn the core responsibilities that separate Account Managers from Customer Success Managers, how each role uniquely contributes to customer retention and overall satisfaction, and different effective strategies for harmonizing these roles to enhance business outcomes, so as to provide you with a clear understanding of both positions, helping your businesses to better align their teams to customer needs and drive significant growth.

What is Account Management?

Account Management is a crucial function in any business that relies on building strong, long-term relationships with customers. This process typically involves managing a portfolio of client accounts and ensuring that they are satisfied with the company's products or services. 

The goal of Account Management is to foster long-term relationships, understand customer needs, and maximize customer lifetime value through strategic initiatives such as upselling and cross-selling, contract renewals, and consistent customer engagement. Account Managers act as the bridge between their company and its clients, ensuring that both parties' expectations and goals are aligned, which ultimately contributes to sustained business growth and customer satisfaction.

Account Managers focus on understanding the specific needs of their clients and aligning them with the company's offerings. Their responsibilities include:

  • Building and maintaining strong, long-lasting customer relationships.
  • Negotiating contracts and closing agreements to maximize profits.
  • Overseeing Customer Account Management, including negotiating contracts and agreements to maximize profit.
  • Identifying new business opportunities among existing customers by understanding their business needs and proposing solutions that enhance customer satisfaction.
  • Contributions to Business Growth

By maintaining a positive relationship with clients, Account Managers play a vital role in the financial health of a company. They are often directly responsible for revenue streams from existing customers, making their contribution not only pivotal but also measurable. Effective Account Management ensures that clients feel valued and understood, which is crucial for client retention and the avoidance of churn.

What is Customer Success?

Customer Success is a business function that focuses on helping customers achieve their desired outcomes while using a company's products or services. It's centered on proactive support, where Customer Success Managers (CSMs) work closely with customers to ensure they receive the maximum value from their purchases, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

The main goal of Customer Success is to prevent churn by actively engaging with customers, solving their problems, and encouraging product adoption and usage through tailored guidance and support. This role is important in developing long-term customer relationships and driving recurring revenue for businesses, particularly in subscription-based models like software as a service (SaaS), through strategic management and support.

The essence of Customer Success lies in its goal - to build a relationship that goes beyond the transactional, focusing instead on customer empowerment and achieving long-term success. Their broad span of core functions and responsibilities of a Customer Success manager (CSM) include:

  • Onboarding new clients effectively to ensure they are well-equipped to use the product or service.
  • Providing ongoing support and guidance to customers, aligning with their needs and objectives to prevent churn.
  • Monitoring customer health indicators, proactively addressing potential issues, and advocating for customer needs internally.
  • Facilitating upgrades and expansions by demonstrating the continued value of the company's products or services.
  • Impact on Retention and Satisfaction

Customer Success Managers directly influence a customer's experience and satisfaction, which in turn affects the company's retention rates. By actively supporting customers and helping them see the value in the service or product, CSMs increase the chances that customers will continue to use the service and possibly expand their engagement.

Differences Between Account Management and Customer Success

While both Account Management and Customer Success roles aim to foster strong customer relationships and drive business growth, their approaches and primary focuses differ significantly. Understanding these differences is crucial for businesses looking to effectively deploy these roles.

Goals and Strategies

Account Managers are primarily sales-oriented. Their goal is to ensure that the business achieves or exceeds its sales targets through existing customers. They focus on contract renewals, upselling, and cross-selling, which are critical for short-term revenue generation.

In contrast, Customer Success Managers prioritize customer retention and satisfaction as the pathway to long-term revenue growth. Their strategies revolve around ensuring customers are successful with the product or service, which naturally leads to renewals and potential upsells but from a customer-first perspective.

Metrics of Success

The performance metrics for Account Managers typically include sales targets, revenue generated from existing customers, and contract renewal rates. These metrics reflect the direct impact of Account Management on a company's financial performance.

Customer Success Managers are evaluated based on customer health scores, churn rates, and the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which gauge customer loyalty and product satisfaction. These indicators help predict long-term growth and stability.

Why is Understanding the Difference Crucial?

Recognising these roles' unique contributions enables organizations to sculpt a customer experience that's not just satisfactory but remarkable. This differentiation empowers businesses to allocate resources more effectively, ensuring that the right team is addressing the right issues at the right time. 

For instance, directing complex contract negotiations to Account Managers frees up Customer Success teams to focus on optimizing the customer's journey and outcomes. It's about placing the puzzle pieces in their perfect spots, creating a coherent picture of customer engagement that drives loyalty and growth. Additionally, understanding these differences fosters a culture of collaboration and mutual respect among teams, breaking down silos and encouraging a unified approach to customer delight. 

In essence, recognising and valuing the unique contributions of Account Management and Customer Success is key to building a resilient, customer-centric business model that not only stands the test of time but also sets the gold standard in customer relations.

Collaboration Opportunities Between the Two Roles

Although Account Management and Customer Success have distinct roles within a company, their collaboration can significantly enhance customer experience and drive mutual business success. By aligning their strategies and leveraging their unique strengths, these two functions can create a more cohesive and powerful customer engagement model.

Account Managers typically have detailed knowledge of their customers' business goals, preferences, and challenges based on their direct interactions. By sharing these insights with Customer Success Managers, they can ensure that the Customer Success team is well-prepared to tailor their support and onboarding processes accordingly. This makes the transition from the sales process to the active customer management phase smoother and more personalized, greatly improving the customer experience.

Conversely, Customer Success Managers often gather in-depth feedback about the customer's day-to-day experiences with the company's products or services. This feedback can be vital for Account Managers as they prepare for contract renewals or additional sales pitches. It ensures that they are well-informed about the customer’s current satisfaction levels and any issues that might have arisen, allowing them to address these proactively in their discussions.

Benefits of Alignment Between Customer Success and Account Management

Enhancing customer lifecycle management

By working together, Account Management and Customer Success can manage the customer lifecycle more effectively:

  • Onboarding: Joint efforts in onboarding can help new customers integrate the product or service into their operations smoothly, ensuring they understand and utilize its full potential from the start.
  • Ongoing Support: With both teams aligned, any issues that arise can be addressed more quickly and efficiently, reducing downtime and frustration for the customer.
  • Renewal and Expansion: Insights from the Customer Success team about customer health and product usage can identify potential upsell or cross-sell opportunities, which the Account Management team can then pursue.

Proactive problem solving and improved retention

A collaborative approach between Account Management and Customer Success allows for more proactive problem-solving. Customer Success Managers can identify at-risk customers through metrics like product usage declines or support ticket trends, and Account Managers can then engage these customers strategically to address their concerns. This not only helps in retaining the customer but also often results in a more favorable renewal and expansion process.

Consistency in customer experience

Ensuring that customers have a consistent, high-quality experience across all interactions with the company is crucial. When Account Management and Customer Success are in sync, they can provide a unified front that consistently meets customer expectations. This coherence across departments helps build trust and confidence in the brand, which is essential for customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Cultivating a feedback loop

An integrated approach also facilitates a continuous feedback loop where insights from both teams are constantly shared and acted upon. This can lead to significant improvements in products and services, as real-time customer feedback and operational data are used to make informed adjustments.

By leveraging the strengths of both Account Management and Customer Success, companies can not only improve their operational efficiency but also enhance customer satisfaction and drive sustainable growth. This strategic alignment creates a partnership with customers that goes beyond transactions, fostering loyalty and encouraging long-term engagement.

Tools and Systems for Support

Investing in a Customer Success Platform that provides a comprehensive view of customer interactions can help both roles share valuable insights and collaborate more effectively. 

Velaris consolidates an organisation’s customer data so that both Customer Success teams and Account Management teams can monitor customers, manage their workflows and share information with ease. It also offers automatic health scores to alert teams on potential upsell opportunities and churn risks. This integrated data approach ensures that every customer touchpoint is informed by the latest intelligence, enhancing the effectiveness of both Account Management and Customer Success efforts. To see how it works, book a demo with us here.


Throughout this exploration of Account Management and Customer Success, we've highlighted their unique roles and the critical distinctions between them. Account Managers focus on maximizing sales opportunities and enhancing revenue through existing customers, while Customer Success Managers concentrate on ensuring customer satisfaction and long-term retention. Despite these differences, both roles are indispensable to fostering robust customer relationships and driving sustained business growth. Together, their combined efforts yield a unified customer experience that enhances retention rates and opens up new revenue opportunities through a consistent, high-quality interaction model across the customer lifecycle.

Here's to cultivating a customer-centric approach that not only meets but exceeds expectations, propelling your business into a future where both you and your customers thrive together.

To see how Velaris can help integrate account management and customer success roles, book a demo with us today.

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