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Understanding the Divide: Customer Support Vs Customer Success in SaaS

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Customer support and customer success are two critical functions in the SaaS industry, each playing a vital role in ensuring customer satisfaction and long-term retention. Understanding the divide between these two roles is crucial for Customer Success Managers (CSMs) who may be struggling to differentiate their responsibilities. 

Customer support focuses on providing immediate assistance and solving issues for customers, whilst customer success takes a more proactive approach by building strong relationships and driving value for customers over the long term. 

Both functions are essential for the success of a SaaS business, as they impact customer loyalty, revenue growth, and overall company success. By delving into the distinct responsibilities, approaches, and objectives of customer support and customer success, CSMs can better align their strategies to drive mutual success for both the customers and the SaaS organisation. This requires data-driven decision making, as well as a collaborative and supportive partnership between customer support and customer success teams. 

In this blog, we will dissect the unique roles, strategies, and measurements for both customer support and customer success in a SaaS setting. Following this, we will delve deeper into how these teams can combine their efforts to provide a holistic and efficient customer experience.

What is Customer Support?

Customer Support is fundamentally a reactive function within the SaaS landscape, designed to address and resolve specific technical issues and challenges that customers encounter. 

This role entails managing incoming support requests, performing troubleshooting, and providing immediate solutions to ensure customer satisfaction. The primary aim of customer support teams is to swiftly and effectively solve problems, thereby maintaining a seamless experience for users. 

Key metrics for assessing the effectiveness of customer support include first response time, resolution time, customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, ticket volume, and the resolution rate. These indicators help in gauging the efficiency and impact of the support provided to customers. 

The relationship between customer support and customers is largely transactional, centred around resolving specific issues. Interactions typically last for the duration of the support request, underscoring the importance of delivering a positive experience during these moments to uphold customer trust and loyalty. 

With this in mind, let's now shift our focus to the proactive realm of customer success in the SaaS industry, delving into its objectives, key performance indicators, and the intricate dynamics of its customer relationships.

What is Customer Success?

Customer Success is an inherently proactive discipline within the SaaS sector, dedicated to ensuring customers not only achieve but exceed their desired outcomes and business objectives with the use of a product. 

This facet of a SaaS operation involves a comprehensive approach encompassing onboarding, success planning, continuous support, and strategic advice. The goal is to cultivate robust, cooperative relationships with customers, enabling them to consistently realise the value of the SaaS solution. 

Key performance indicators for Customer Success include the customer retention rate, Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), expansion revenue, and the customer health score. These metrics collectively provide insight into the effectiveness of customer success efforts in maintaining and expanding the customer base. 

The essence of Customer Success lies in forging long-standing, strategic partnerships. Through regular engagements, goal alignment, and collaborative problem-solving, Customer Success Managers (CSMs) position themselves as trusted advisors. 

This role is crucial in guiding customers through challenges, illuminating new opportunities, and ensuring the SaaS solution remains indispensable to the customer's operations. In doing so, CSMs play a pivotal role in propelling both customer and organisational success forward.

Having looked into the realm of Customer Success, let us now delve into its close yet distinctly different companion in SaaS - Customer Support, and uncover the nuances that set them apart.

6 Differences Between Customer Support and Customer Success

The distinction between customer support and customer success is critical in SaaS, marking a divide in how each interacts with customers and impacts the business. Let's explore the fundamental differences that set them apart: 

1. Objective

Customer support primarily aims to resolve specific customer issues and concerns, offering solutions to immediate problems. In contrast, customer success is focused on guiding customers towards achieving their strategic goals with the product, ensuring they derive maximum value and satisfaction over time. 

For instance, customer support might address a billing issue or troubleshoot a software glitch, whereas customer success could involve developing a customised strategy to help a customer improve user engagement using the software. 

In this regard, customer support acts as a firefighting unit putting out immediate flames, whilst customer success operates more like a strategic partner, committed to the customer's long-term growth and development. 

2. Nature

Customer support is transactional, addressing the immediate needs and problems of the customer. Customer success, however, is relational, concentrating on building and maintaining long-term customer relationships. 

This entails cultivating a deep understanding of the customer's business, goals, and needs to offer strategic guidance tailored specifically for them, as opposed to a simple exchange of queries and solutions. It is more of a journey alongside the customer, enhancing the value they receive from the product and their overall experience. 

Thus, the customer support team primarily functions as problem solvers whilst the customer success team acts as advisors and guides, dedicated to the continuous growth of the customer with the product.

3. Focus

The focus of customer support is inherently reactive, dealing with customer enquiries and technical issues as they occur. On the other hand, customer success adopts a proactive stance, aiming to prevent problems before they arise and ensuring customers are on the path to achieving their objectives. 

This means customer support springs into action after a problem has been flagged, providing instant relief to customer concerns. In contrast, customer success plans for future scenarios, looking to anticipate issues and equip customers with the tools and strategies needed to overcome them. 

While customer support focuses on quickly eliminating pain-points in the present, customer success envisions a frictionless experience in the future, aimed at keeping customers contented, invested and thriving with the product. It's a matter of reactive support versus preventive success. 

4. Activities

The activities within customer support include troubleshooting, technical assistance, and issue resolution. Meanwhile, customer success encompasses onboarding, training, regular check-ins, and providing strategic advice tailored to help customers meet their long-term goals. 

For example, the customer success team might hold regular meetings to discuss how well the product is serving the customer's business needs and suggest strategies for improving results. They could also offer in-depth tutorials or webinars on various product features, equipping the customers with a deeper understanding and skillset to exploit the product to its maximum potential. 

5. Timing

The need for customer support arises when customers face problems or have queries. Conversely, customer success is an ongoing effort that starts with onboarding and continues throughout the customer lifecycle, aiming to secure continuous satisfaction and success. 

Essentially, whilst customer support can be seen as a reactive service dealing with problems as they arise, customer success is about building proactive and long-term partnerships that aim to maximise the customer's satisfaction and achievement with the product. It's a long-term commitment to nurturing the customer relationship, leveraging in-depth understanding of their needs and aligning the product to drive their business success. 

6. Metrics

Metrics for customer support typically involve response and resolution times, along with customer satisfaction scores related to the resolution of issues. Customer success metrics focus on broader indicators such as retention rates, expansion revenue, product adoption rates, and overall customer satisfaction.

Further to this, customer support teams may also measure the number of tickets closed, whilst customer success teams often track the customers' usage patterns and progression through different stages of product mastery. 

These data provide a more comprehensive understanding of the customer's journey and highlight areas where the business can enhance its support or success strategies. 

Understanding these differences enables organisations to effectively delineate their strategies, ensuring that both support and success initiatives are optimally aligned to foster long-term customer loyalty and growth. 

Now, with these distinctions clear, let's delve deeper into the essential components that comprise successful strategies in both customer support and customer success within SaaS. Particularly, we'll examine how companies can enhance both areas to enrich customer experience and foster sustainable business growth.

Bridging the Gap: Collaborating Between Customer Support and Success

Fostering a culture of open and continuous dialogue between Customer Support and Customer Success teams is crucial. By sharing insights on customer feedback and challenges, both teams can gain a holistic view of customer needs and expectations, leading to more targeted and effective interventions. The following strategies are recommended to bridge the gap effectively:

1. Share customer data and insights

Mutual access to comprehensive customer data enables both teams to leverage insights for a deeper understanding of customer behaviours and preferences. This shared knowledge base is instrumental in tailoring interventions that significantly enhance customer satisfaction and retention. 

In this context, utilising customer success management software such as Velaris can be extremely advantageous, as it offers a centralised dashboard consolidating all of these valuable insights. This integrated platform assists teams in quickly interpreting pertinent data for prompt and precise decision-making. 

2. Focus on customer-centric goals

Aligning both teams around common, customer-centric objectives ensures that every action and strategy directly contributes to enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty, reinforcing the overarching goal of sustained customer success. 

In practice, this alignment could involve regularly scheduled meetings to review key performance indicators (KPIs) related to customer satisfaction and churn rate, or collaboratively creating customer journey maps to identify potential areas for improvement. Such shared activities and goals foster greater team cohesion and a shared sense of responsibility for customer outcomes. 

3. Promote continuous learning and improvement

A commitment to ongoing professional development and learning helps both Customer Support and Customer Success teams stay abreast of industry trends and customer expectations. This proactive stance ensures that the teams remain adaptable and responsive to evolving customer needs. 

Through these strategic collaborations, the distinct yet complementary roles of Customer Support and Customer Success can be harmonised, leading to a more integrated and effective approach to customer engagement and retention in the SaaS industry.


In summary, the distinction between Customer Support and Customer Success in the SaaS industry is fundamental to ensuring the effectiveness of customer engagement strategies. 

Whilst Customer Support primarily deals with immediate issues in a reactive manner, Customer Success adopts a proactive approach, aiming for long-term customer achievement and satisfaction. 

Effective collaboration between these teams is essential, as it not only addresses immediate customer needs but also aligns with their future goals, driving mutual success for both customers and the SaaS organisation. 

Therefore, fostering a collaborative culture that bridges Customer Support and Customer Success is essential in navigating the complex landscape of SaaS customer management.

If you’re interested in seeing how Velaris can assist your efforts to improve Customer Success, request a demo today. 

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