Jun 22, 2022

Customer Support and Customer Success: Two Players on the Same Team

In recent years, the landscape of customer support has visibly changed, evolving from resolving problems to actively driving customer loyalty. In a 2020 survey of customer support leaders, Gartner found that 69% of respondents saw driving retention as more important in customer service than in 2017.

However, retention has traditionally been the responsibility of customer success teams, not customer support. In fact, businesses often treat customer support and success teams as separate entities. In a 2021 SupportLogic webinar, only 35% of attendees noted that support and success report to the same executive in their respective companies.

Despite existing silos, there’s strength in collaboration. These roles and departments have the unique opportunity to come together to meet shifting customer demands and provide an experience so elevated that customers could never imagine leaving. To help customers get the most value out of your product, your support and success teams need access to customer data. This collaboration empowers teams to derive more profound insights into the customer experience, like customer sentiment, to improve satisfaction and drive retention.

That’s the key: By collecting and sharing customer sentiment data, customer support and success teams can work side by side to enhance customer experience and drive revenue growth.

Customer support vs. customer success: What’s the difference?

The main difference between success and support is in the types of problems they work on and resolve. Both need to be proactive and responsive. Support typically works on product-related and technical issues, whereas success works on adoption, value, and revenue protection/expansion challenges and opportunities. 

Customer support is all about helping customers solve specific problems regarding products or services. The support team’s relationship with the customer is generally case-bound, meaning it starts and ends with responding to a ticket. This system has led to a more reactive approach where support agents solve break-fix issues as they arise instead of addressing problems before they happen.

Simply put, support is on the front lines of the customer experience. Overall, the team looks at quality and speed metrics, such as how fast they reach a successful resolution. Since they’re often the first point of contact when a customer reaches out, a key challenge for support teams is providing value for the customers in each interaction.

On the other hand, customer success teams strive to build ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships. Their intimate knowledge of customers allows them to work with customers on a strategic level to align products and services, which increases lifetime customer value. They help customers make the most of their engagement with your company by assisting with onboarding to ensure they get value from the product right from the get-go.

Rather than a one-time ticket, these relationships last for the life of the customer. With the valuable insight gained from these relationships, success teams operate in a more proactive environment where they can anticipate challenges and advise customers accordingly. Their key challenge is to figure out how to scale and grow a loyal customer base.

Since both success and support teams engage with customers in unique ways, they each have valuable customer insights that could help the other out. With such a customer-centric focus, it is surprising that these teams don’t lean on each other more often to really make an impact on customers and the business.

Why customer support and success teams must work together to succeed

Today, while customer support and success are ultimately different functions that require unique skills, they work better together. At first, customer support and success evolved separately to meet demands for efficiency, with support focusing on problem resolution and success managing retention. As support and success shifted to prioritize customer experience and value creation, these two functions have gradually converged. Recent research from Gartner reports that “the average probability that the customer would stay when presented with an opportunity to switch was 82% after a value-enhancing service interaction, compared to 61% after the common approach of providing low-effort problem resolution.”

Traditionally, customer support identifies which customers need more attention by how many support tickets they have: more tickets mean the customer is unhappy, and no tickets mean they’re satisfied. But what if a customer has a lot of tickets because they have higher engagement and push for improvements to your product? What about the customer who has given up on your product entirely and no longer asks for help from a support agent?

Over 60% of customers now have higher standards for customer service, and they’ll switch to a competitor if it means a better customer experience. To create the experience customers expect, support and success teams need to democratize customer interactions. Instead of focusing on misleading customer satisfaction indicators, like the number of support tickets, pay attention to all your customer conversations equally.

But how do you split your attention between hundreds or even thousands of customer interactions? Through customer sentiment analysis, which provides actionable insights to improve the customer experience (CX) and ultimately increase customer loyalty and retention.

Leverage customer sentiment data to bridge support and success teams

By working together, support and success teams can help each other overcome their key challenges. Support teams have valuable insight into customer sentiment, which encompasses the emotions and feelings customers have about a particular interaction or your company. Success teams understand customers’ unique needs, including insights on improving the product, reducing churn, and driving revenue growth. Support and success teams can share this knowledge to proactively engage, prevent more issues, and continue growing those relationships.

How might this collaboration actually play out for a company? Consider this scenario. A support team gets a call or message from a customer regarding a sticky point with a new product feature. Hidden within customer interactions with support are critical indicators of how she views the product, how she’s feeling about the support process so far, and how she perceives her relationship with the company. 

Often, that information is never analyzed or shared outside of customer support. However, the support team could share real-time sentiment data and invite customer success to assist in resolving the customer’s issue. Both teams benefit from this shared knowledge and collaborative work, enabling them to provide quicker response times and more satisfactory solutions aligned with the customer’s goals.

The success teams can also reach out proactively by seeing that this customer is feeling frustrated. They’re armed with the right information to address concerns and continue building that trust.

Teams can use AI to track customer sentiment and establish workflows to share these insights efficiently. For example, automatic alerts can notify success teams of escalations or potential churn risks. You can also automatically integrate customer sentiment data and key conversation pieces into your customer success platforms. 

Fivetran’s support and success teams joined forces to improve customer experience and reduce churn

Fivetran is a SupportLogic partner that helps customers automate data integrations with pre-built data connectors. By unifying the support and success experience around customer data, they were able to increase customer satisfaction, reduce churn, and reach their business goals.

Fivetran’s first big move was to bring essential support and account management employees into one collaborative customer success group under one executive. This collaboration was part of the company’s “modern support strategy” to better serve customers.

The other essential part of the strategy? Data. Specifically customer sentiment data. They started tracking and analyzing customer sentiment scores and updating processes and workflows to share those sentiment insights across various roles efficiently. Sharing this customer sentiment data gave everyone the right insights at the right time and promoted collaboration to solve customer problems. Support agents resolved issues more quickly, and success teams efficiently reached out to at-risk customers.

That collaborative environment and high customer sentiment score naturally resulted in a positive impact on customer satisfaction. Fivetran saw increases across crucial customer satisfaction metrics, including customer satisfaction score (CSAT), net promoter score (NPS), and more.

The company increased CSAT from 90 to 95% over six months. They also saw a 40% increase in NPS, a whopping 25% reduction in customer churn, and increased revenue. 

SupportLogic can help connect customer support and success teams

Sentiment data is the key to unlocking effective collaboration between support and success teams. But that data isn’t always easy to gather and analyze. That’s where tools like SupportLogic come in. 

SupportLogic is a continuous service experience platform that uses AI to gather critical sentiment data on your customers in real time and share it across various roles and teams. With proactive alerts, quick customer overviews, and easy collaboration, your support and service teams will provide the most integrated and well-rounded customer experience possible. Get started with a tour today.

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