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Customer Experience vs Customer Success: What’s the Difference?

Customer experience vs. customer success: what's the difference?

Imagine you are planning to fly home for the holidays. How do you feel about the impending journey? What is your mood as you visualize the process of finding a flight, booking a ticket, getting to the airport, checking your luggage, passing through security, and boarding the plane?

Now, how do you feel about arriving at your destination? How is your mood as you settle back into your childhood home, reunite with friends and family, and enjoy a home-cooked meal? The way you feel as you travel versus when you arrive at your destination is a great metaphor for the distinction between customer experience vs. customer success.

Customer experience refers to the feelings, emotions, and perceptions customers have when using your product. In this case, when the flight home is easy and enjoyable or bumpy and uncomfortable. Customer success is ensuring the customer achieves value from your product. In other words, the plane lands on time and you arrive ready to enjoy your holiday.

Customer success is focused on the result of the customer experience. 

Experience vs. Value

It is as easy to confuse customer experience with customer success as it is to confuse the journey with the destination. Each is inescapably tied to the other. The key difference is the attitude of the company providing both the product and the product experience.

Customer experience is interactive, with the goal of making it easy and enjoyable for the customer to use the product. Customer success is proactive, with the goal of finding ways to help the customer gain value from the product.

For example, say you have a customer who is only using 7 of the 20 licenses they’re paying for. If each of those 7 individuals successfully adopt the new software, then you are providing positive customer experience—but what if they are not meeting their business goals? Remember, your client is looking for a way to increase their revenue. To ensure your client gets the most value from the product, make sure they have appropriate goals and metrics established to increase their ROI.

To put it another way, customer success is focused on the overall customer journey and the search for lifetime customer value, while customer experience is focused on all the interactions a client has with your company. 

The Digitization of Business

The digitization of business has empowered customers to seek short-term subscription solutions that provide personalized services with little initial investment. As such, most customer value is derived over time through recurring revenue, renewal and upsell rather than being captured at a single sale point.

This has given rise to the customer-centered enterprise that aligns its goals with those of its customers so that both enjoy mutually beneficial growth. The customer enjoys sustained value, and the enterprise reaps rewards from a prolonged cycle of renewal.

Customer success is, therefore, the process of proactively seeking ways for the customer to better use the product in order to gain business value. Customer experience, by contrast, may focus on how the customer interacts with the product daily or on their interactions with your team members. 

Customer Success is the Result of the Customer Experience

Customer success is an enterprise-wide focus on understanding what the customer is trying to achieve and then doing all you can to help them realize that goal. You should constantly communicate with customers throughout their journey. Reach out when they surpass their business goals or proactively contact them if you think they might need help with something. 

For instance, consider customer onboarding. The overall goal is to familiarize the customer with the product so they can quickly integrate it into their daily workflow. The faster the customer can begin using the product, the faster they’ll begin to see value—and realizing value is integral to creating a positive customer relationship.

In customer experience terms, you want to make onboarding intuitive and logical. Messaging during the onboarding campaign should focus on personalized goals and milestones, such as, “Congratulations, you’ve passed another module and are only three steps from becoming an X expert!”

By making the customer experience enjoyable and simple, you can achieve a higher customer success goal of delivering value to the customer.

Customer Success Software to Enhance the Customer Experience

To understand the customer experience, you need to capture all the relevant information available on the customer, including their goals and why they need the product. To do that, consider using customer success software. A living repository of every customer engagement, customer success software provides up-to-the-minute insight into the customer experience. You can distill all the customer information, from basic demographics to detailed reports on feature use and license utilization, into a single customer health score that reveals whether a customer is experiencing value. This health score and other business-related metrics then guide proactive customer engagements.

For example, customer success software can track customer progress through the onboarding process, alerting your team if a customer falls behind the desired time-to-completion metrics or warning you of potential bottlenecks. When an alert is triggered, you can use a predetermined action plan. This should be standard across the entire team so that no matter who gets the alert, they will provide the same response. When you collect data and track your customers’ progress, a customer success platform can help you operationalize this data and improve your internal processes. 

In this sense, it is easy to see how customer success efforts create lifetime customer value by proactively improving the customer experience. 

Customer Experience vs Customer Success: A Valuable Partnership 

Customer experience describes a customer’s interactions with your team members and your product throughout their entire journey. Customer success focuses on understanding that experience and working to improve it with the goal of mutually beneficial growth. The concepts work together to deliver value to customers, but there is a key difference: customer experience is about the here and now, while customer success is the desire to make things even better in the future.

The enterprises that succeed in the modern digital marketplace are those that commit to customer success and never stop learning from their customer or trying to improve the product experience.

Totango is committed to helping enterprises enhance the customer experience. Our software reveals customer insights that prompt customer engagement and help to deliver lifetime value. Request a demo or explore Spark to get started. 

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I'm passionate about customer success and writing great content that people love to read. Please drop me a line and provide your feedback.

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