Are “Customer Success” and “Customer Experience” the same thing?

TLDR: Time to stoke the fires of debate. I’m going to argue that Customer Experience Management (CX) and Customer Success Management (CSM) are the same thing.

Or, they should be.

A common purpose

Let me propose a definition that covers both: They exist for the purpose of retaining and growing customers.

Now that I’ve put a stake in the ground, let me clarify:

  • CX and CSM are mostly the same today
  • They’re getting more similar every day
  • They should be the same

If the two disciplines share a common purpose, then the means to achieve the purpose will be the same too.

Borrowing the best from Customer Experience

In my observation, the folks in CX have done the best thinking in terms of customer journey. This means mapping out the customer touch points that need to be enabled, measured, coordinated and optimized. For example, you’ll often hear CX practitioners refer to “multi-channel” engagement, enabling the customer’s preference to choose from many channels of engagement.

It’s no accident that CX has a lot of marketers within it, given that CX is often led by a marketing executive. So it’s no surprise that CX has figured out scalable communications such as email campaigns.

Borrowing the best from Customer Success

Customer Success Management has the best thinking about revenue outcomes and the key metrics to achieve the outcome. “Renewal rate” and “retention rate” are metrics that every CSM measures and is held accountable for.

CSM has also started measuring product consumption / utilization / adoption as a key indicator of customer health and retention risk. In many cases, this measure drives proactive customer outreach when things don’t look right with a customer.

The “B2C vs. B2B” Red Herring

Some would argue that CX is for business-to-consumer (B2C) and CSM is for business-to-business (B2B). Maybe it’s true in terms of where the disciplines were first started. But any business that fails to put the person first in thinking about a customer, will fail in turn.

A person-centric approach is just as important in B2B, even if it means tailored engagement models for different customer personas:

  • Business sponsor
  • End-user
  • Administrator

Becoming more the same every day

The best practices of these two worlds need to converge to drive world-class results.

CSM teams will improve when they:

  • Introduce scalable communication programs like retention marketing & adoption campaigns, especially for lower-tier customers
  • Ensure that multi-channel engagement channels exist for their customers to choose from
  • Adopt person-centric practices, tailored to each role that exists in their customer base

CX teams will improve when they:

  • Align their work to optimize key business metrics such as Lifetime Value, retention rate
  • Measure product consumption and define outreach processes that engage customers in reaching full value

2 thoughts on “Are “Customer Success” and “Customer Experience” the same thing?

  1. So if i understand well, you say that CXM is about campaigns and personas (marketing and communication) and CSM is about monitoring and processes (intelligence and organization). Is that right?
    I agree that CXM sounds more Marketing to me as we talk about inbound, outbound… while CSM comes more from Customer Services (I heard once it was THE REAL CRM). But it is probably a transitory status and merge of expertise will surely be necessary. It might however come with some friction at a certain point as we are indeed at 2 different levels of interactions with customers.

  2. Hi Franck, thanks for the comment. As current state, I agree with your characterization. I’m advocating for the future to be about personal engagement models, across multiple channels. No matter if it’s B2C or B2B. Customers (as people) want choice in how they can interface with their provider.

    B2B brings additional context, but shouldn’t be at the expense of being person-centric in how a provider engages a customer. For example, the “context” could be the role the person plays. No doubt, if I’m an executive on the buyer side, and it was my budget used on a $50,000 software subscription, I want to be engaged in that context.

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