The Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Success

August 12, 2019

Important differences between Customer Service and Customer Success to help you decide what’s best for your organization and your customers.

Customer service is a role and concept that is ages old, while customer success has become more popular in recent years.  In this post, I will outline the major differences between the two to help you better understand the nature of each role, the role’s relationship to the organization, and traits to look for when identifying candidates for either role.

While it may be tempting to use the ‘Customer Success’ title since it has a certain appeal and seems to be trending, it is not advisable to simply update your customer service team’s business cards with a new title.  Fundamentally, the roles are distinct and the responsibilities and traits required for each are different.

Responsive v. Proactive

Customer service teams traditionally respond to customer inquiries, support requests, and issues.  Customer success teams or leaders should be positioned to anticipate customer challenges and prevent them, ask questions the customer doesn’t even know to ask, and share best practices and experiences across customer accounts to optimize the customer experience.


Customer/Account Lifecycle

In keeping with the more responsive nature of customer service roles, these teams typically engage with customers later in the customer lifecycle, post-sale, during, or after implementation.  Customer service teams may be assigned to legacy customers or accounts and may have little to no knowledge of the original customer requirements or their implementation experience save for documentation attached to their CRM account.


Customer Profile

Depending on the nature of your business, the service or product type, and customer lifecycle, Customer Success may not make sense in your organization.  Customer success roles are best suited for strategic accounts, high-value accounts, and/or when there are ample opportunities for inside sales. A customer success team is going to be focused on retention, satisfaction, and identifying new sales opportunities.  Working between the account management or operations teams and the sales team to support both and streamline the customer experience. A customer service team is also retention and satisfaction oriented but will often work in a more task-based environment where requests are routed to operations and sales without much need for collaboration or feedback. 

There are some other key differences not to be missed including pay rate and training and onboarding.  For even more details check out this article from  If the Customer Success trend is one you’re ready to get in on, also be sure to read a more implementation-focused post from Salesforce.


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