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Customer Support vs. Customer Service vs. Customer Success: Unlocking the Key Differences

Customer support vs customer service vs customer success

With businesses offering nearly identical products and services, customers can switch to a competitor when even slightly inconvenienced. In fact, a study by Emplifi revealed that 86% of consumers would leave a brand after as few as two poor experiences.

It is therefore crucial for companies to focus on delivering outstanding customer experiences to retain clients and foster long-lasting relationships.

Three elements make up a company’s comprehensive customer management approach: customer support, customer service, and customer success.

This blog explores the crucial distinctions that set them apart from each other

What does customer support mean?

Customer support refers to a range of services provided by a company to its clients, aimed at assisting them in effectively utilizing the products or services offered.

This includes responding to questions, providing guidance, troubleshooting issues, and offering resolutions to problems encountered by customers.

What does customer service mean?

Customer service refers to the range of activities and interactions a company engages in to meet, address, and exceed customer needs and expectations.

It involves maintaining client satisfaction and a positive brand image by:

  • Providing pre-sale and post-sale assistance.
  • Troubleshooting customer issues.
  • Delivering tailored products or services.
  • Offering expert guidance.
  • Fostering effective communication channels.

What does customer success mean?

Customer success involves the measures a business takes to ensure that customers achieve their desired outcomes when using a product or service.

It involves :

  • Maintaining a close relationship with customers.
  • Foreseeing their problems.
  • Providing solutions and alternative methods.

The difference between customer support, customer service and customer success

The fine line between customer support, service, and success can often seem blurred. Understanding the methods employed, unique roles and objectives, time frames, and the metrics for assessing each function will help foster long-lasting, loyal relationships with your customers.

1. Methodology

Customer support is primarily reactive in nature. It involves responding to customer inquiries and resolving issues as they arise. Client support teams typically engage with customers either in-person or remotely through phone conversations, ensuring their concerns are promptly resolved.

Customer service encompasses a broader range of activities designed to not only address customer concerns and issues but also to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This involves measures such as predicting customer needs, providing relevant information, and ensuring a seamless experience. Customer service may also include reactive measures that involve promptly addressing customer complaints and resolving issues to enhance customer satisfaction.

Conversely, customer success utilizes proactive strategies to enhance the value customers obtain from a product or service. Teams dedicated to client success anticipate possible challenges and risks clients may encounter and implement strategies to deal with customer pain points. They actively:

  • Interact with customers.
  • Comprehend their objectives.
  • Track their progress.
  • Pinpoint optimal prospects for growth and improvement.

2. Objectives

The main objective of client support is to offer quick and effective assistance to customers whenever they encounter problems when using a company’s products or services.

On the other hand, client service encompasses a broader range of activities that ensure customers have a positive and seamless experience when interacting with a company.

Client success has a distinct focus on ensuring that customers achieve their desired outcomes and goals when using a company’s products or services.

3. Key performance indicators (KPIs)

Since each of these client-facing departments has distinct goals and approaches, companies use different types of customer experience metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate performance.

A survey by Businesswire concluded that “The top needs for improving customer experience are more real-time insights (46%), gathering more customer data (40%), and greater analysis of customer data (38%).”

The KPIs for measuring the successes and failures of your customer support teams are:

The KPIs for evaluating customer service are more intricate compared to those for client support. They include the following:

  • Upsell rate tracks the number of times a team successfully convinces a client to make additional purchases.
  • Customer churn rate measures the rate at which customers cease conducting business.
  • Customer effort score, like client support, also gauges the ease with which customers can get their issues resolved by client service teams.

Managers gauge their customer success strategies using the following:

  • Customer lifetime value (CLV) assesses the total revenue a business can generate from a client over the lifetime of the business.
  • Customer retention measures the ability to keep clients over a given period.
  • Customer churn rate, just like customer service, gauges the rate at which clients quit doing business.
  • Upsell and cross-sell rate tracks the rate at which existing clients make additional purchases.
  • Net promoter score (NPS) measures the likelihood of clients recommending products or services to others.

The table below summarizes the differences between the KPIs for measuring each function.

A summary of the KPIs for measuring customer support, service and success.
A summary of the KPIs for measuring customer support, service and success.

4. Duties and responsibilities

Customer support agents employ excellent communication and conflict resolution skills to empathize and adapt to different customer personalities and situations.

They have a deep knowledge of the products and services offered and hence play a significant role in creating knowledge base articles.

They leverage technology and multiple communication platforms to:

  • Provide prompt response to customer inquiries
  • Resolving diverse customer problems
  • Escalating complex ones to higher levels
  • Providing product and service information
  • Maintaining inventory and system maintenance records
Customer support, service, and success each have distinct roles
Customer support, service, and success each have distinct roles

On the other hand, customer service involves a wide range of responsibilities, such as:

  • client on boarding,
  • pre-sales assistance,
  • guidance throughout the purchasing process,
  • and after sales services.

Client service teams focus less on the technical aspects of products and more on providing value to customers at every interaction.

Unlike the two, customer success involves cross-functional teams that collaborate to establish healthy client relationships by:

  • Preventing conflicts.
  • Offering performance updates.
  • Creating customized systems for ongoing success.
A customer success team
A client success team engaging a client

5. Revenue generation

Despite playing a vital role in maintaining customer satisfaction, client support and service do not have a direct impact on a company’s revenue growth.

Client success uncovers growth opportunities and creates enduring value for customers and a business. This not only results in stronger customer relationships but also increased revenue.

Revenue growth
Client success generates revenue for your business

6. Timelines

Client support deals with solving customer issues when using a product or service. It is focused on the present, often involving troubleshooting, providing technical assistance, and solving problems as they arise.

On the other hand, client service deals with all interactions a customer has with a company, from the pre-purchase to the post-purchase stages. Client success is a long-term strategic approach that focuses on aiding clients to attain desired outcomes for a product or service.


As we have seen, the differences between the three functions are quite subtle. While it is essential to have separate departments for each to clearly define their responsibilities, they should also be able to collaborate to aid customers on their journey to success.

Consider BoldDesk the best help desk to manage these teams and improve the experience you give to your clients. Contact us  to set up a live demo to learn how BoldDesk functions and may be tailored to suit the unique needs of your company. Sign up for a 15-day free trial today.

Related articles

The following are other articles related to this topic:

Best Ways to Build and Organize a Customer Support Team.

Effective Guidelines for Customer Service for Any Business.

Gibson Amisi Kashi
Gibson Amisi Kashi
Gibson is a technical writer at Syncfusion. He loves researching, writing, and reviewing technical content for SaaS products.

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