5 minute read · Published May 25, 2024

What's the difference between customer support and customer experience in SaaS?

Latest Update May 30, 2024

Customer success and customer experience are two related but distinct functions that help deliver an amazing customer experience.

While customer experience is more holistic and concerns the entire journey through the product, customer support focuses more on serving the needs of onboarding and activated users as they actually engage with the product.

In this article, I'll discuss some of these differences and similarities in the context of EasyTask, a made-up B2B SaaS company offering a task management system.

Like most B2B SaaS companies, EasyTask is looking to grow its business while also retaining customers, avoiding churn, delivering the highest customer satisfaction, and reducing possible churn.

To do that, they know they need a dedicated customer success and customer experience team, but they're not sure how to allocate their resources or divide up responsibilities.

This is a common dilemma that companies encounter, especially when they evolve from an early-stage company where all hands are on deck for everything to a larger company with divided teams and roles.

Let's walk through the differences between customer success and customer experience in the context of EasyTask.

What’s the difference between customer support and customer experience in SaaS?

Customer success is mainly focused on actively ensuring that all customers are happy and can achieve what they want to accomplish within the product.

This means bringing them through the onboarding process, getting set up in the product, answering questions and solving problems.

They might also work to identify bugs that customers bring up and share that with the engineering team. These customer success folks can range from entry-level agents who are merely routing problems to the people who can solve them and answer common questions, all the way up to customer success leaders who are responsible for organizing and managing the entire customer success team. In between, you might have levels of management and organizational groupings.

For EasyTask, customer success might help their customers learn how to set up new tasks, organize and group their tasks, and otherwise integrate their EasyTask software into their everyday workflow and technology stack.

Customer experience, meanwhile, focuses more on the experience that the user will have for the entirety of their interaction with EasyTask.

This means from A all the way to Z, from the first touch on a sales or marketing level to retention or churn. It's not as responsively focused as customer support (though the best CS teams are proactive too!)

Customer experience folks are trying to understand and optimize how users and potential users view the brand and interact with EasyTask. That means that customer experience might think about things like designing a really smooth onboarding process with the product team, ensuring the website is well-designed and accurately captures the product's offerings, ensuring consistent brand and tone style, managing communication style (be it professional or casual or anything in between), and ensuring that customers feel supported and aided by the customer support team (+ a million other things as well!)

You can see how the customer experience team is focused from end to end, including non-users. On the other hand, the customer support team is very focused on offering support to active users. They are customer-facing, exclusively.

Organizing your CS and CX teams

There’s no one right way to organize your CS and CX teams — it will depend on your organizational style and structure.

In fact, not everyone is convinced that you need to have both of these teams. For many early-stage startups, you'll generally just have someone handling the customer side of things in its entirety.

But as you grow, it can be essential to have defined teams and roles to ensure that you retain users and grow the business quickly.

That's because there's a huge value in both providing fast and accurate support and in ensuring that the overall user journey is really smooth.

For example, if you have a robust customer support team in place, your users might feel great about their ability to get quick solutions to their problems.

But if they get frustrated by a lacking onboarding process, or feel that your brand messaging and promises are inconsistent, or that your sales account manager is over-promising and under-delivering, then the actual user experience has suffered. That’s where a CX team is key.

Roles

If you have a customer experience and a separate customer support team, they might work together closely, or even report to the same executive.

That said, within these teams, there are different distinct roles and different levels.

On a customer support team, for example, you might have a team of agents who are on the front lines, answering questions, talking to customers, and setting up calls for managers as needed. At a small startup, you might have one or two people doing all of this and have no layers of management!

Above these agents, you might have managers managing groups of agents, ensuring that they're performing well and getting the training they need to be successful, and above that, you might have a head of customer success who is responsible for setting organizational strategy, hiring, and managing.

On the customer experience side, the leadership here will interact more closely with product, engineering, and the executives because they're more tied to the roadmap and the overall product, not just the reactive customer support side of things.

A customer experience manager could be working on improving elements within almost any stage of the business. For example, they could be ensuring that EasyTask has a clearly defined and well-followed taxonomy and organizational structure for all of its products and features, especially as new releases flow in and things get updated.

Metrics

These two teams track different metrics and KPIs, but all of them come back to one thing: the happiness of the customer.

On the customer success side, you'll generally be tracking things like ticket deflection, ticket success rate, and more direct input-output metrics. To understand how your customers are gauging your support, you might look at the churn rate, or customer satisfaction. You can also look at your customer retention rate and understand how folks attribute their expansion or churn to their support experience.

While the customer experience side of things is still focused on the customer, they usually track more abstract metrics like net promoter score or customer satisfaction score, which capture how a user feels about the brand in general. That emphasizes the holistic and brand-wide importance of the customer experience role.

Best practices

Let's talk about how EasyTask might maximize the efficacy and success of their customer success and customer experience teams.

On the customer success side, you want to make sure that you're both reactively answering chats, calls, and tickets quickly and effectively, but also that you're proactively reaching out to your users and managing the relationship so that they feel supported and well-trained.

On the customer experience side, you'll want to make sure that every stage of the business is user-focused, and optimize for their happiness. This requires a deep understanding of core user personas and the needs and wants of users.

Final thoughts

I think one of the best ways to satisfy customers without increasing the burden on your team is having a great user experience combined with a proactive user assistance tool. This is what we've seen firsthand with our customers who bring their world-class design skills and add our Copilot tool on top. With Copilot, they connect their help documentation and knowledge base and then allow users to query it directly using conversational AI. This deflects tickets and creates a really smooth experience that satisfies users and answers their problems quickly.

I also think it's essential to call out here how important it can be for customer success and customer experience to work closely together. They don't need to be competing for resources and staff; in fact, that can be counterproductive. Their end goal is the same: to ensure that customers are happy and satisfied, and that's why even if they operate distinctly, they should cooperate and collaborate.

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