Customer Experience vs Customer Success

2 Apr 2024

5 min read

The terms 'customer experience' and 'customer success' get thrown around a lot in our world. They are obviously related, and they are different in subtle ways. The important thing is that they are driving at the same basic concept: keeping customers happy. Customer happiness hinges not just on their journey with us but also on our efforts to see them thrive using our services or products. 

What Is Customer Success?

Customer success is all about helping customers get the most out of your product or service. It's a strategic approach that focuses on building long-term relationships with customers, not just making a quick sale.

The goal is to help customers achieve their desired outcomes and find real value in what you're offering. When done right, customer success can lead to happier customers, higher retention rates, and even more referrals.

For this reason it's generally used by B2B brands (such as DigitalGenius!) to describe the team that works most closely with the customer. In B2C companies, such as retailers, it's sometimes not even used because the transactions can happen so quickly. 

However, many D2C retailers are using customer success to refer to what would traditionally be customer service, meaning that they are aspiring for their customer service team to do a little more than before. 

Objectives of Customer Success

The main objective of any customer success team is to help customers succeed. This means understanding their unique goals and challenges, and then working closely with them to overcome any obstacles.

It's not just about providing technical support or answering questions. Customer success teams take a proactive approach, reaching out to customers to offer guidance, share best practices, and ensure they're getting the most value possible.

Within retail, this could be providing aftercare advice, checking for feedback, or otherwise ensuring that the product the customer has purchased is working as it should. Because it expects a high number of touchpoints with each customer, and due to its proactive nature, it's not something that ecommerce businesses with low AOV have traditionally focused on. But that could be changing. 

What Is Customer Experience?

Customer experience, or CX, is the overall perception a customer has of your brand based on all of their interactions with it. It encompasses every touchpoint, from the first time they visit your website to the moment they reach out for support.

Creating a great customer experience is all about putting yourself in your customers' shoes and designing every interaction to be as seamless, enjoyable, and valuable as possible.

Whatever industry you are in, provided you have customers you have a customer experience. Because ecommerce and retail is so competitive on so many levels, customer experience is a genuine point of differentiation. If brand A is cheap with a bad reputation, but brand B has a much higher price point but is renowned for its good experience, many customers will gravitate towards brand B. 

Objectives of Customer Experience

The main objective of CX is to create loyal, satisfied customers who will not only keep coming back, but also recommend your brand to others. This means going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations at every turn.

The reality is that it covers every aspect of how you interact with customers, and how they interact with you. If your website is broken, that can create a negative experience. The box the package comes in is part of the experience, as are the marketing emails you send. With that in mind it can be difficult to parse out. 

In particular, the most common metric for customer experience is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). This simple score is supposed to answer the fundamental question – would you recommend this brand to your friends and family? Because of that, it's often taken to be a scorecard for the whole customer experience.

How Customer Success and Customer Experience work together in retail

The truth is that these terms are often used interchangeably, and mixed up with customer service and customer care. Many brands have a head of or director of customer experience who looks after everything to do with the customer, and under her might be someone who runs the customer service (or customer success team). 

Plus, because customer success is generally looked as customer service with a more proactive element, it starts to encroach into a wider customer experience role. 

It gets complicated even further when you consider User Experience (UX) on a website, which has a huge impact on the overall customer experience. And when you think about a CRM (customer relationship management) team who may be looking after marketing communications. 

In short, it's a mess to get your head around. But only if you let it be. You can simplify it:

  • Customer Experience oversees every aspect of how a customer interacts with your brand

  • User Experience is specifically looking after the website and apps and any other technical systems a customer would engage with.

  • Customer Success oversees any inbound customer service requests, and uses proactive communications to help customers get the most out of the product.

  • CRM teams look after customer retention, strive for repeat purchases, referrals to friends and any loyalty programmes.

This still means there is a fair amount of overlap in roles, but there are clearer lines of division. 

The important thing is to create a feedback loop. For example CRM teams should let Customer Success teams know about major offers and discounts so they are prepared to field questions. Likewise, Customer Success teams should inform CRM teams and others if there is a major recurring issue that customers keep facing. 

Customer Experience-focused staff should be looking to make sure that all of this is joined up, and that there is consistency when customers interact with your brand, regardless of how they do it. This means that Customer Success can easily pull up recent orders, conversations, product information and other pertinent facts. 

So in a nutshell: what's the difference? 

Customer Experience is about the whole, well, experience of being a customer of a brand. Customer Success is about ensuring the, well, success of a customer in using your product. Customer experience is generally a bit more passive, and is about all the little details, whereas customer success is more overt, and relies on brands being proactive in ensuring things are going well.