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What’s the Difference Between Customer Success vs. Customer Satisfaction

It seems easy to confuse the two terms. And in honesty – it can be. But if providing great customer experiences is a crucial part of your business, then it really shouldn’t be.  

While the two terms are intertwined, there are a few key differences that set them apart. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the difference (and commonalities) between customer success and customer satisfaction – and knowing the key metrics you need to look at in order to provide both. Most importantly, we’ll get into why knowing the difference between customer success and satisfaction matters.

But first, let’s quickly go over what each term means respective to business:

What is Customer Success?

The simplest definition of customer success is that your business or service has helped your customers meet the goals they set out to achieve using your business. 

Customer success in this case is reliant on the product or services your business offers to them.  

Depending on your business case, customer success can mean many things – for example, if you provide a ride sharing app, then customer success is ensuring your user gets to their destination quickly, affordably, and securely. Or a bank could define customer success as a client closing financing on their dream home. 

The goal of customer success is, well – to make customers successful. The plus side of this is obvious enough – it boosts customer lifetime value (CLTV) and can prevent churn

Ensuring customer success can result in a stronger business bond between you and your customers, as well as increased and enduring loyalty

I say “can result” because customer success doesn’t necessarily equate customer satisfaction.

…and how about customer satisfaction?

Helping customers achieve their goals and be successful is fantastic. It’s at the very core of what many businesses set out to do when just getting started.  

But what’s the point of all the customer success in the world, if using your products or services makes your customers miserable? 

Customer satisfaction can be simply defined as how happy customers are with your products or service.  

Now, this level of satisfaction can be directly tied to how successful they are at achieving their goals – but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, customers love your products or service, but not the outcome. This can be turned into customer feedback that can go towards helping you improve your products and services.

What’s the difference between customer success and customer satisfaction?

In quick summary – customer success is the net business outcome a customer has using the products and services you provide.  

Customer satisfaction is how, well, satisfied your customers are with the products and services you provide. This can be (but doesn’t have to be) tied to the level of success a customer has using your products or services. 

So, the two terms are related and can be co-dependent, but also aren’t. Remember how I said it can be easy to confuse the two terms? Yeah… 

Just keep in mind the roots of each respective term: 

  • Customer success – is about how successful you make your customers in achieving their goals
  • Customer satisfaction – is how satisfied customers are using your products and services

Where the two get intertwined is in the potential (but not necessary) reliance of customer satisfaction on success. 

Now that we’ve made this clear, let’s look at why knowing the difference between customer success and satisfaction matters.

Why does all this matter?

Customer success and satisfaction are two key components of customer experience

And CX is the arena in which all businesses compete in a life-or-death battle for competitive differentiation. Customers today are more empowered than ever, and no organization is immune to the growing expectations customers have for friction-free customer journeys. 

It’s easier now than ever before for customers to plug into a new platform and start reaping the rewards of products and services that are optimized for both their success and satisfaction. 

So, what goes into building customer success and satisfaction? 

I got you covered.

Customer success metrics

The first and most obvious customer success metric is customer health score. This score can indicate whether customers see any value from your products and services. This is at the very core of customer success. 

A customer health score is calculated by examining a few key factors – i.e. what are their finances like, is their userbase growing, are they hiring… these are indicators that nod in the direction of positive growth.  

Low customer churn is a complimentary success metric to customer health. If your customers are retaining their customers – then you’re clearly providing them value on that end. 

Another good indicator of customer success you can see on your end is customer lifetime value. This fundamental customer success metric shows the total revenue you can expect from a single customer over their lifecycle with you.  

It’s easily calculated by looking at average purchase value, purchase frequency rate, and customer lifetime span. Multiplying all these gives you an indication of where your customer is headed on the road to success thanks to you. 

Lastly, looking at monthly recurring revenue – shows what your customers spend (along with positive and negative trends) with your business each month. This is a more granular indicator of your customer’s success. 

And if you’re a SaaS, you also want to look at: 

  • Product usage rate – this metric shows how often your customers use your service. Also look at average time on platform or in app
  • Active users – keep an eye on this metric to see whether the number is going up or down, which will show you how many users are finding value with you
  • Trial conversion rate – customers will use your free trial to immediately evaluate whether or not your service provides them any value 

Customer satisfaction metrics

Key customer satisfaction metrics start with your Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS shows how satisfied your customers are by simply asking whether they’d be likely to recommend your service and rating on a 1-10 scale.

See how Flamingo boosted their NPS 

Very closely related to NPS is the customer satisfaction score – the key difference being CSAT asks to rate the customer’s experience with your company. 

CSAT is measured by dividing the number of positive scores by the number of total scores and multiplied by 100 to express as a percentage. 

And if you’re wondering how to increase customer satisfaction, we’ve covered just that in a previous blog

The detailed steps in that blog can be condensed to these bullets:

  • The customer journey – make guiding customers through their journey convenient and easy with omnichannel communications options
  • Provide omnichannel support – the right platform helps you provide consistent support on all channels your customers choose
  • Personalization – combine rich customer profiles from your CRM with rich messaging capabilities on a variety of channels to provide highly personalized experiences
  • Automation & self-service – chatbots and IVRs can help you provide your customers with the quickest support
  • Quickly adapt – use a system that can quickly add new channels to follow dynamic customer communication trends and demands

Now that you know the difference between customer success and satisfaction, know why you should know the difference, and how to measure each – you’re just about ready to start providing customers with superior customer experiences.  

All you need now is a partner who can help you leverage omnichannel communications to reliably deliver excellent CX. 

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