Success is not support

We did a high-level "Customer Success" overview yesterday. Today, lets contrast customer support and customer success.

Support vs. Success

First, what's the difference between "customer support" and "customer success"?

Lincoln Murphey says:

Customer Success is proactively working our customers toward their Desired Outcome whereas Customer Support is reactive to customer’s break/fix issues.
Customer Support – specifically the number of interactions with the customer and how quickly those interactions are resolved – is a critical input into an overall Customer Health score (a key Customer Success metric). It’s pretty obvious that if customers can’t use the product, they can’t achieve their Desired Outcome.

So, support is reactive, and success is proactive. This distinction is quick to cause frustration for support teams, because they feel like they're being taken down a notch.

In some companies, this is absolutely the case. Support is the low man on the totem poll, and it's not good for anyone.

Cost Center or Profit Center?

Support usually is tolerated, not celebrated. This difference has to do with the difference between a cost center and a profit center. (Being annoyed at this won't help you change the situation.)

A cost center is something that you have to have, and relucantly pay for it. Think "insurance" and "taxes". You pay for them because not paying for them is worse, but you don't actually enjoy it.

A profit center is a little machine that makes money. You put $X in, and it gives you $X+N. If you can double your input, theoretically you can double your output.

Companies live off of money. Money can beget more money, if spent in the right way. Money wasted means the company might go under.

Most companies view their support teams as a necessary evil. This is unfortunate, but this is also an enormous opportunity for a sufficiently motivated person on a support team to aim for driving massive change in their company.

Turn the cost center into a profit center

This will be a path of blood, sweat, and tears. I think its worth it, because whatever brave, enterprising soul masters this feat will be able to write his or her own ticket for the rest of their career. Forbes says you'll be a hero if you can do this.

Forbes' take on it is limited, though. Your support team is really your sales team. So, build the metrics around this.

Support plays a huge roll in churn. If you can drive churn down, you're helping your company make money. The Effortless Experience covers this quite well.

If you decide to undertake this initiatve, you'll need to make a strong business case to the right people. This work will be good for your career, and very good for your company. If the last sentance didn't inspire you, go read Smart Like How, to learn to think really creatively on your career, and how you can shape it.

Whereever you can run against prevailing thought, you have a chance to carve out a big, valuable ownership of a topic. So, at your company, drive home the idea that support is a profit center, not a cost center.

If you can prove the following relationship, backed up by data, you'll be ahead of 95% of most support teams out there:

Customer support interactions correlate to increased LTV of a customer

There might be more, but that's it for now. It'll be hard to convince the entire team of this, but it's your job. You cannot throw your hands up and say "they don't believe the same things I do." 

Extreme Ownership touches on this, but unless you like books about war, don't read it.

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