At a glance, customer success management and account management seem incredibly similar. After all, both are retention-oriented jobs.
However, as you’ll find out, these jobs are quite different.
In this article, we cover both professions, compare their workplace duties, and go over the differences between these roles. Keep reading to learn more about why account and customer success managers are critical to your business.
What does an Account Manager do?
An account manager’s primary responsibilities are identifying new business opportunities with existing clients, building strong sales relationships with customers, and identifying new sales opportunities outside the existing customer base.
Account managers are also often put in charge of sales reports.
The other duties of account managers include…
- Negotiating contracts and closing agreements to maximise profits
- Developing trust-based relationships with essential accounts, stakeholders, and executive sponsors
- Ensuring timely and successful delivery of product solutions according to customer needs and objectives
- Communicating the progress of monthly/quarterly initiatives to internal and external stakeholders
- Developing new business with existing clients and identifying areas of improvement to meet quotas
- Forecasting and tracking key account metrics
- Preparing reports on account status
What does a Customer success manager do?
Customer success managers, also called customer support managers (CSM), are responsible for ensuring that existing customers succeed with your product. An example of customer success-related processes could be assisting customers with product onboarding and implementation.
This position is responsible for ensuring customer satisfaction, building a strong client-company relationship, and using existing customer data and previous interactions to set goals for customer satisfaction.
Other duties of customer success managers include…
- Managing interactions with customers
- Assisting with customer retention by ensuring a smooth customer journey
- Coaching customer-facing employees on how to provide customer assistance
- Collecting and analysing data to improve customer satisfaction
What is the difference between Customer Success management and Account management?
It should be noted that account management and customer success duties overlap frequently. Employees in these positions usually have a high degree of cross-department collaboration because of their shared goals.
However, there are quite a few differences between these positions. These differences are…
A shared goal but different processes
In simple terms, the purpose of both customer success and account management is customer retention. Customer retention can create repeat business with existing customers, guarantee upselling opportunities, and ensure long-term business with customers.
However, the way these positions approach customer retention differs.
Account managers are “the person to talk to” when customers want to upgrade their existing plan, purchase add-ons, or renew their ongoing subscription plan. Customer success managers are goal-oriented. Their primary duty is to ensure customers meet their goals with the product.
Different daily routines
The responsibilities and processes of customer success and account management specialists are far from the same. Still, frequent collaboration between the roles is a given.
Customer success managers focus on increasing customer satisfaction and achieving product-related goals. Their duties also include processes to collect customer feedback and data to improve the company's customer experience.
On the other hand, account managers focus much more on identifying new business opportunities with existing customers.
For example, an account manager might see that one of his clients is in need of a particular add-on, due to the challenges they’re experiencing at work. An account manager reaches out to the customer to discuss the purchase and delivery of the product add-on. Next, the customer success manager oversees product onboarding and successful implementation of the add-on, as well as assisting the customer in achieving their goals.
Different perspectives on customer retention
These two positions also stem from differing perspectives on customer retention.
To an account manager, renewing the SaaS subscription or purchasing an add-on is critical. Therefore, the account manager’s resources should be dedicated to retaining existing business, upselling where possible.
Customer success positions come from the belief that customer satisfaction leads to repeat business. If customer goals are met and they are satisfied with the product, they will commit to repeating business naturally.
Customer success managers also usually have unique insights into their clients' journey with the product. The company can use these insights to develop its product further, and to create a better customer experience.
Involvement in the customer journey
Customer success managers are closely involved with their clients from the beginning of the customer lifecycle, right to the end. Ensuring that the product is implemented correctly, helping with any issues that may arise along the way, and generally being a communication point between the company and their customers.
Account managers only get involved during the end stages of the customer lifecycle, where upsells and renewals usually occur.
However, account managers will get involved with the customer when require. Sometimes even during the beginning stages of the customer lifecycle, if the customer requests it.
Account managers and customer success managers are responsible for customer retention. Still, the roles they play during the process are very different from each other. This means that both positions require different skills to achieve success.
CSMs need an in-depth knowledge of their product, empathy for customers, and a deep understanding of their goals and ambitions. A good customer success manager will be able to foresee their clients’ future needs and requests and ensure they are met.
Account managers also have a deep understanding of the company's product, but are not as clued in about their customers as CSMs. The account manager is usually in charge of fixing technical issues with the product.
In short, account managers are much more sales- and support-oriented, while CSMs are more coaching- and mentoring-oriented.
Different communication styles
Customer success managers take a proactive approach to solving their customers' problems, working hard to ensure they’re solved before they even arise.
They need to anticipate the challenges a customer experiences. They should be there for their clients before they even realise they need the help a CSM can offer.
Account managers take a much more reactive approach, only tackling their customer requests as a ticket is created. However, account managers aren’t just waiting for customers to create tickets. Sometimes when a customer is experiencing an issue, an account manager might check in to ensure everything is okay.
It goes without saying that account managers and customer success managers perform different tasks as part of their daily routines. Therefore, the metrics used to track their performance also vary greatly.
Account managers are usually evaluated via a sales quota. Their main goal is to upsell customers.
Customer success managers are usually evaluated via the ROI that their customers managed to achieve with the product.
Should account managers and Customer Success Managers co-exist?
Although these positions have shared goals, their roles in achieving them are very different.
The roles that these positions play are, in a way, complementary to each other.
Customer success managers build customer satisfaction. Later, this plays to the benefit of the account manager when it’s time to discuss repeat business.
Additionally, separating customer success and account management also helps build customer trust. If a CSM gets involved in the upsell process, customers may trust them less, affecting their trust in the company.
How do you ensure your Account and Customer Success Managers work towards the same goal?
Customer success managers and account managers need to be able to share information and communicate quickly. You can take multiple steps to ensure smooth collaboration between these roles…
✅ Hold regular meetings
Regular meetings between CSMs and account managers are essential to facilitate cross-team communication and collaboration. These meetings also help teams share critical insights that might assist during customer interactions.
✅ Make communication between the two teams easy
When an account executive needs to reach out to a CSM, they should do it quickly and smoothly to deliver a satisfactory customer experience. Using tools such as Google Workspace or Slack is the best way to ensure smooth communication between these roles.
✅ Create a shared database
Data also needs to be exchanged between these positions. A shared database should be created where CSMs and account managers can find relevant documents. This can either be done via creating a shared cloud disk, or setting up permissions in a CRM system.
✅ Implement a CRM system
If only there were a tool that could do all three…
There is. It’s called a Customer Relationship Management system, also known as a CRM.
With a sound CRM system, you can…
- Set up customisable permissions to ensure CSMs and account managers have access to the necessary information and files from a customer card
- Utilise integrations to centralise inter-team communication. For example, NetHunt CRM integrates with Google Workspace, meaning you can chat with colleagues and clients from the same tab that you use to work
- With calendar sync, you can automatically schedule meetings between CSMs and account managers, creating reminders to make sure nobody misses it
- @mentions and comments let your teams figure out details about the deal in no time
- Shared database and the timeline that keeps record of every interation between your company and the customer doesn't let a single detail slip through the cracks
That is just the tip of the iceberg. In reality, implementing a CRM system is guaranteed to change how your sales, customer success, and marketing teams work.
If you want to learn more about CRM systems and how implementing one can significantly improve your business processes, check out these articles on our blog…
Now that you know all there is to know about customer success and account management, you’re one step closer to creating the customer experience that you strive to achieve.
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