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Podcast Recap: A Simple Explanation of the Difference Between Customer Success and Customer Experience

Updated: Jan 31

Two functions that always get confused 🥁

Customer Experience and Customer Success. 

There’s plenty of overlap between the two but there are major differences between Customer Experience and Customer Success. Let's explore them in this podcast recap!

The details

In this post, we are recapping an episode from the “This is CX” podcast along with Paul Hagen (the host) and Neil Jain from West Monroe. 

Both Neil and Paul have been in tech for years and in the Customer Experience space. Paul joined West Monroe after working at Forester (yes, that Forester) and Neil has helped small and large tech companies grow and scale CX for over 24 years. 

"This Is CX" is a discussion about all-things "Customer Experience". The podcast aims to help people understand what Customer Experience is and how it can be done in a way that creates real value. 

Here are the three takeaways: 

  • A simple definition for Customer Experience and Customer Success

  • Why is Customer Success gaining more traction 

  • The overlap between Customer Experience and Customer Success 

A simple definition for Customer Experience and Customer Success

What is Customer Success?

In concept, it’s simple. Customer Success ensures customers are using the product or service & deriving value from it. 

That’s pretty straight forward, it’s all about the customer consuming the product/service and that they’re getting the value out of it (but the devil’s in the details of the role).

What is Customer Experience? 

Customer Experience is defined as the customer’s perception of the interaction with the company. Part of those interactions are with the product or service.

Why is Customer Success gaining more traction 

Over the last 5 years, the concept of Customer Success has really taken off. 

Historically, customers would buy something they may or may not use optimally. Eventually, when they have to buy again/renew it, they question how much value received from that product/service.  

But over the last 5 years, things have changed:

  1. Markets have become more competitive 

  2. Customers have a lot more choices (thanks to what’s available on the cloud or the internet) 

  3. Switching cost has become lower 

Given these changes, it’s now on the vendor to ensure the customer is getting value so when it’s time for the customer to think about renewal, they don’t look elsewhere.  

What does Customer Success look like

Some companies believe they’re doing “Customer Success” but deep down, they’re not  sure what it means. 

Is it a mindset? Part of the company culture? An organization? 

It’s all of those things.

From an organizational standpoint, here are some things to keep in mind with Customer Success: 

  1. Segment - Create clear customer segments and a plan around engagement with each segment (self-serve or high-touch, what channels, etc.)

  2. Organization structure - Define what the CSM will be focusing on (e.g., ensuring adoption) and whether you’ll need supporting functions like a renewal manager or data analyst that will help uncover insights.

  3. Enablement and scale - Find ways to automate around indicators that lead to growth and indicators that help identify customers at risk. 

  4. Economics - Decide who will fund Customer Success. It could be a cost of business or could be included in the offering.

The overlap between Customer Experience and Customer Success 

Let’s take a closer look at each function 🕵️‍♀️ 

Customer Experience focuses on what the customer says (through things like surveys) Customer Success spends a lot more time looking at what customers do (their consumption). 

Customer Experience focuses on closed loops and does a better job at the macro loop (e.g., what are the systemic problems and what can they do to prevent them). Customer Success focuses on playbooks (a signal comes in and clear steps to follow).

In Customer Success, the field does a great job of looking at economics with things like health score which tends to be a bit more robust than something like NPS. While in Customer Experience, it’s been a challenge to quantify the impact that they’re having on the company.


  • CS = Are customers deriving value? CX = Customer’s perception of interaction with  product/service 

  • The landscape has changed a lot over the past 5 years and it has shifted the responsibility of retention onto the vendor 

  • Customer Success operationalizes Customer Experience 

Shout outs

Thanks to This is CX for hosting Paul and Neil on their podcast! You can go follow them on Twitter. You can follow Paul on LinkedIn as well as Neil on LinkedIn.


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