Although these two key roles sound similar, some strict lines differentiate between an Account Manager (AM) and a Customer Success Manager (CSM). To an untrained eye, they may look like competing roles. However, both are essential and it’s important to appreciate the nuances first. Let’s try and understand the difference between an account manager and a customer success manager.
Who is an Account Manager?
An account manager is, usually, the single point of contact between the company and the customer. The role of an Account Manager is to identify what their clients need and then pitch products that will satisfy those needs. Also, they are responsible to ensure that the customers renew their contracts, upsells, and cross-sells for the company. Hence, responsible for ensuring consistent revenue for the company. Account managers are the relationship managers who take care of all the business responsibilities. They do not get involved in a client’s day-to-day operations.
What is the difference between an account manager and a customer success manager?
Both of these are vital roles that a SaaS firm cannot do without. Some of the key distinctions are mentioned below:
- Goal– An AM’s goal (as mentioned above) is to ensure that the customer renews at the end of the subscription period. They are often responsible for getting as many upsells and renewals as possible. Whereas, a CSM’s goal is to help the clients achieve their business goals using customer success tools!
- Reactive vs Proactive– Typically, the account managers are reactive. Customers reach out to their AMs when they feel they’re stuck somewhere. Generally, they take action in response to client requests. In contrast, success managers are proactive which means that they would be there to help customers at every stage of their business lifecycle.
- Collaboration timeline– AMs, generally, interact and get involved with the clients at the end of the customer lifecycle when it’s the time to renew and upgrade. A CSM, on the other hand, interacts with the customers from day one. Handholding them, ensuring that they understand the product and use it optimally are his/her responsibilities.
- Diverse skills– Both of them bring a different set of skills to the table. AMs have comprehensive knowledge about the company and its products but know little about specific customers. They’re the relationship managers who help clients solve their issues. Whereas, the customer success managers are thoroughly aware of the firm and about customers. They understand customer’s business objectives that enables them to help clients with a Customer Success Platform.
Now, we know the key distinctions between an account manager and a customer success manager. Sometimes, the account manager is also referred to as a technical account manager (TAM). Many firms embrace TAMs as a key component of the company-wide customer success strategy. TAM focuses on technical support and the CSM focuses on the client’s business goals and strategies.
Account management vs Customer Success (CS)
Customer success is increasingly gathering attention owing to the recent popularity of the SaaS industry. CS is a tenet that is followed throughout the company. All the teams including marketing, product development, sales, etc are interlinked. They work together cohesively to follow Customer Success as a strategy. Account management, also, should be governed by the principles of CS for increasing the CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value).
Role of a Customer success operations manager (CS ops)
New roles are coming up in CS as it is evolving as an area of specialization. One such role is CS ops. The operations department, in any organization, is the one that keeps the daily operations under control. Similarly, CS ops is the department responsible for executing the customer success strategies to their optimal potential. CS ops managers provide prudent support to the CS team by-
- Understanding the data points with key metrics.
- Allocating accounts and current customer base to allot the workload effectively among CSMs.
- Improving the efficacy of CS workflows by automating them or building custom dashboards.
Customer Success Operations Manager, in short, helps CSMs improve their KPIs by presenting accurate information in the presentable form to make high-value decisions with clarity.
Sometimes, the role of the Customer Success Manager is often confused with a Customer Success project manager. However, both are different. A Customer Success project manager is required to carry out more advanced technical tasks. S/he possesses an exhaustive analysis of risk assessments and project plan. More on the difference between CSM and Customer Success Project manager can be found here
It can be safely concluded that the Account Managers and CSMs end up fulfilling the same purpose. That might lead to some overlapping of responsibilities. They’re distinct in their approaches and which is why they should be kept separate. The firm needs both, account managers and customer success managers, to maximize its business potential. The two roles entwine and complement each other to keep up the clients and the firm successful and profitable.
The CSMs manage the customer relationship through customer success software (CSS). This software:
- Tracks KPIs
- Monitors the health score of different accounts and
- Sends alerts for potential risks and opportunities.
Hence a Customer Success Software works as an interface and helps CSMs to achieve their client’s business goals.