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Account Management vs. Customer Success: What’s the Difference?

RepVue Editorial Team
RepVue Editorial TeamJan 5, 2024

Because they’re both client-facing roles, the terms “account management” and “customer success” are sometimes used interchangeably. While there are similarities between the two roles, there are also key differences that set them apart. Understanding these differences can help you determine which role is the best fit for you or which role your organization needs to hire.

At a high level, Account Managers and Customer Success Managers both work to build and maintain relationships with clients. However, their focuses and responsibilities differ in important ways. 

Account management is typically focused on managing existing accounts, ensuring clients are satisfied with the products or services they’ve purchased, and identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling. Customer Success Managers (CSMs) focus on ensuring clients achieve their desired outcomes with the product or service, and they work to build deeper, more strategic relationships with clients over time.

Compare salary data for Account Managers and Customer Success Managers

Let’s take a deeper look at the similarities and differences between these roles, their goals and objectives, and the skills required for each.

What is Account Management?

Account Managers’ Core Responsibilities

As an Account Manager, your primary responsibility is to manage a portfolio of clients and ensure that their needs are met. You will be the main point of contact for your clients and will be responsible for building strong relationships with them. You will need to understand their business and their goals, and work with them to develop strategies to achieve those goals.

Some of the key responsibilities of an Account Manager include:

  • Building and maintaining relationships with clients
  • Understanding clients’ business and goals
  • Managing client expectations
  • Identifying new business opportunities
  • Working sales deals and negotiating contracts
  • Providing regular reports and updates to clients
  • Cross-selling and upselling to current accounts

What is a Customer Success Manager? 

Customer Success Managers’ Core Responsibilities

As a Customer Success Manager, your primary responsibility is to ensure that clients are successful in using your product or service. 

You will be the main point of contact for your clients and will be responsible for helping them achieve their desired outcomes. You will need to understand their business and their goals, and work with them to develop strategies to achieve those goals.

Some of the key responsibilities of a Customer Success Manager include:

  • Building and maintaining relationships with clients
  • Understanding clients’ business and goals
  • Developing and executing strategies to help clients achieve their desired outcomes
  • Providing training and support to clients
  • Identifying and addressing client issues and concerns
  • Providing regular reports and updates to clients
  • Identifying opportunities for upselling and cross-selling

While both Account Managers and Customer Success Managers are responsible for building and maintaining relationships with clients, many of their core responsibilities differ. 

Account Managers focus on managing a portfolio of clients and helping them achieve their business goals, while Customer Success Managers focus on ensuring that clients are successful in using the product or service. CSMs may also be responsible for a larger number of accounts than Account Managers.

Goals and Objectives for Account Managers and CSMs

Account Managers’ Goals

As an Account Manager, your goal is to maintain and grow the relationship between your company and its clients. You achieve this by understanding the clients’ needs, identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling, and ensuring the clients are satisfied with the services or products they receive. 

Account Managers are expected to generate revenue for their companies by retaining existing clients and selling new products to grow their accounts. Because of this, Account Managers often have more traditional revenue-based quota targets.

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Account Managers’ KPIs

To measure how well Account Managers manage relationships with key accounts and ensure that they are satisfied with the products or services they receive, some of the commonly used KPIs include:

  • Revenue growth: Account managers are usually responsible for growing the revenue from their accounts. This can be measured by tracking the amount of revenue generated by each account over time.
  • Customer satisfaction: Another important metric for Account Managers is customer satisfaction. This can be measured through surveys, feedback forms, or other means.
  • Retention rate: Account managers are also responsible for retaining their accounts. A high retention rate indicates that the Account Manager is doing a good job of keeping their clients happy.

Customer Success Goals

As a Customer Success Manager, your goal is to ensure that your clients achieve their desired outcomes by using your company’s products or services. You do this by understanding the clients’ goals and objectives, identifying any obstacles that may prevent them from achieving those goals, and providing the necessary support and guidance to overcome those obstacles.

You will want to ensure that your clients are successful in using your company’s products or services, which will lead to their satisfaction and loyalty. This, in turn, will generate revenue for your company by retaining existing clients and acquiring new ones.

Check out job openings for Customer Success managers

Customer Success KPIs

Some of the KPIs that are commonly used to measure how well Customer Success Managers help customers achieve their desired outcomes with products or services include:

  • Adoption rate: Customer Success teams want to ensure that customers are actually using the product or service they have purchased. Adoption rate measures how many customers are actively using the product or service.
  • Churn rate: Churn rate measures how many customers are leaving the product or service. A high churn rate indicates that customers are not finding value in the product or service.
  • Net promoter score (NPS): NPS measures how likely customers are to recommend the product or service to others. A high NPS indicates that customers are satisfied with the product or service and are likely to recommend it to others.

Overall, both Account Managers and Customer Success teams play important roles in ensuring customer satisfaction and driving revenue growth. By understanding the differences, you can determine which role is best suited for your skills and interests.

Engagement and Interaction

Account Management Interaction Styles

Account Managers typically use a proactive approach to engagement, reaching out to clients regularly to check in on their progress and identify any potential issues. This can involve regular phone calls, emails, and in-person meetings to build rapport and establish trust.

Customer Success Interaction Approaches

CSMs are typically the first point of contact when an issue occurs so they often create best practices that customers can apply to better navigate products. They also proactively monitor client usage and behavior to identify potential issues allowing them to be proactive in their outreach efforts.

Skills and Expertise

Skills for Account Management

Account Managers need a range of skills for managing a portfolio of clients, maintaining relationships with them, and ensuring that their needs are met. These skills include:

  • Communication: You must be able to communicate effectively with clients, understanding their needs and concerns, and conveying information clearly and concisely.
  • Organization: You will need to be highly organized, managing multiple clients and tasks simultaneously, and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Negotiation: You will need to be skilled in negotiation, working with clients to find solutions that meet their needs while also meeting your company’s goals.
  • Sales: You will need to have a good understanding of your company’s products and services, and be able to sell them effectively to clients.
  • Problem-solving: You will need to be able to identify and solve problems quickly and effectively, working with clients and internal teams to find solutions.

Skills for Customer Success

To ensure their clients are successful and happy with your company’s products or services, Customer Success Managers need to be capable in a number of areas, including:

  • Communication: You must be able to communicate effectively with clients, understanding their needs and concerns, and conveying information clearly and concisely.
  • Empathy: You will need to be able to put yourself in your clients’ shoes, understanding their challenges and concerns, and working with them to find solutions.
  • Problem-solving: You will need to be able to identify and solve problems quickly and effectively, working with clients and internal teams to find solutions.
  • Technical expertise: You will need to have a good understanding of your company’s products or services, and be able to help clients troubleshoot technical issues.
  • Training: You will need to be able to train clients on how to use your company’s products or services effectively, ensuring that they are getting the most out of them.

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