In early May 2018, I joined 375 customer experience friends and colleagues at another incredible CXPA Insight Exchange in beautiful New Orleans. It was a brilliant two days of mingling, learning, speaking, and celebrating innovation and progress in the Customer Experience industry. This event is always a highlight of my year. It's an opportunity to reconnect with friends and make new connections, gauge changes in the industry, learn which companies are pushing the envelope, and pick up new ideas for MGCX Advisors.

This year was a bit different for me. There was something new in the air. This year, there was actually talk of "Customer Success" in relation the the CX profession. Full disclosure, that was part of my agenda going into the event, and I had a little bit to do with stoking the discussion by presenting a "Show & Tell" session on the topic. But it was very exciting to realize this conversation is picking up more steam among these audiences. Let me briefly explain.


What Has Shaped My Views Today

I've spent my career criss-crossing roles in both Customer Success and Customer Experience. As a result, navigating the intersection between the two feels very natural to me. I joined Salesforce in 2004 as a Customer Success Manager and quickly took on special projects to scale customer engagement to support company growth. Those days were very "wild wild west," and I've shared my experience in this Salesforce book. I then moved into two roles that launched me squarely into the world of Customer Experience. The first was creating a Voice of Customer program to shape the roadmap for the Tech & Products organization. Then I returned to the post sales Customers for Life organization to launch Net Promoter for the company. Little did I know this jungle gym career movement would allow me to blend into my work all the things I'm most passionate about: human psychology, organizational design and customer service.

Evolution of Customer Experience and Customer Success

We are experiencing a resurgence of both the Customer Experience and the Customer Success industry. CX practices are not new. But I attribute the resurgence partly to the 2008 global financial crisis. This forced many companies into survival mode, doing everything they could to retain their existing customers to offset the cost of acquiring new ones. We now reference our current era as the "Age of the Customer."


Customer Success is also not new. And while Salesforce may not have invented it, they did spearhead the largest investment at the time in CS in the early 2000's.

Today, Gainsight has up-leveled the entire profession by productizing Customer Success in a platform and publishing both Salesforce's "secret sauce" and their own best practices in one of the most robust Customer Success blog sites I've seen anywhere. Seriously, it's pretty amazing.

Where We Are Today

It has been incredible to be part of the current evolution in CX and CS. It has also created some confusion and misunderstanding of the respective industries. Enter my latest passion topic: exploring and demystifying the intersection between Customer Experience and Customer Success philosophy, er roles, er functions, er lines of business (see what I mean?). I attend both CS and CX conferences every year, with Gainsight Pulse and CXPA IE being the two primary ones. I observed this discussion percolating last year at both conferences. In many instances, each of the respective audiences weren't quite clear on what "that other one" is or does. In one instance, I spoke with a former CEO of a well known CX platform company who thought Customer Success Management was another example of Silicon Valley throwing money at a problem that doesn't really exist to profit off that investment (I'm paraphrasing).

Aren't Customer Experience and Customer Success the Same Thing?

Here's my quick take (and a sneak peak to future articles). Philosophically, CX and CS have the same general goal, which is to strengthen customer engagement, retention and brand advocacy. But as business functions, they operate quite differently. They are both highly cross-functional. They both serve as the customer advocate back into the business. They both exist to increase value for both the customer and the company. GASP! Yep, I said it. The conversation about customer "outcomes" is mutually beneficial. Companies want to be profitable. So helping customers achieve their desired outcomes is a win win. BUT, Customer Experience and Customer Success are not the same thing. They are the yin to each other's yang. Like peas and carrots. Like green eggs and ham. get the point. I want to help move both professions forward by creating clarity in both areas and enabling synchronicity in corporate strategy and execution.

Final Thoughts and Preview of More to Come

This is one in a three part series of articles where I'll be writing about this topic. The next article will focus on the insights I took away from my CXPA Insight Exchange 2018 conversations. The third article will highlight insights from an informal research effort I'm conducting to baseline current understanding of professionals in both industries. If you want to contribute your thoughts, please do so here.

The discussion won't stop there. My goal is to work with Gainsight, CXPA and other partners to keep the conversation going through webinars, social & community forums, etc. More the come on that. I also want to thank Diane MagersJeannie Walters, and Sandra Fornasier for working with me on the CXPA IE 2018 Show & Tell discussion. It was hugely popular and the resulting discussions made it very clear we've much more work to do!