What is the difference between Customer Success Management and Account Management?

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JASON LEMKIN

Today, there’s usually a pretty big difference. Every revenue-related function has gotten more specialized over the last few years:

  • Customer Success is usually charged with Retention. This can be a gross metric, a net metric (net of both upsells or churn), both, etc. There can be variable comp — or not. But in the end, their KPI is usually Retention + NPS.
  • Account Managers are post-sale “Sales Reps”. Charged with farming as much revenue out of the existing customer base as they can. Their job is upsell. They are almost always on an aggressive bonus / OTE program.

There are inherent tensions in these functions. AMs can piss off accounts that have no expansion capabilities. On the flip side, CSMs often aren’t aggressive enough hunters. And often times, sales will do the “AM” role until you are bigger. Or sometimes, CS will do it until you are bigger. It’s a specialized role.

And who reports to whom can be a tension. AMs often report to Sales, not the VP of CS. But sometimes not.

In the end, however you do it, you do want one group in charge of Happiness. And another in charge of Farming. At least after $10m ARR or so.

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Published on December 20, 2016
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