Customer Success Manager vs. Customer Relationship Manager: What’s the Difference?

customer success manager vs customer relationship manager

You’ve been looking into different jobs, trying to find a new direction that might take you further in life. One of the roles you’ve been seeing pop up recently is a Customer Success Manager. You raise your eyebrows as you do research on it: work in tech, no hard skills required, able to transition from other industries. It’s got your attention.

But wait!… you’ve also seen that there are Customer Relationship Manager roles. The two sounds awfully similar. So what gives? What are the main differences between the two? Would you choose one over the other? Let’s dive into it.

In essence, it’s the same, but…

Customer Success Management is about helping a customer achieve success, while Customer Relationship Management is more about managing the relationship with the customer. Fundamentally, both are about being the custodian of the customer relationship, the contact point between your company and the customer’s organization.

The creation of Customer Success came about from the need to help customers become better at using Software as a Service (SaaS) technology to solve their problems. That’s the main product that the customers buy. This may or may not also be the case for Customer Relationship Managers, but the title implies it’s more about the connection and less about the solution.

Both may have strong project management focuses

A lot of SaaS tech is used to solve complex problems. Complex problems are part and parcel of complex projects. Therefore, whether you like it or not, you become a project manager alongside your customer. The project might be their “baby”. Their success with the project (using your SaaS solution) is critical to your success. The better you can help them use your SaaS, the higher the chance that you can help them have a successful project.

Both may be closely aligned to salespeople

The most common way that customers come into the care of Customer Success Managers is from an Account Manager or Business Development Manager. We help the customer get more value quicker, then after a year when it comes time for the customer to renew their contract with your company, you hand them back over to the sales team.

Customer Relationship Management is likely to be the same, but it’s possible that instead of a SaaS product, it’s a service that you’re provide, such as consulting. It’s likely you as the Customer Relationship Manager who provides the service as well. It’s worth noting in both cases that there might not be a hand-off from a sales team. You might also be the salesperson and therefore the one also responsible for renewing the customer too when the time comes around. This is particularly common in smaller organizations.

Customer Success ManagerCustomer Relationship Manager
helping customers achieve success using the SaaS solution your company offers, naturally builds a strong relationship with the customerFocus is on building a strong relationship with the customer only. A tech solution may or may not be part of the offering.
Has a strong project management focusHas a strong project management focus
Is strongly aligned to sales, may/may not be responsible for renewalIs strongly aligned to sales, may/may not be responsible for renewal
customer success manager vs customer relationship manager: table summary

So when it comes to a summary of the two roles, the table above just about covers it. It’s worth mentioning that the payscale of both is likely to range quite a bit (as low as $60K USD – $100K+ USD) depending on experience and the complexity of the product/industry. When it boils down to it, the difference is whether you want to work in tech or not. I know what my choice is… 😉

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