What’s the Difference Between Key Account Management and Customer Success?

As many businesses are moving from large sales and support teams to more streamlined sales and support systems, key account management vs. customer success becomes a key issue businesses must face. A Key Account is an account that brings substantial income into your business, while Customer Success accounts tend to be smaller and potentially larger volume accounts.

A good marketing plan will take into account the value of your key account customers and provide personalized and flexible service, all while creating great automated systems for your customer success accounts. The difference between these two approaches to customer management plays out throughout your entire organization and, as you will see below, creates a spectrum of service options for your unique customer needs.

Profit-Per-Customer vs. Profit-Per-Transaction

When you are focusing on your key account customers, you are looking at a long-term relationship with an organization that is and will be essential to your business plan. When you focus on your customer success accounts, you are looking at short-term, transactional relationship with customers who will not have any impact on your business plan at an individual level.

Because of the difference between these two points-of-view, you will be engaging your sales system differently, depending on where your customer falls on the spectrum. A key account is worth potentially millions of dollars a year, whereas a customer success account is worth much less. As a result, you should design your account management strategy to nurture relationships with your key accounts and increase the value of each transaction with your customer success accounts.

Personal vs. Automated

An automated marketing system is ideal on a transactional basis. Your customers will be able to accurately and consistently obtain access to information regarding their accounts, purchases and current customer service issues. For your key accounts, however, personal marketing is much more valuable. This does not mean that you need to cut out automated transaction management, but rather, that there are additional needs your large accounts have that cannot be easily fulfilled via automation.

The best way to ensure that your key customers remain happy customers is to meet (and exceed) their needs personally. This is perhaps the essential difference between key accounts and customer success accounts. Customer success depends on the customer and automated systems, while key accounts require your employee’s individual attention.

Interactive vs. Analytical

The motive force in your interactions for key account management produces a relational focus, while the motive force behind focusing on your smaller accounts produces analytical and statistical methods. Because of the disparate nature of your profit source (customer vs. transaction), one of these looks at managing people and relationships, while the other looks at managing large numbers of impersonal transactions.

80 vs. 20

The difference between relational and analytical approaches shows that 80% of your work is going to be invested in 20% of your customers. These 20% will then produce 80% or more of your profit. This is how the famous 80/20 rule plays out in account management. You need to setup automated systems to serve the 80% of your customers who do not produce large results and focus your core efforts on the 20% who do.

Corresponding to the amount of time you put into them, your key account customers will provide the majority of your profit, while customer success accounts will provide a great pool for recruiting more key account customers. This is the difference between key account management and customer success: Your smaller accounts are served well via automated sales funnels so that they can be upsold into a key account, where they will get the best possible service and value.

Do not overlook your large accounts by overworking your sales team, and do not let your small accounts take up all of your time. Using these differences, create a spectrum of customer service that provides the best service and profit for you and your customers.




CEO at Kapta
Alex Raymond is the CEO of Kapta.