Skip to content

Customer Success vs Account Management: What's the Difference?

Author: Melissa Scatena

Published: April 30, 2024

Last updated: April 30, 2024

Table of Contents
Schedule a Demo

For most tech companies, two roles often serve at the forefront of client engagement: the account manager and the customer success manager. While both are pivotal in driving customer satisfaction and retention, their functions and job responsibilities often diverge to meet distinct aspects of the customer journey and business needs. Understanding the difference between these roles — not just in definition but in their day-to-day work — can significantly enhance how a company nurtures its client relationships. Let’s dive into the nuances of an account manager versus customer success manager, explore their responsibilities, and how they work together to impact the customer journey.

Account Manager vs Customer Success Manager: Defining the Roles

Account Manager (AM)

Traditionally, an account manager is seen as more of a sales role and the buying contact for customers. The primary goal of an account manager is to ensure that the client continues to purchase services or products, usually handling upsells and expansions. They are often responsible for multithreading throughout an organization to find additional opportunities for expansion.

An account manager's official responsibilities typically include:

  • Developing long-term relationships with clients
  • Negotiating contracts and closing agreements
  • Managing and solving contract-related conflicts with clients
  • Handling client renewals and upselling products or services

The metrics for success typically revolve around customer lifetime value, renewal rates, and revenue expansion.

Customer Success Manager (CSM)

Customer success managers focus on their customer’s successful adoption of their product or service. The CSM role is all about helping customers achieve their desired outcomes through their product or service, ultimately driving retention through satisfaction and usage (not just contractual obligations).  They make sure the customers understand the product and are satisfied with their experience.

A CSM's duties are usually centered around:

To gauge success, CSMs track metrics like product adoption rates, customer health scores, and Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

When Does an Organization Need Both?

As companies scale, the distinction between maintaining revenue streams and ensuring product satisfaction becomes clearer and more necessary. Organizations that offer complex, customizable products often require both AMs and CSMs to help clients continue their contracts and fully utilize the services they're paying for.

Comparative Analysis: Focus Areas and Interactions

Let's break down how account managers and customer success managers differ in what they focus on and how they interact with customers. Highlighting these differences helps us see why both roles are necessary and how they each contribute uniquely to keeping customers happy and engaged.

Focus Areas:

  • AMs are primarily focused on business relationships with customers. Their strategies are often driven by sales goals and financial metrics.
  • CSMs concentrate on customer experience and satisfaction. They look to enhance the customer's operational success with the product, which indirectly leads to financial gains through retention and organic growth.


  • AMs engage with customers when it's time to renew contracts or when an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell arises.
  • CSMs maintain consistent customer relationships, providing regular support and proactive advice to ensure customers get the most out of their purchases.

Team Dynamics and Collaboration

When both roles exist within an organization, account managers and customer success managers must collaborate working in tandem to meet client needs comprehensively. The AM might rely on the CSM to provide insights into the customer's usage of the product, which can be pivotal during renewal discussions. Conversely, a CSM might need the AM to negotiate contract terms that align with the usage and satisfaction levels the CSM has nurtured.

Real-World Applications

Take HubSpot, a leading CRM platform, where the coordinated efforts of account managers and customer success managers have been crucial to maintaining high customer satisfaction and retention rates. The account managers at HubSpot focus on understanding the broader business challenges and growth opportunities of their clients, facilitating discussions around contract renewals and potential expansions. On the other hand, customer success managers at HubSpot are deeply involved in confirming clients are maximizing the value of the platform. They guide clients through the full spectrum of HubSpot’s features and services, helping them optimize their marketing, sales, and service strategies.

This collaboration means that clients renew their contracts based on satisfactory product use and are encouraged to adopt additional features and services that align with their evolving business needs.

Career Paths and Evolving Nature

Both roles offer a ton of opportunities and career paths with potential for growth into leadership positions. Required skills for AMs include sales backgrounds, strong negotiation abilities and strategic sales planning, whereas CSMs must excel in customer advocacy and product expertise.

Customer expectations in the tech industry continue to redefine these roles. Organizations recognize the importance of a proactive approach to customer success as a pivotal driver of sustained revenue growth and a crucial complement to account management.

For account managers and customer success managers alike, how you approach the client relationship from the beginning is critical. Ready to see how you can further improve your strategies and achieve a more robust bottom line? Schedule a demo with OnRamp today and discover new ways to elevate your customer onboarding process.