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ServiceNow ITSM vs. CSM – Which one to choose and why?

ServiceNow ITSM vs. CSM - Which one to choose and why?

Note: Because the article remains popular long after we have first published it, we have revised it in July 2023. For the same reason, we have prepared a special page, which will provide yet another interesting point of view: what if you are keen on using everything the platform offers to make your customers happy? What and most importantly how you should proceed? We hope we have the answers here.

ServiceNow ITSM vs. CSM: Introduction

Choosing the right tool for the job might not always be easy. This article will help you to understand the similarities and differences between two parts of the ServiceNow platform – namely IT Service Management (ITSM) and Customer Service Management (CSM).

For most of the companies we work with, IT Service Management (ITSM) is a well-established process, well supported by a variety of tools, the most important of them usually ServiceNow. It makes complete sense, therefore, that when it comes to supporting other processes, customers turn to what they already know and use. However, it is important to realize that ServiceNow offers a lot more than ITSM. It is always better to use part of the platform that is made to support your use case, than trying to change the platform according to your requirements. Although I believe that this is obvious to most readers of the article, I think it is critical to reiterate that.

Why should you spend extra time choosing the correct part of the platform for your use case?

  • You will have less effort in supporting your solution.
  • You will get all the new features from ServiceNow with every upgrade (twice a year!).
    • If you don’t choose the correct option, you will most likely forgo new features that ServiceNow releases often. You might as well lose access to existing features that you did not need at the time of the implementation, but you might find them useful later on.
  • You will have less effort in implementing your solution.
  • You will avoid issues with the license policy.

The ServiceNow IT Service Management solution provides scalable workflows to manage and deliver IT services to your users.

ServiceNow Customer Service Management helps you drive customer loyalty with connected digital workflows that join customer service with other departments using AI and workflow to assign, manage, and resolve complex issues end-to-end.


There is a strong resemblance between ITSM and CSM, after all, they both share the powerful ServiceNow platform features, such as:

  • Knowledge management, including the full-text search.
  • Service Portal technology, which allows you to easily configure (or create) web portals with a great user experience, available for your users.
  • Unifying experience across different communication channels, whether it is the web portal or chat including the highly integrated chatbot.
  • Advanced features, utilizing machine learning, allowing you to decrease the workload of your agents and/or improve service quality for your customers, such as predictive intelligence and agent intelligence.
  • Advanced routing and assignment, allowing you to automatically assign tickets to groups with the right skills, with the least workload, and many more criteria.
  • Other features such as surveys, which allow you to quickly and accurately measure your customer satisfaction.
  • The intuitive and powerful user interface for the employees handling tickets’s the latest upgrade is called Agent Workspace.
  • And of course features of the platform, which allow you to rapidly develop your own functionality, such as Flow Designer for designing workflows and automation and Integration Hub for designing integrations with other systems or even using some ready-made and supported integrations, called “Spokes”.

To sum up, with both ITSM and CSM you can leverage what the platform offers.


Supported processes


IT Service Management contains multiple processes actually, these are more or less based on the successful framework named ITIL. Therefore, in ITSM you can find the following processes:

  • Incident
  • Change
  • Problem

And a lot more, including the Configuration Management database.


Process-wise, CSM is much simpler. There is one dominant process, which is called case management and it is up to you to make it as complex (or simple) as you need. ServiceNow even has a standard way to extend the default process (this is called case types) to allow you to cover all your customer and partner facing processes.



In ITSM, you have two basic types of users:

  • Fulfiller – these are for instance employees working on a service desk, or people approving or scheduling changes.
  • End-users – these users have a limited role in the system, they can request things (i.e. from the catalog) or report incidents, and also interact with the knowledge base.
  • End-users must be users 100% within your organization (employees or contractors).

You pay for each fulfiller, however, end-users are free of charge, you can have as many as you need.


In CSM, there are also two basic types of users:

  • Fulfillers – these are your employees, helping your customers fix their issues and answering their questions
  • Customers (and consumers) – these are the end users, either businesses, consumers or other third parties, such as partners and dealers. They come to your support system looking for help, advice and maybe to order additional services
  • With the latest versions of the CSM license, you can serve both customers (and consumers) and also internal users
  • With the latest versions of the CSM license, you can use both customer service management functionalities (such as cases, customer portal) and also ITSM functionalities (such as incidents, changes, and full configuration management) to support your customers. You can learn more about how to use ITSM together with CSM in our latest campaign here.

You pay for each agent, however, customers are free of charge and you can have as many as you need.

Important note: for all questions regarding licenses, we recommend you contact your ServiceNow representative. Your contract might be different from the standard, therefore not all information might apply to you.

From the comparison above, it is clear that the main difference between CSM and ITSM is the relationship of end-users to your company. In ITSM, end users are employees or contractors. For simplification, we don’t go into detail about business stakeholders in this article, which is another type of user license you can have.

Data separation and visibility


  • End users see usually only data, that is directly concerning them – requests and incidents created by or for them.
  • A large part of data that is supporting ITSM processes is only available to fulfill users, who are creating, approving changes, and using CMDB.


End users can, under some conditions see cases of other customers:

    • – If the end-user is a partner of the customer, they can see the cases of the customer.
    • – If the end-user is within the hierarchy, they have access to cases raised by users in child customer accounts.
  • End users can see and update other data, such as their assets.
    • The data model of CSM is very comprehensive. For example, it allows you to form households, which are groups of consumers living at the same address, who can act together to get the support.

User Management


As already mentioned in the paragraph dedicated to licensing differences, users in ITSM are employees of your organization.

That means the information about users is already located within your identity provider, such as Active Directory. You only have to connect this provider to your ServiceNow instance.


Because users of CSM contain also contacts of your customers and/or consumers, user management is a much more important concern.

Fortunately, CSM has many features to allow your customers to log in.

  • Users can self-register, both customer contacts and consumers. You can leverage an existing workflow to approve the users and also captcha.
  • You can administer the users manually.
  • And maybe the best option is OpenID Single Sign-On. Once you configure the OpenID connection, your customers can log in using Google and other social identity providers.

ServiceNow ITSM vs. CSM: Summary

ServiceNow is renowned for being a great platform for companies and corporations to manage their IT, and increasingly other departments as well, such as HR, finance, facility management, and others. Customer Service Management goes beyond that and allows you to use the platform to serve and support the actual customers of your company. That is why CSM is the part of the ServiceNow platform that I am personally most excited about.

I hope that the article explained why you should consider using Customer Service Management. In my experience, a lot of companies still rely on a combination of phone and email, which may be coupled with a ticketing system for supporting their customers, whereas they might already have state of an art IT Service Management solution, which is ServiceNow. Why not offer the same level of service to your customers (or even partners) as you do to your employees then? We would love to help you get started with Customer Service Management.

Disclaimer: Based on the questions from the live webinar session, I have also put together the following set of answers to address the questions. All answers related to licensing and pricing are purely informational. Any license or pricing matter should be discussed with your ServiceNow representative.

Question 1

How is the knowledge module differentiated between the customer, user, and IT-support relevant information?

If I understand correctly, the question means how can we make information in our knowledge available only to certain users and not others.

Knowledge in ServiceNow is contained in knowledge articles. The articles are organized in knowledge bases, you can have as many knowledge bases as you like. For each knowledge base, you can attach reusable rules, called user criteria, which manage who can read the articles in that knowledge base and who can contribute to the knowledge base (by creating new or updating existing articles). Therefore, it is easy to say that for example, a certain knowledge base should be only available to certain customers.

Question 2

Is it possible to integrate one platform where you have only ITSM and the second one where you use CSM and ITSM?

To rephrase the question to how I understand it: can we have both ITSM licensed fulfiller users and CSM licensed fulfiller users on a single production instance? Yes, it is possible to

have ITSM and CSM users on the same instance. It is also possible to have ITSM Standard and CSM Professional users on the same instance.

Question 3

Would that mean that in case you want to support external customers but this is done by the same fulfillers that are providing internal support, you can “migrate” those users from ITSM license to CSM license, without the need to have them owning the two licenses?

Please read the disclaimer first. Yes, the new license policy (version 5) has a single, combined license for both CSM and ITSM. That means your users will have one license but will be able to use both Customer Service Management and IT Service Management to support your customers, both internal and external.

This eliminates the need to have two licenses (ITSM and CSM) for one fulfiller user. Many GDPR use cases or finance request use cases coming from the end customer are routed to IT because customer data needs to be deleted or an ERP system needs to be adjusted. In the past, those use cases required the IT employees to have two licenses (ITSM and CSM), but with the CSM version 5 these CSM and ITSM entitlements are combined in one CSM version 5 license.

Question 4

What is more important to implement in a small-medium organization, ITSM or CSM?

This is a very important question, unfortunately, without more information, it is difficult to answer. For questions like this, please contact us and we will be more than happy to schedule a call and discuss your needs more in detail.

However, I will try to answer. In my opinion, for small or medium-sized organizations, it might be more important to first implement Customer Service Management by ServiceNow, then proceed with IT Service Management. The reason is, that especially recently, many medium or even small organizations have a huge customer or consumer base and scale quickly. These companies in my opinion would benefit more from implementing CSM early to maintain great customer service, even though their customer base grows exponentially.

Question 5

Is ITSM part of CSM or not?

Please read the disclaimer first. Please refer to question 3.

Question 6

Hi, for a function of Sales and sales support which solution is more optimal?

Similar to the answer to question 4, it is difficult to answer without additional information. However, judging by our experience, for sales and sales support-related processes, as these are usually concerning external users, Customer Service Management seems to be a better fit.

Do you have a question we can clear up? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!


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