Across the board, organisations are being challenged to provide a better customer experience – one that’s easy, fast, personalised and omnichannel. Many customer service departments are up for the task, with 68% of service teams agreeing they’re leading customer experience initiatives across their organisation. But it’s not service’s responsibility alone. Without cross-departmental collaboration, an innate connection with sales and a single view of the customer, the customer experience falls apart at the seams.

Customer service is undergoing a significant transformation. Service is increasingly being viewed as a revenue generating mechanism – a function that helps drive customer loyalty, product adoption and customer stickiness, while capitalising on appropriate cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

Customers aren’t like they used to be either. Gartner anticipates that by 2020, 85% of the interactions between a customer and an organisation won’t involve a human. Digital experiences have changed the way customers want to interact with organisations. They now have higher expectations, greater access to information and aren’t willing to wait for service.

This means that when there is a human interaction, organisations need to be on their toes – whether that be sales or service – because if we’re not, it’s a rare moment lost. We need to be positioned to make the most of these opportunities, creating meaningful experiences and delivering seamless handoffs.

Achieving a single view of the customer


Having a single view of the customer is critical in creating a successful sales and service partnership, and achieving customer experience goals more broadly.

Recently, I spoke at Salesforce’s Intelligent Sales and Service Forum and had the opportunity to meet a number of organisations serious about tightly connecting their sales and service teams. I was encouraged to see just how many organisations have recognised the importance of obtaining a single view of the customer and are taking deliberate steps to achieve this.

However, it was also quite alarming to see how many organisations are still operating with disparate CRM systems and siloed data, unable to provide consistency and continuity in their customer interactions. For many, achieving a single view of the customer is challenge number one in aligning sales and service.

Secondly, while it might seem like a simple tactic for service reps to be cross-selling and upselling, the actual execution of this can be tricky. Customers can sniff out disingenuous attempts at a sale a mile away, and this only detracts from the customer experience. We need to tread carefully. Sales conversations in a traditional service environment need to be adequately timed, genuinely solving a customer problem and authentic in nature.

Technology is the answer


In the competitive global marketplace we’re in, no-one can afford to sit on their hands when it comes to connecting sales and service, and technology is becoming the critical enabler to help organisations push forward.

If we want our service agents to be able to have meaningful and authentic conversations with customers, then we need to give them the tools and technology to do so. Equally, if we want sales and service collaborating and connecting with ease, they need to be united on one platform, with the customer at the centre.

KPIs are another critical component. If your KPIs aren’t aligned to support behaviours that are focused on customer outcomes, you won’t see a true shift towards customer centricity. For example, earlier this year we saw all four big banks wind back incentive payments because they were cannibalising the customer experience.

We also have to remember that service staff aren’t salespeople. If they’re to take on more selling responsibilities, they need to be upskilled in the art of customer-oriented selling, and this process needs to be implemented very carefully. Service agents can’t be focused and measured on pure sales outcomes – it should always be about solving a customer problem first.

Case study: How Zip Water is empowering employees


One of the inspiring customer stories that emerged from the forum was that of water service manufacturer Zip Water.

At Zip Water, it’s the technicians who have a significant amount of customer contact, out installing and fixing taps and water systems. In this moment, they have the opportunity to really impact the customer experience.

Recognising this, Zip Water technicians are equipped and empowered with the necessary tools and technology. While on-site, they can access everything they need to know – a single view of the customer. For example, they know where the customer is in the life cycle, how long they’ve had their product and when it might be due for renewal – after all, there’s no point in fixing something if it’s due for replacement.

For Zip Water, a really crucial piece in getting sales and service tightly connected in the first place was successful change management. I think this element is key. The aspiration to improve the customer experience and create a culture of customer-centricity really needs to be owned from the top down and carefully executed to ensure you have buy-in from the floor.

Service and sales collaboration – the way forward


Those organisations that aren’t actively on the path to connecting sales and service, creating a single view of the customer and implementing the necessary technology are soon going to be at a real disadvantage.

Don’t think customers won’t notice if your sales and service teams are disjointed, if you don’t know who they are, and if the experience is inconsistent or sub-standard. And, don’t think they won’t switch brands because of it.

We recently caught up with Anouche Newman and RSVP Selling’s Tony Hughes to chat about how collaboration creates the ultimate CX, and how to unite sales and service teams.

The Connect Sales and Service Around the Customer eBook is a great place to start in implementing a connected sales and service strategy, with a step-by-step guide.

Plus, if you want to learn how Australia’s best customer service teams are revolutionising the industry, reserve your spot at the 2017 Australian Service Excellence Awards, in Sydney on Wednesday 25 October 2017.

Anouche Newman is the Chief Executive Officer of the Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA). Read more from Anouche.