No matter the industry or company position, all personnel relies on the customer for their paycheck. Understanding the customer’s needs and pain points and striving to reduce friction during the customer lifecycle can help your team drive new business and deepen the engagement of existing clients.
As most companies grow, they reach a point where someone decides to split responsibilities into sales and customer service. Unfortunately, when this division takes place, the shared company knowledge also gets dispersed into various silos, and sales rarely talks to customer support other than to hand off a new customer.
The approach where sales drives inbound while support reduces churn can actually hurt all parties. Instead, we should focus our efforts on building relationships, extending education, and driving advocacy. In response, customers will reward us with reduced churn, deeper engagement, and bigger profits.
The dream of most companies is to build a brand that doesn’t need dedicated sales professionals, but instead, relies on a product that sells itself. Customer advocates are built through education and brand engagement, and these folks sell to their friends. Nielsen famously found in 2012 that 92 percent of customers trust recommendations from folks they know, a fact that is less surprising than illustrative of the power of personal referrals.
Customer education helps clients attain autonomy, mastery, and purpose within your product — what Dan Pink identifies as the building blocks of happiness at work. When your customers feel like they understand your product and can explain the product to others, they are more likely to recommend the product to their friends, which in turn means those peers are more likely to adopt your product and recommend the brand.
To finish out this circle, when we treat new clients to support and education, these new clients move from just customers to advocates. They tell their friends about your product.
While sales teams may be great at driving customer growth, their knowledge of the product or service itself is sometimes superficial. They just don’t have time to delve into the intricacies of a product, and they don’t necessarily “need” first-hand experience to sell the product. On the other hand, customer support should have an in-depth knowledge of features and capabilities — especially those that customers find challenging.
If you plan on keeping your sales and support teams separate, schedule regular meeting times when the two teams can discuss customer pain points. Sales can shed light on the types of features customers want, and support can present the expectations and behaviors that cause confusion or friction later in the relationship. Use this information to examine the sales lifecycle and the needs of both groups with an eye for improving customer experience.
As an argument for combining sales and service teams, many companies find that absorbing service into sales helps reduce customer friction. Sales teams that focus on educating buyers may find themselves working less to meet sales goals since they can earnestly recommend products and services without pushy sales language. Existing customers are more likely to purchase additional products from a helpful rep who solves their onboarding or shipping problem than they are if they feel shuffled around from sales to service and back again.
Having dedicated service managers for each account that work with customers to increase their engagement with the product can go a long way toward building valuable relationships. Imagine if, instead of calling some anonymous customer service number every time you had a question about your service, you called a private line for your account manager, who’s name was Kate. If Kate can answer your questions and suggest features that solve your issues, wouldn’t you be more likely to purchase add-ons than if you got cold-called on a Monday morning?
Maximizing these points of contact depends not just on coordination between sales and service, but also on having the right technology to scale your efforts. CRM software, in particular, is an indispensable tool for managing customer interactions and increasing data visibility between departments. You can log notes, emails, and calls from each interaction and make sure sales and service reps are both working from the same information. Many CRMs also include helpful features for ticket/case management, and upselling/cross-selling.
Bridging the gap between sales and service departments isn’t easy for every company. Some may find that keeping distinct divisions makes more sense for their organization. But no matter the organizational structure, sales and service teams that work together on communicating issues, driving advocacy, and educating customers will find they not only keep more customers, but are more effective at driving new business.
Tamara Scott is a technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice, a research company that connects buyers and sellers of business technology. She writes about marketing automation, CRM software, and many other technology verticals.