Independently, your sales and customer service teams may exceed management’s performance expectations, but that doesn’t mean they’re achieving their full potential. When the two departments work together, they can form an incredibly successful profit-generating machine.
If salespeople and customer service reps (CSRs) establish open lines of communication, they can share valuable information that will help them keep customer satisfaction at an all-time high. A survey by Defaqto Research tells us that “55 per cent of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience.” That alone seems like low-hanging fruit for any company hungry to grow its sales. But consider, too, that research shows that, “depending on which study you believe, and what industry you’re in, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”
Your sales and customer service departments need to work together to keep customers happy. For instance, a salesperson can tell a CSR about a new customer and give them tips on how to serve that client most effectively. In return, CSRs can keep salespeople aware of what aspects of the product or service are most helpful to customers and used most often, or inform sales reps about why customers break their commitments early or fail to renew their contracts when they expire.
The RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report reveals “89 per cent of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service.” That means a harmonious relationship between customer service and sales is a win-win. Sales grow when customers have consistently positive experiences with your product and team, and customer churn decreases when your clients’ needs are met in a courteous, efficient, and timely manner.
To help companies take advantage of the revenue-generating opportunities that come from simply offering customers better service, here are four ways you can bridge the gap between your sales and customer service teams.
For organizations that do not already encourage interdepartmental communication, the suggestion to open all lines of communications between colleagues can seem overwhelming.
What if a shared chat room devolves into a never-ending stream of cat gifs? Would productivity plummet thanks to mindless watercooler conversations?
These fears, however, are unfounded. Organizations actually benefit when colleagues come together, even when it’s just to exchange friendly banter. Internal communications expert Tim Eisenhauer argues that these interactions help strengthen company culture, minimize social anxiety among peers, facilitate informal interactions with management, and combat employee disengagement.
In a blog post for Help Scout, Cassie Marketos outlines four steps companies can take to create an environment that fosters cross-team communication. They include:
Reconfigure company objectives to emphasize customer happiness.
Assign department leaders the task of bridging the communication gap, which helps peers in their immediate cohort know who to turn to share or request information.
Use quick, weekly, 10-minute check-ins to avoid hijacking too much time from everyone’s calendar.
Explain how individual contributions impact company-wide success.
Companies that still aren’t convinced can instead take a small step toward more open internal communications by establishing a regular cadence for cross-team reporting. This keeps everyone accountable for helping to achieve common goals. Also, knowing more about what your peers are doing and have accomplished can encourage both CSRs and salespeople to work harder together to ensure the company continues its growth trajectory.
Salespeople are expected to reach their sales quota, but are often highly motivated by larger commission checks. CSRs, on the other hand, do not have the same incentives. This may make it difficult to divert a salesperson’s attention away from activities that put more money in his or her pocket. For CSRs, it can also be hard to convince them to complete tasks outside of their current scope of work if there are no tangible rewards.
Another way to strategically encourage collaboration between your sales and customer service teams is by creating codependent goals and establishing cross-department bonus plans. For something like this to work, management must identify specific areas where the two teams overlap. Those include:
Specifically, sales reps are responsible for engaging customers before their contract expires to secure account renewals. For that same customer, though, CSRs must ensure accurate, effective, and timely service to minimize user churn. One of the leading causes of account closings, especially among software companies, is a customer’s failure to utilize all the products available.
However, the burden here is shared by both CSRs and salespeople. CSRs should remind customers that certain features work better in conjunction with each other. Salespeople must also be clear in communicating the value a customer can receive from regular usage of the platform. CSRs and sales reps can work together as a team to make conscious efforts to cross-sell or upsell customers at every available opportunity to increase that client’s lifetime value to the firm.
Using these metrics as benchmarks for shared success, management can offer all involved parties bonuses if the company manages to reduce customer churn, boost retention, increase platform log-ins and usage, or improve average customer lifetime value.
Among colleagues, it is easy to generalize each other’s work responsibilities.
Janet works in Sales. Joe works in Customer Service.
Coworkers can go years without ever knowing what their peers actually do. Armed with that information, sales reps can collaborate better with their colleagues in customer service, and vice versa. For example, if Janet in Sales knows Joe handles all of the customer service requests for client accounts worth $100,000 or more, Joe would be her go-to person for handling complaints from big-budget customers. Similarly, if Joe in Customer Service knows Janet is in charge of acquiring new business in international markets, he would always turn to her when an overseas prospect sends in a message.
To minimize the confusion about who does what, companies should create and publicize their organizational chart, along with brief descriptions about what everyone does and is in charge of. According to operations and talent specialist Wendy Pat Fong, this chart enables you to: “Map out how work is done, the processes required for the business to perform efficiently, and how information is shared throughout your company.” When a new employee is hired, an existing employee is promoted, or someone switches job functions, those updates should be shared and reflected within the public organizational chart.
To do their jobs effectively, CSRs must master attentiveness, empathy, patience, and persuasion. That also means they already possess qualities that are fundamental in consultative sales. Thus, CSRs are prime candidates for basic sales training. And given their active, customer-facing roles, each rep can be a powerful asset for organizations looking to acquire new customers and grow existing accounts.
Potential customers may send product-related requests or questions to your customer service department. But rather than have your CSRs forward each of those requests to a sales rep, you may train your CSRs to handle the initial outreach and spend time qualifying leads before passing them onto sales.
To more strategically engage customers and drive sales, all CSRs should learn to:
1. Research the customer, and pay special attention to higher-budget accounts
2. Identify each customer’s expressed and latent needs
3. Educate customers about the value of select features or products, as well as how to apply those services to their business
4. Learn how to properly upsell to generate additional revenue
5. Avoid over-promising to align customer expectations with realistic outcomes
With basic sales training, CSRs may become more empathetic toward their peers in sales. There is often a misguided belief among non-sales professionals that selling is as simple as autodialing dozens of prospects every day and smooth talking your way into their wallets. By requiring CSRs to participate in a few of the same sales training courses as their colleagues, CSRs may also develop newfound respect for their co-workers.
Customer service representatives should not operate in a bubble, and neither should salespeople. Instead, each department should invest in the other’s success so that they, too, can reap the rewards of good teamwork. When CSRs shoulder part of the burden in qualifying and nurturing potential customers, salespeople have more time to help their colleagues deliver better customer service. In turn, positive user experiences breed customer evangelists who spread word-of-mouth and drive organic, inbound leads. By facilitating collaboration between customer service and sales teams, companies enhance their overall productivity and see tremendous gains to their bottom line.