Oftentimes, my title may come as a bit of a surprise to people. I’m the Associate Director of Sales and Customer Service at FOH Inc., a designer and manufacturer of commercial-grade solutions for the hospitality industry. It’s not too often you see both sales and service together under one leadership, but it’s a natural fit because of how deeply intertwined these teams should be.
But this isn’t an anomaly or just in our industry. At a time when customers expect every aspect of a transaction to be an aligned experience, we’re seeing this type of integration across the board. So it only makes sense that the full cycle of the relationship — from the initial sale to customer satisfaction — is together under one roof.
When we examine both sales and customer service, we find they have quite a lot in common. To sell effectively, you must be able to listen, communicate, add value, and solve problems. The same goes for servicing customers. You have to be able to hear the customer’s problem, discuss it in an informed and professional way, ask the right questions, and find creative, win/win solutions.
For a moment, think about your own customers’ journeys. While the relationship may certainly begin with sales, how often are your customers interacting with your customer service teams? Whether they’re calling in for a quick question, emailing about an issue, or getting an order processed, your customers experience each of these interactions as an extension and representation of your business. The customer experience consulting firm, Walker, even predicted that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product quality as the key brand differentiator. That’s huge. The longevity of our customer relationships depends on our creating a consistent journey for them. Further, all members of our customer-facing teams have to be on board and aligned.
At FOH, we make sure both our inside sales and customer service teams start on the same page. New team members on both teams receive the same onboarding; many of the ongoing trainings we offer overlap. Of course, some are very different and specific to what each team produces, but we’ve found that so many of these skills are interchangeable and necessary for all of them to excel. All team members are expected to understand our wide array of product solutions. All team members should understand how our order processing works. And all team members should be equipped to navigate challenging conversations. Our goal is that both the sales and customer service reps are set up for success with that common denominator of foundational skills.
At the same time, a culture needs to be built in which sales and customer service realize how symbiotic their relationship is and how much they need to rely and lean on each other. In our department, we begin each day with a team check-in. Everybody sits around the table and discusses what’s on their plate.What are some of the challenges we’re hoping to tackle? And, most importantly, how we can support each other? We ask questions, we dig in, we teach, and we learn. Certainly there are a lot of differences, but we also discover the similarities. It’s pretty amazing to see the aha moments when sales team members begin to understand concepts outside of their scope of responsibilities and vice versa.
In the end, the true testament to successfully integrating sales and customer service teams together is a commitment to connection. More importantly, though, it’s a commitment to our business partners. When every member of our organization is aligned and in sync, our customers can tell. And as a company that is obsessed with connecting to our customers, we understand it starts with cultivating those relationships within our department first. That’s when the magic happens. A seamless flow forms, allowing all teams to service and support customers with what they need in the most valuable way possible. Sales and service: different paths, same destination — happy customers.