Customer feedback is invaluable at each stage of business development for every department. Product managers can use data to plan new features or evaluate the success of recent releases. Developers and engineers can observe customer use cases to understand how users interact with their product or service. Sales teams can understand the driving forces behind purchase decisions and the results of their hard work.
In fact, customer feedback is so invaluable that many tech companies require each of their employees to dedicate part of his or her time to support. At companies such as Basecamp, Slack and Automattic (of WordPress.com), every new employee starts in customer service, no matter his or her role. Others, such as Olark, schedule time for each employee to interact with customers on a weekly basis.
While the extent and feasibility of “all-hands” customer support may vary based on organizational structure, there are valuable lessons to be learned from customer-centric companies, especially for teams in sales or marketing.
Building the Customer Relationship
The abundance of choice in our globally connected economy has made customer loyalty even more important for sales revenue. Sales or marketing leaders often view the user experience as a means to an end. Everything from the company’s online presence to the environment in its stores is carefully constructed to be a branded, unique and pleasant experience that leads to conversion or sales.
However, the sum total of those experiences defines the customer relationship. And while the sales team may introduce customers to your brand, both the support team and the marketing team are responsible for loyalty growth and customer retention tactics. It costs nearly five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Companies are focused on brand reputation and promise, and your service representatives nurture the relationship your sales team establishes.
The scope of support is expanding as our focus shifts toward customer relationships over individual sales. You can see the combination of sales, marketing and service working together for customer retention in the form of community management through Facebook pages, online forums, in-person meetups and workshops, T-shirts and stickers, and livestreams. In community management, the customer relationship is not built solely between the brand and the consumer. Rather, the brand creates an environment where people with similar interests and experiences can grow together.
Creating Opportunities For Collaboration
One of the easiest ways to strengthen the sales-service relationship is to start during the onboarding process. Service hours during onboarding or as a regularly scheduled event can provide a valuable experience for sales staff. It creates an opportunity to evaluate and improve written communication and soft skills. It also increases empathy for each customer persona and provides salespeople with an opportunity to interact with dozens of customers on a first-name basis.
Consider short training workshops with both departments to review sales and marketing initiatives and address pain points. Customer feedback and satisfaction ratings from your support team can provide invaluable insights into the buyer journey. Because support representatives are in a unique position to cross-sell or upsell services, sales training for your support team can be a great way to increase revenue and provide value to your customers – without hiring additional staff.
Cross-training also strengthens internal communication and builds a team spirit across departments. It encourages an intuitive understanding of the company, its customers, and the product or service it offers. And while it doesn’t have to take much time – monthly or quarterly meetings of one hour or less – collaboration needs to be a normative part of company culture.
Be Data-Informed, Not Data-Driven
It’s too easy to turn marketing and sales into a numbers competition, but numbers don’t drive growth. Success stories and amazing user experiences drive revenue. And that requires teamwork among marketing, sales and service departments. Fortunately, modern tools for sales and support are making it easier to bridge the gap and offer a seamless user experience.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software and satisfaction surveys can quantify and track major milestones in customer relationships. Far more advanced than your grandfather’s Rolodex, CRM systems can be industry-, product- or service-specific and encourage proactive relationship management. Imagine visiting your car dealership to find your mechanic is already aware of any mechanical issues and ready to service – and return – your vehicle within the day.
The Bottom Line
Providing customer feedback for your sales team and encouraging training for your support staff places customer needs at the forefront of your organization. For your company, this strategy can reduce churn, increase brand loyalty, provide more opportunities for additional sales revenue and encourage a spirit of collaboration across departments. For your customers, it creates a seamless tapestry of user experiences to build a relationship that lasts.