How to Achieve Stellar Alignment Between Marketing & Customer Support

    by Anum Hussain

    Date

    September 5, 2012 at 9:00 AM

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    The prospect-to-lead-to-customer process is a fairly simple concept to understand. In a very basic summary, Marketing's role is in attracting and converting prospects into leads. Then they nurture those leads into a state of sales readiness, at which point they're distributed to sales representatives who focus on converting those leads into customers.

    Your salespeople likely give these brand new customers a warm, fuzzy feeling that they're investing their money wisely. But even top-notch products and services can get confusing, and sometimes your customers encounter unforeseen issues.

    So what do they do? They call Customer Service or Support. Ah yes ... Support.

    As much as we hate to admit it, many companies' customer service/support reps are often an afterthought, even though these are the people who resolve customer issues and make everything okay again. Even though these are the people who often bear the brunt of those extremely vexed customers. And even though these are the people who are often times the last voice or interaction a customer has with your brand.

    After all, you want to ensure your brand advocates remain loyal and continue to love everything about your business, don't you? You want that warm and fuzzy feeling your customers had when they were just prospects to carry on throughout their experiences as customers, right? Right. So as a marketer, here are some things you should keep in mind to ensure your customers' experiences stay positive from their beginning as marketing prospects all the way through to their dealings with Support.

    1) Keep Your Marketing & Support Strategy Aligned

    Don't you love when you're apartment or house hunting, and you find the right realtor who is there to guide you and help you make the right choice? She tells you about all the amenities of your potential new home and convinces you that the deal is just too good to pass up. Then you sign the dotted line, and BAM! The realtor no longer cares about you -- her job is done. And as it turns out, those amenities will cost you extra, and you were totally ripped off. That's sort of how your customers feel when they go from being treated like a special gem in the sales cycle to suddenly being neglected on a support call.

    bad customer service cartoonIf your marketing and sales strategy includes bending over backwards to make your prospects and leads happy, your support strategy should, too.

    Example: I was once the victim of a major domain hosting issue. The hosting company's website had no support line, no immediate help, and the email back-and-forth between me and their rep was a complete waste of time. So I called GoDaddy. Even though this specific domain wasn't hosted with GoDaddy, the rep spent 40 minutes ensuring my problem was solved just because I was a customer with them on another account. As a result, I transferred everything to GoDaddy and have become a huge brand advocate because I know that whenever I need help, GoDaddy's support team will explain it in a language I understand and hold my hand as I complete the entire task.

    Solution: Fortunately, the answer to this disconnect between departments is simple -- be consistent! Sit down with your company's support team manager and explain what your main marketing pitch sounds like. Describe to what extent the marketing team goes in their efforts to make prospects and leads happy and how you communicate with prospects across your various marketing platforms. This way, the support manager can digest this information and share it with the rest of the team so support reps can treat their phone calls and communication with customers with the same amount of respect and attentiveness they're used to from Marketing.

    2) Keep Your Support Team in the Loop With Marketing Plans

    If your marketing team is about to announce an upcoming event or make a brand new product launch, your support team needs to know. Whenever your marketing team is finalizing plans for a new announcement or promotion, it's crucial to keep your support department in the loop. The phone number for your support or customer service team is often the go-to for website visitors looking to chat with someone at your company (even if they're not even customers), so it's crucial that your support reps are in the know about all the happenings in Marketing. Failing to do so can undermine your business' professionalism and irritate prospects and customers.

    Example: My roommate once called our cable company after seeing a new pricing promotion commercial. When she asked the support rep about getting the deal, the rep had no knowledge of the promotion or that such a deal was even available. Let's just say my roommate's interaction with Support wasn't exactly a positive one.

    Solution: Whether it requires an hour-long training session to ensure the support department knows what changes are on the horizon that will then impact the phone calls they receive, or  it's simply a periodic email message that thoroughly explains upcoming changes or promotions, your support team needs to know everything. To ensure they're digesting the information, speak with your support managers and encourage them to implement a system that holds each support rep responsible for staying up-to-date with the latest marketing and product news.

    At HubSpot, we host a monthly "Prustomer" (Product + Customer = Prustomer!) meeting. This meeting is attended by the people who make the product and the people who work with our customers. In addition, a marketing representative attends this meeting to inform everyone about the latest marketing updates the customer team should be aware of. Implementing a meeting like this is a great way to keep everyone aware of the latest marketing initiatives and how to communicate them effectively.

    3) Maintain a Consistent Tone

    At first, your prospects are attracted to your friendly and informational personality -- because you're such an awesome inbound marketer! They eventually convert into leads and customers because they recognize the need your content and products/services fulfill, and they're pleased with the end result of using them. You don't want this positive brand image to deteriorate because they spoke on the phone with a cranky or unhelpful support rep with a "figure it out" attitude.

    Having a negative view of a brand post-support phone call is not uncommon -- despite the common stereotype that talking to Support is a miserable experience. You should want your support reps to replicate the tone your customers are already used to from your marketing and sales processes.

    Example: At HubSpot, our marketing team decided to make "HubSpotting" a verb. We launched case studies about why people love HubSpotting and even had a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #HubSpotting. We very clearly communicated that idea to everyone who had anything to do with HubSpot. Now, when a HubSpot customer calls a support rep, his/her phone call concludes with something along the lines of, "Is there anything else I can help with while you're HubSpotting today?" Or if a support rep sends an email, their signature includes, "Thank you, and happy HubSpotting!"

    hubspot support

    Solution: Make tone consistency a priority not only for your marketing team, but also for your support team. Whether you communicate this in a written style guide or through a company-wide presentation, make sure everyone at your company understands the desired tone of your brand and uses it throughout their communications. In addition, think of ways to integrate that tone, which you'll primarily use in your marketing campaigns, with your support strategy. Is there a campaign you're running that particularly shows off the personality and tone of your brand? Can you incorporate it into your support communication in a way that emphasizes a cohesive brand message, as HubSpot has done with its #HubSpotting campaign?

    4) Assign a 'Phone a Friend' in Each Department

    When Twitter first became popular for business, the marketing industry began talking about it as a customer service tool. That idea has been weaved through every social network in existence. In fact, a recent E-DIALOG survey revealed that 22% of Americans and 40% of Europeans interact with a brand on Facebook only to resolve customer service problems. The problem is, your social media manager isn't necessarily the know-it-all for all product and service issues!

    Example: My internet service provider once kept me on hold for 40 minutes. Naturally, I went to Twitter and started complaining. The person responsible for the brand's social media account responded and asked me if she wanted to get me in touch with a support rep to resolve my issue. While it was nice of her to reach out, clearly she didn't realize I had already  been on hold for a customer service rep, and her offer was moot.

    Solution: Ask your support team to volunteer one or two reps who would be willing to respond to customer service inquiries in social media. No support representative will likely have the bandwidth to regularly troll your social media messages for support-related questions, but you can set up a system in which your social media manager has a couple support reps to contact when he/she spots a support question in social media. That way, the right person is responding with the right answer! And this stands true for the opposite direction. Sometimes your support reps are asked marketing questions on the phone and need a fast answer. Have someone in Marketing who they can contact for quick, accurate assistance.

    5) Allow Employees to Experience Both Departments

    So what makes all the aforementioned alignment between Marketing and Support actually happen? What is the overarching theme? In essence, there is not enough communication and understanding between Support and Marketing. Your support team should understand why Marketing does what it does, while Marketing should understand how Support does its job. And every example provided in the four previous tips highlight this very issue.

    Example: I was recently given the opportunity to simultaneously work on HubSpot's support team part-time and on our marketing team part-time. This allowed me to see exactly how our support team deals with our customers and how they meet their every demand. It was eye-opening to see how many marketing-related questions these reps often have to deal with and how crucial a support team is to growing and improving HubSpot's products.

    Solution: There are various ways you can integrate these two teams and improve the communication and synergy between them. Be open to switching around employees in order to strengthen their knowledge of the company and individual departments. If you ever host hack nights or similar events, invite your support team to join. During our last marketing hack night, a support rep came and helped create and implement an entire marketing plan from ebook creation to email execution. She now has a much clearer understanding of how a marketing campaign is laid out. Similarly, ask your marketing managers to sit in on support calls so they have a better understanding of the types of questions prospects and customers ask. It might even give them some content inspiration. In fact, it was because of my own experiences on HubSpot's support team that I was motivated to write this very blog post!

    Do you have any additional tips for integrating your marketing and support teams?

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