Nowadays, businesses face greater challenges than ever to keep customers happy.
It's easier and more affordable than ever to start a new business, a variety of different subscription and payment options make it easier to start using or switch to using new products, and with a vast audience of social media followers available at their fingertips, your customers have power and control over what the internet thinks about your brand -- good or bad.
And with so many different options available today, the slightest disruption in the service they receive from your company can send customers sprinting for the door to one of your competitors.
Whether that disruption comes in the form of selling to a bad-fit customer, or failing to meet expectations once a customer has been closed, if customers don't think you're living up to your end of the bargain, it's quick and easy for them to find a better solution.
And customers have much higher expectations than ever of the teams helping them: They don't want to sit through ads, they want you to serve them up the information they need. They don't want to be sold to, they want helpful suggestions. They don't want to have to call a customer service phone number and wait on hold, they want to connect with a support rep instantly via live chat. So, with the compounded risk of customers churning in favor of more affordable competitors or due to missed expectations, it's more important than ever for before sales and customer service to work together to achieve better alignment and communication in their shared missions to acquire and retain customers.
In this blog post, we'll review the ways sales and customer service teams need to align -- and which team is responsible for which part of that alignment.
Sales and Customer Service
When working together, sales and customer service teams create a more comfortable, user-friendly buying experience. Sales teams help customers find products and services and customer service ensures their interactions with the business remain positive over time. This creates long-term customer satisfaction and generates word-of-mouth referrals for potential leads.
Sales and customer service should help each other in a variety of ways. After all, these two departments spend more time working with customers than anyone else at your business. Since they maintain a personal connection with your customer base each possesses valuable insights that can assist the other. By sharing information between the two departments, your company will create a more enjoyable customer experience.
Below are a few examples we’ve put together to demonstrate how sales and customer service teams can work together.
6 Examples of Effective Sales and Customer Service Alignment
1. Salespeople should invest in customer relationships.
Gone are the days when salespeople could close a deal and never speak to the customer again.
Today's salespeople should start the relationship -- and continue it throughout the course of the customer's time working with their company.
That doesn't mean the customer service rep or customer success manager (CSM) won't still be the point person in charge of solving customer problems and helping guide them toward using your product or service most effectively to achieve their goals. It just means the salesperson should keep building a relationship with them, too. Not to achieve anything transactional or squeeze more sales out of the customer -- but to build another touchpoint between your customer and your brand, without asking for something in return.
Loyal customers are happy customers who, in addition to liking your product or service, also love your brand. In fact, Harvard Business Review research found that customers with an emotional connection to a brand were twice as likely to be loyal customers than just customers who were satisfied with the product and service they'd received.
Salespeople should continue to maintain a relationship with customers to better align and communicate with their customer service colleagues, but also just to be a nice person your customer loves hearing from and connecting with on social media. These customers will share your content, be more malleable and understanding when it comes to product issues or pricing changes, and they'll recommend you to their family and friends.
2. Customer service should know the sales process.
If you encountered any resistance over the course of the sales process that you think could impact the future relationship between a customer and your counterpart on the customer service team, let the customer service rep know as soon as possible so there aren't any future surprises.
Expectations should be properly set by both the salesperson and the customer service rep. But if the salesperson has concerns that a customer might back out of the deal, or that pricing changes might be a huge roadblock that will risk the customer churning, the sooner the customer service rep is made aware, the sooner they can address misaligned expectations to salvage the relationship.
Before and after the sales to service handoff, the salesperson and the customer service rep should communicate to ensure both parties are on the same page and sharing best practices for managing what could be a tough customer relationship.
3. Customer service should exchange customer data.
Proper documentation of the ongoing relationship is critical for both the sales and the customer service teams. Salespeople should have visibility into ongoing interactions with customer service in order to gauge when to reach out and the likelihood of a customer churning or renewing their subscription.
Customer service reps, meanwhile, should document their interactions with customers to help them keep track of the different conversations and emails taking place over the course of their day, and in order to make it transparent across their team in case they need to collaborate with other specialists to solve customer issues.
(Technology is key here to making this happen. HubSpot has free CRM and shared inbox tools that make it easy for multiple people across teams to document and share information about different customer relationships and communications across channels.)
4. Service reps should identify opportunities to upsell and cross-sell.
Because customer service reps will communicate with customers more frequently and spend more time analyzing their activities using a product or service once they've closed, they will be the ideal person to identify opportunities to upsell and cross-sell new products and features to them.
It's important to choose the right opportunity to offer an upsell or cross-sell so salespeople don't come across as pushy -- instead, these offers should be perceived by the customer as helpful and relevant to them. Customer service reps can help identify key moments in the customer lifecycle to offer an upsell, or point out behaviors or actions customer are taking that suggest they're ready to invest more resources in a solution better-suited to their needs. Then, they can give their colleague in sales a heads up to close the deal.
5. Customer service reps should provide feedback.
If there were any missed expectations the customer service rep encounters further along in the relationship, or if they notice trends among new customers that they encounter an obstacle after a certain period of use, they can share that feedback with salespeople to help them improve their positioning during the sales process. This regular feedback is key to ensuring that sales and customer service teams are working toward the same goal, and that salespeople aren't closing bad-fit customers that end up churning a few months later.
As HubSpot Service Hub General Manager Michael Redbord puts it in Inbound Organization, "The goal is to align the promise of value, made during the earlier stages of the buyer's journey, with the achievement of success by the buyer once the customer success journey begins. The promise of value must align with what the inbound service and success teams manage, so the buyer's expectations are met."
6. Customer service should generate customer referrals.
Once customer service reps have been working with customers over a period of time, they can identify potential candidates for brand evangelism. Those happy customers who are invested in your product or service and who love working with you are great candidates to help you grow your business even further by writing reviews and testimonials, serving as case studies, or connecting you with referrals.
By building a strong relationship with a customer and helping them to achieve success, customer service reps can build credibility they can use to ask them for help in return. These customer evangelism activities can bring in highly qualified, warm leads to your sales team that are completely free to generate, and these customers are more likely to remain loyal to your brand, purchase more frequently, and spend more than others.
7. Customer service should share customer stories.
When you have great customer service, customer interactions are often very memorable. Sales teams use testimonials like these to improve your brand’s credibility and advertise the effectiveness of your customer service team.
For example, the shoe-delivery brand, Zappos, uses recorded customer support calls for its advertising. Take a look at one example in the video below.
This sales pitch provides two benefits for the business. First, it visualizes a real Zappo’s support interaction for the customer. They can see how existing customers engage with the business and what their experiences are like.
The other benefit is that it establishes a brand voice. This ad is light-hearted and comical, values that the company’s target audience can easily identify and align with. This sets the tone for sales interactions as salespeople know how to approach an ideal customer.
8. Sales should work regularly with customer success.
Customer success is a proactive function of customer service. It looks for ways to remove roadblocks before customers encounter them. Salespeople should regularly check in with this branch of your customer service team to identify timely opportunities to upsell.
One area where this particularly relevant is during onboarding. If a new customer purchases a basic version of your product but really needs a premium subscription, then customer success can ping sales to notify them about the upgrade. This helps your team capitalize on a potential sale while still maintaining a customer-first approach.
To learn more about how to align teams within an inbound organization to achieve massive growth, pick up a copy of Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company's Future Using Inbound Principles now.
Want more ideas for effective sales and customer service alignment? Read about optimizing the sales to service handoff process next.
Originally published Sep 5, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated June 15 2021