Customer Service

Stop Failing Your Customers: Customer Success Platform

Pick 10 businesses at random and you’ll find wide differences in size, industry, customer base and more. Chances are, though, they all share this trait: they’re organized by three key functions of marketing, sales and customer service.

From a big picture standpoint, these three teams work together like a funnel, which is why you’ll find them across organizations. Marketing creates interest and leads for the company and passes them onto sales. The sales team converts the leads into deals and sends the customers on their way. The service team assists with onboarding, troubleshooting and support.

In theory, these three teams present a unified experience to the customer – the same attitude, the same tone in approach. From marketing emails to a sales negotiation to a customer support call, the buyer recognizes the feeling of dealing with this company, and every touchpoint builds on the last one.

In practice: not so much. There can be real problems with this structure. In many businesses, these teams don’t talk to each other – not meaningfully. Marketing campaigns and sales outreach have wildly different tones. Customer service seems like it comes from another company altogether.

And don’t think the customer doesn’t pick up on it. Communication gaps between departments that feel natural in the workplace will feel painfully obvious to customers. That used to be the status quo – but these days customers are demanding more. They want to see more transparency, stronger service and a deeper understanding of their needs.

A Tale of Two Companies

Here’s a great example: your typical cell phone service provider. New customers are constantly marketed to with new deals and lower prices. Existing customers, however, are typically given the option of paying full price for an upgraded phone or waiting until their 2-year contract is up. What kind of deal is that? A stranger is told they’re valued and important; customers who’ve been loyal to provider for years are told they don’t matter. Sales and marketing are not connecting on this issue.

Then you have retailers like department store Nordstrom where every associate is devoted to customer satisfaction. From loyalty programs, in-store support and hassle-free returns, the shopping experience is designed to make the customer feel important. That’s an experience where marketing, sales and customer support have aligned; and it’s why Nordstrom has rated highly as a shopper’s paradise for decades.

To be fair, it’s also why consumers are expecting more from other businesses. Once they get a taste of customer service done right, they just won’t tolerate businesses that clearly operate in silos.

This isn’t new information, by the way. Business gurus have been pointing this out for a few years now. But companies – especially the enterprise – have been slow to adapt to changing demands.

If this sounds familiar, you’ll be glad to hear that Salesforce has created Customer Success Platform, a new feature designed to put the customer at the center of every interaction. Using this technology, service representatives can enjoy full visibility into the customer’s history with marketing and sales. With an immediate understanding of an individual customer’s experience, it dissolves typical barriers and empowers all three teams to approach the customer from a supportive, informed stance. That disjointed feeling of dealing with different companies within one company just melts away.

In sales, we talk a lot about a 360-degree view of the customer, but this technology actually offers it up. What that means for the companies who use it: meaningful engagements, deeper brand affinity, better sales. What it means for the companies who don’t: nothing good.

Take a look. And see if your organization can benefit.

5 Secrets of Killer Customer Service

Leaders love to talk about excellent customer service. Why wouldn’t they? If they’re up to speed on their sales wisdom, they know that buyers are more than 5 times more likely to purchase from a company that has treated them exceptionally well – so it’s a no-brainer to make service a top priority.

But making that excellent service happen? That’s a bit brainier, as it turns out. Some leaders think they just need to hire sales reps and customer support with the magic touch. Give them some training, some good tools, and it’s off to the races.

In fact, superior customer experiences involves the entire organization – and some practices that aren’t always immediately obvious.

Every good sales team should be obsessive about the buyer. That’s obvious. But going beyond that and coaching the rest of the business to be customer-centric demands more than that – and it starts with buy-in.

Let’s go over 5 core principles to fill your company with customer advocates.

1. Give the gift of time

How do you make a customer feel acknowledged and prioritized? You spend time with them. And the easiest way to allow your representatives to spend quality time with their buyers is to take away as many tedious tasks as possible.

Your team is probably (hopefully?) already using CRM tools like Salesforce, helping them to be as productive and efficient as possible. They’ll get insight into customer behavior so they know which opportunities to pursue and which upsells might be attractive to specific customers. That means CRM delivers a twofold benefit – the efficiency that lets your staff spend more time with customers, and the knowledge to make that time count.

2. Use incentives intelligently

Research shows that incentives work across the board to motivate employees. Invest in an incentives program for your employees who demonstrate excellent customer care and you’re using the company’s resources wisely.

Or are you? It turns out incentives work best under some circumstances, and can fail under others. For instance, non-monetary recognition and awards can be meaningful, especially to Millennials, when it comes to inspiring superior performance. Another tactic that works: make it easy for your employees to track their progress through a incentive compensation management (ICM) solution. They’ll stay more engaged if they can get involved in the system.

A word of warning here. Be sure to deliver the incentives in a timely way. If your people need to work all year toward one annual incentive, they’ll probably lose interest. It just won’t feel connected to their day to day performance. Smaller quarterly incentives will feel more accessible and do more to boost morale.

3. Create paths of excellence

Chances are, you once worked for a company where a leader gathered everyone together, gave a rousing speech on how they could all do better and then turned them loose – with all the same barriers in place as before.

Sure, words are great. But after you craft your customer-centric message, you need to validate it through daily actions. How can you set up your staff for success? Automated processes are one easy answer. Personalized, targeted sales and marketing tools are another.

Take a look at who’s delivering great service and who’s not. Maybe some team members just need an assist. Put customer response conduits in place across multiple channels, such as online chat, help desk, email, social media engagement, and even the phone. You want your customers to feel supported and heard, but you also want team members in every position to have the opportunity to shine.

4. Look into the future

Giving the customer what they want is great. Giving them what they didn’t know they wanted? Even better… for both of you.

Sure, your CRM will tell you the behaviors, goals and needs of your customers. But as a customer-obsessed leader, you need to imagine where they’re going. Maybe no one thought to ask for a phone that could also be a computer and a television all in one, but now that Steve Jobs delivered one, we use it every day.

You don’t have to be a solo visionary. Tap your staff for ideas. Work those creative muscles and invent new ways to happily surprise your buyers. That’s customer centricity in a nutshell.

5. Shift the focus from company values to customer values

So many businesses invest in documenting these two things: coaching and training programs, and customer values. Yet oddly enough, they never put the two together. Educate all new employees on your buyers: who they are, what they want and what matters to them. Yes, this applies even if the employees don’t have customer-facing jobs. All of your staff should be clear on their purpose: pleasing those customers and how they can do it. Embed this into your training refresher programs and your onboarding process.

I really believe that employees want to provide excellent customer service. Show them the way and your customers will feel the difference.