Service and Sales in 2017 – the customer at the center.

Remember when customer service was viewed as a cost item? It’s certainly never been given a seat at the revenue table or considered a growth – not significantly, anyhow. Well, until now.

Your customer service team doesn’t just solve problems anymore. If you still think of service as an irate customer dialing a hotline, and being soothed by a representative trained to read from a data sheet, you should know that the depth and goals of customer service have grown way beyond that.

Here’s what advanced customer service looks like now: a prime channel for fostering 1:1 conversations and a doorway to new opportunities. Instead of focusing on resolving temporary complaints or requests, this department aims to develop a connection that deepens the customer relationship. And one tool they use to do that are the valuable insights harvested by your CRM (like Salesforce).

Another important aspect: making customer service an organization-wide initiative. Customer-centric devotion isn’t just for public-facing employees, as Salesforce lays out in this great infographic:

75 percent of customers have spent more because of positive interactions.

Service isn’t just obligatory – it’s a living, breathing, reliable benefit. Being pleasant and positive when greeting customers isn’t enough. Creating a good customer experience, where your buyers feel heard and appreciated, really does encourage them to buy again, buy more, and maintain a relationship with your company. Service takes what could be a one-time transaction and transforms it into an ongoing relationship – when the service is good, that is.

81 percent say negative things about you after they call….

Yikes. But let’s be honest – we all know customer service teams don’t always do right by their customers. I know I’ve hung up the phone and muttered a few choice words after failing to get the answers and assistance I needed. And a few times I’ve been dissatisfied enough to tell someone bluntly, I wouldn’t buy from that company. Stay away.

A broken promise, a disappointing product, sloppy service, a disdainful attitude: any of these can not only rupture customer loyalty, but spark a spreading wave of negativity toward the brand.

…. And 82 percent say companies could have done more to prevent them from switching brands.

Think about this one for a moment. The customers are saying that. And most of them aren’t even trained in the many marketing and sales techniques smart teams use to deepen customer loyalty. But they still walked away feel neglected, and thinking about what companies could have done to win their loyalty and future sales. Think about all the ways you know to create brand affinity and make sure you’re investing in the right ones.

More negative news: 62 percent have had to contact a company multiple times to resolve an issue. And 56% have had to explain their issue more than once.

This might strike you as the fault of inept customer service reps. No doubt, that’s probably the case in many instances. But it’s also clear that CRM data plays a role here. What kind of interaction would customers have if they spoke to a rep who had access to their past purchases, their preferences, their needs? Probably a whole lot of explanations would vanish, because there would be a stronger understanding of what the customer needs and why it matters to them.

You might still be wondering what role the sales team plays in this. Well, here are a few reasons that connecting the customer service and sales departments matters.

70 percent of leaders said having a single view of customers led to cost savings.

85 percent said the lack of a single view led to business problems – and 18 percent said they were missing out on vital cross-selling and up-selling opportunities as a result.

In our world, we’re always talking about unity and alignment. Linking sales and customer service is good for both departments, because they build the positive affinity that drives revenue. It’s just another argument for giving your people the tools they need to succeed with the aim of giving your customers a great experience.

From Apathy to Passion: Fostering Competitors

A little healthy competition never hurt anyone, right?

In fact, according to Teach for All co-founder and CEO Wendy Kopp in a Wall Street Journal article, competition might be the perfect catalyst for high sales team performance. Kopp cites competition as the reason for the innovation during the world’s space race. Just a decade before the United States landed on the moon, the whole endeavor felt like the plot of a science fiction novel. Humans walking on the moon? Absurd.

Then we started competing with Russia and well, suddenly there was innovation happening. There were breakthroughs, quantum leaps in space travel possibilities. And then one day Buzz Armstrong made human history with one small step that was a giant step for mankind.

Competition in the workplace isn’t always about negative rivalries. Healthy competition can push employees out of apathy and encourage them to stretch their limits. Mundane daily routines can take on new meaning as coworkers accomplish significant milestones. Sometimes all it takes to bust someone out of a slump is watching a peer’s achievement. Employees may say they just want a paycheck – but everyone wants to feel capable and valued, like they’ve done something meaningful. Professional competition holds out that possibility to employees by encouraging ingenuity and confidence in their abilities.

Of course, competition can be a nuanced thing. No team wants two employees who want to see the other fail. Healthy competition takes the long view and prioritizes teamwork and shared goals, rather than achievement at the expense of another.

To foster this kind of competition among your sales team without negative repercussions, take these 4 steps.

1. Give credit where it’s due.

Only one kind of person likes feeling invisible at work – an underperformer. Create a dashboard that updates daily and quarterly progresses for all your reps, and puts out individual successes for all to see. As they see their colleagues succeeding, you can believe they’ll feel motivated to make those extra calls.

2. Focus on individual improvement.

Every sales rep gets dealt a different hand of cards. To keep jealousy and resentment from raising their destructive heads, make it clear that the ultimate goal is for each rep to beat their personal best. You’ll keep morale high and foster collaboration and even coaching between associates.

3. Partner up.

Some companies have seen major success by pairing a new hire with a tenured employee during competition. It allows the new hires to navigate difficult calls with someone who’s done their time in the trenches while giving seasoned sales reps a set of fresh eyes to look through. Meanwhile both parties sharpen their skills and encourage each other in the competition.

4. Celebrate the wins.

If you know sales reps, you know they love recognition. Make sure you reinforce the behaviors that spark top-notch performance; not only will you encourage representatives to keep up the good work, you’ll motivate other reps to join them. Whether you’re duplicating winning plays or pointing out smart tactics, these celebrations build consistency across the team and take collective performance to a higher level.

Every sales leader’s dream is a team that supports each other. Foster healthy competition and you can find yourself with a team that brings you tighter camaraderie and more closed deals.

Cleaning Up Your Salesforce Data

In 2016, every leader worth their salt knows the value of their data. This is especially true for teams using Salesforce. Without the data spotlight, you won’t have any idea who your top performers are, how to wisely invest your resources or where you’ve been wasting budget all along.

But not all data is created equal – in fact, some data is downright harmful. If your systems are full of outdated information, duplicate fields, conflicting indicators and poor quality data, you’re not going to make smart decisions. You’re going to be led astray.

Charting a course using data is kind of like following a sherpa up a perilous mountain. Follow a top-notch sherpa and you’ll dodge the dangerous spots and get to the top to plant your flag. But if you follow a confused amateur who isn’t sure where they’re going… Well, that doesn’t bode well for your success.

Let’s just say it: weak data means weak results. It means chasing down “opportunities” in your sales funnel that are actually dead ends. It assigning unachievable sales quotas, and collecting quarter-end metrics that are way off base. It means sharing reports with C-suite leaders and realizing later the information is inaccurate. It means migrating bad data from legacy systems into your new systems, and continuing the chaos.

The only way to avoid these disasters? Making sure your account, lead, contact and customer data is clean, accurate and complete.

Easier said than done, you might be thinking. So here are 3 steps to keep your data quality top notch.

#1: Evaluate your current data quality.You may be reluctant to find out just what state your Salesforce data is in – but you have to know where you’re starting from before you can make improvements.

You can make this step easier on yourself by using a tool that delivers a visual representation of your data quality. The good ones offer a data assessment that helps you analyze your account, contact, and lead records. You can even talk to a certified experts to learn best practices for improving data quality.

Another valuable tool: software that can clean up your duplicate records. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on identifying and resolving your dupes, these tools can provide specific features that prevent redundancies before they happen.

#2: Build your own dashboards with the metrics that matter to you.A good dashboard can make all the difference in data management. Instead of sifting through piles of reports to assess your overall sales health or changes in your customer base, you can glance at your dashboard and get the right information in seconds – and you can convey the same information in meetings to clear up misunderstandings and document your successes.

So here’s the million dollar question: which metrics matter?

Marketing teams need to look at the pipeline and their top revenue-generating campaigns, of course. They’ll also want to look at campaign success by region and leads by source and campaign. Sales pros, on the other hands, are going to be interested in win/loss rates, time to close and the opportunity pipeline. They’ll also need to see activities broken down by each sales rep and a forecast for those reps by stage.

Your service teams will have yet another set of data to prioritize. What’s the volume of high severity cases? What’s the case volume trend and the top customers by open case? And finally – what’s the time to case resolution?

# 3. Go multi-dimensional with your data.If your company is typical, you likely collect data from a few reliable sources, such as past transactions and online interactions. The problem? That’s not going to give you a full view of your customer – not really. That’s why the latest predictive analytics tools are so helpful; by using data from multiple in-house and third-party sources, then integrating those data sets, they create cohesive customer profiles.

Yesterday’s sales teams were limited in the data they collected and how they used it. Today there are tools that reveal inter-company relationships, hierarchical affiliations, product usage and much more, empowering you to act on richer and more accurate insights that spell out the actions needed to go to the next level.

Like engine fuel, data drives your company farther when it’s clean and powerful. Take the time to eliminate your duplicate and incomplete records and ensure that your strategies and investments are based only on the cleanest, fullest data sets possible. You’ll know the right sales and marketing priorities to act on – and strengthen your best accounts.