360-Degree View Promises
Do all the external-facing departments in your company see the world through your customer's eyes? All customer touch-points, including marketing, sales, customer service, technical support and accounts receivables, should be integrated with each other.
No matter whom your customers connect with in your company, their experience must be consistent, clear and coordinated. An integrated "360-degree" view of your customer ensures that promise and delivery are in sync.
Three elements of a company propel its business: marketing, sales and customer service. Most companies know, theoretically, that these three elements need to work together effectively to produce steady sales, revenue growth and happy customers.
Frequently, however, there are aspects of human nature, such as seniority, ego, and incentive programs, which interfere with these elements, preventing them from performing together at peak opportunity. The ability to identify, address and resolve these issues goes a long way towards building a loyal customer base that keeps coming back.
Marketing: The Introduction and the Promise
A business' marketing materials frequently serve as its "letter of introduction" to prospects. Brochures, direct-mail pieces, product sheets, newsletters, advertisements, Web sites - all of these introduce prospective customers to your business' offerings, or inform current customers of additional offerings that may be of interest.
But it's equally important that these materials also feed the internal knowledge of the sales and customer service staff. Therefore, it is imperative that information put forth in these materials be clear, concise, accurate and, most significantly, focused on what is important to the customer.
Send these materials to your internal people before you send them outside. As obvious as that sounds, it's amazing how many customer-service, sales and even operations people never see customer-communications materials before the customer. That dropped step leaves staff unprepared for customer questions, comments and expectations - and often makes the customer the first bearer of bad news.
Sales: The Listener and the Relationship-Builder
A sales representative is a business's ambassador to its customers and prospects. Since strong relationships are built on trust, a firm's sales reps must possess a keen understanding of the breadth, depth and scope of their company's offerings.
While sales reps are usually compensated based upon the number of sales they make, their relationships with customers should be based on integrity and honesty, as these will produce a much longer "shelf-life" for the business, bearing more repeated rewards over time than a quick sale based on sketchy details.
To achieve this, it is crucial that the salesperson's articulation of the company's offerings be identical to the information and offers in the marketing pieces. This way, the printed message reinforces, and is reinforced by, the verbal messages. Connecting the two is how trust is built.
Customer Service: The Promise-Keeper
The third element of the equation is to ensure that the customer-service team is singing the same song as the sales and marketing teams.
If your customer digests your marketing materials, then shakes hands on a deal with your salesperson, and then calls for service or clarification and gets a different message, you have disconnected your organization from that customer's expectations.
Even if the same message is delivered, but in different words, the result could be customer frustration. It is fundamental to your business' success that post-sale communication underscores those ideas that prompted your customer to buy in the first place.
Never underestimate the importance of the comfort of the customer with his or her buying decision, post-sale, as it is vital to a long-term relationship. A well-trained, well-informed customer service team can cement that relationship for your business.
The Same Page
Problems arise in businesses when these three elements harbor different understandings, or different messages, or different approaches.
Your marketing reps may be trying to tout an aspect of a product or service which, to them, seems fresh and revolutionary, while sales sees the customer as seeking a simple, dependable solution. So sales reps, in their enthusiasm to please the customer and strike a deal, may promise delivery on things that are not yet ready for customer consumption.
Customer service, in turn, may not have sufficient training concerning the customer account and the application, cost or turnaround of the product or service, confusing the customer even more than before he or she placed a call.
Though it may be possible to achieve business success when marketing, sales and customer service each have different goals, objectives and agendas, a lot of luck is needed. It plays to that old adage: There is never time to do it right, but there is always time to do it over if it doesn't work.
Instead, smart companies act to ensure that each department is reading from the same page. When all three divisions work together in concert, the customer's experience flows from promise to relationship to delivery - turning customer expectations into customer satisfaction and trust.
Chuck and Lisa Dennis are principals of Knowledgence Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which specializes in translating marketing sales and service experience into customer knowledge. Chuck's practice centers around the assessment, strategy, training, implementation, and coaching of a customer-focused business philosophy where everyone who comes into contact with a business is viewed as a customer. Lisa combines hands-on marketing and selling of information and high-technology products and services with end-user system enhancement and design experience for marketing and sales applications.. They can be reached at 617-661-8250, or visit www.knowledgence.com for additional information.
Many more articles in Customer Relationship Management in The CEO Refresher Archives