Before you read too much farther, go get a copy of your organizational chart. We’ll wait.
Now, take a good look at it. If you’re like most businesses, your org chart is a pretty standard affair. Sales, Marketing, and Customer Support all have their nice linear slots, with everyone reporting to the CEO at the end of the day. Marketing shepherds your brand around the industry space while the sales team runs around gathering customers. Sales hands off new customers to Support to field post-purchase issues, and so the cycle goes.
That’s a perfectly respectable business strategy but is it the best option? Maybe not. The giant, gaping hole in this inherently reactionary process is that it doesn’t factor in customer experience. Marketing keeps busy behind the scenes building brand awareness and getting eyeballs on your product. Sales teams establish preliminary relationships with potential users but until those users become actual customers, they’re not basking in the glow of a brilliant product support experience. Support teams are fantastic for responding to user issues, but they’re not in the best position to proactively teach your users to become product experts in their own right.
Let’s dust off that organizational chart and look at who’s ideally suited to oversee a grand customer experience: The sales team. Think about it. Sales is in a great spot to help train customers to become their own product experts and position it as an additional selling point. Sales can pre-emptively show users how to get the the right answers with a minimum of hassle instead of simply handing over a toll-free number for the help desk after closing the sale. After all, if you’ve spent a bunch of time and money creating an exceptional product help system, you want people to use it. Given a choice between diving into phone-tree hell that’s rife with bad hold music and knowing where to grab answers for themselves, which option do you think your customers want?
Getting Sales involved the customer experience doesn’t detract from the valuable input Support and Marketing brings to the table, it enhances it. Support personnel are a bottomless well of product knowledge and the marketing department knows how to capture a customer’s attention. Sales is the ribbon that ties it all together.
If you need more incentive to let the sales team lead the charge toward outstanding customer experience, consider the positive impact it can have on your revenue stream. Christine Crandall, President of New Business Strategies, says sharing the customer experience workload might seem unfair, but an all-hands-on-deck approach is critical to keeping users happy.
“Marketing should share responsibility for revenues and customer experience, but in a recent Eloqua whitepaper only nine percent of marketers surveyed felt customer experience was the most important measurement of their ROI… Maybe Support should take more responsibility for customer’s lifetime experience, but that department is usually staffed with technical, rather than business, experts and measured on the speed of ‘one-and-done’ instead of persistent satisfaction and engagement.
“So it falls to you Sales. Whether you like it or not, to deliver on the revenue targets you’re beholden to. You’ll need to lead the entire organization to a customer-centric approach; sponsor research on the buyer’s journey, use your customer relationships to understand how the definition of value evolves over time, get the rest of your peers to change their ways to consistently deliver that value, and transform your own cold-callers into relationship stewards.”
If the thought of an org chart sea change terrifies you, start small. Come up with one or two ways Sales can tackle an aspect of your customer experience strategy and test the waters. The worst case scenario is you’ll need to retool ideas until you figure out what works right. The best case scenario is that you’ll have happy, loyal customers who love your product and the way you support it.