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Aligning sales and customer service: How and why

Drive profits and transform your brand by breaking the silos between your sales and support teams. It’s easy, and it’s essential.

Af Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Senest opdateret November 19, 2021

Sales and customer service should be a natural fit. Both teams work to create successful customer interactions and move the company forward. It stands to reason that they should easily support one another—unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.

Because sales and customer service (CS) teams are focused on different metrics, they rarely interact with each other. Sales teams, for instance, key in on sales metrics like win rates, while CS keeps an eye on tickets closed and CSAT. That can result in customers falling through the internal cracks—and businesses paying the cost.

In this piece, we’ll discuss the importance of aligning your sales and customer service teams. We’ll talk about what each team can do for the other, and how the best alignment strategies and best practices can reinvent your sales pipeline.

What are the differences between sales and customer service?

The key difference between sales and customer service is where the customer factors in. The concept of customer service should be a part of a successful sales pipeline, but at the end of the day, many sales are about pushing the product, not necessarily resolving issues. Customer satisfaction is an element, but not the point of the sales team. The point is to sell—however, market trends and customer expectations are challenging the notion of what makes up successful selling. A successful modern sales team can’t simply be transactional anymore; they need to care about building customer relationships as well.

Customer service, on the other hand, is solely focused on the customer. The average customer service interaction is started by a customer coming to the company with a problem. From that point on, it’s the job of the customer service team to solve that problem.

In opposition to sales, the product takes a backseat in this instance. Perhaps the customer is looking to return the product or get a refund. Customer service might try and strategize to find another solution, but they do need to eventually make the choice that most benefits the customer.

This key difference of where the customer factors in is at the heart of the misalignment between sales and customer service, so let’s examine it further.

Why the misalignment?

When sales and service teams are kept separate, they lose the common focus of the customer experience. Most customers will end up interacting with both sales and customer service. But from many teams’ perspectives, the customer experience with sales has nothing to do with the experience with service. This is where companies start losing profit.

Sales teams with high KPIs are frequently pushed to meet quota at any cost. The truth is, quotas met with unqualified leads or misled customers carry the cost over to customer service. This can create tension between the teams as customer service blames sales for sour deals and sales blames customer service for not maintaining those customer relations.

This resentment also hurts the company as a whole. It doesn’t matter if a sales team is going 20 percent above their revenue goal if all that money is being refunded by the customer service team. A net loss is still a loss. In fact, acquiring a new customer is five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.

So, how do we fix it?

Why is alignment essential?

When different teams within a company realize they are working towards a common goal and stop focusing on individual KPIs, everyone wins. Recent studies on misalignment between departments across companies of various sizes reported wasted resources of up to 60-70 percent. That’s a lot of lost revenue and allocated budget due to (primarily) miscommunication.

Let’s take a closer look at how alignment benefits both the sales and the customer service departments.

How sales benefits customer service

The sales team sets up the customer experience and, most importantly, sets customer expectations. A new customer is a sponge and will take in whatever information is offered to them, especially if that information is about deals or savings. Unfortunately, if that information is inconsistent, that customer’s trust will falter by the time they’re on the phone with customer service.

The customer service team functions on strict rules. When a sales rep promises a refund that the customer service team isn’t allowed to process, that will most likely result in a lost customer.

Therefore, it’s the sales team’s job to keep their promises accurate, consistent, and friendly.

Especially in the age of more informed online sales, accuracy is key to building customer trust. The impact of online sales on customer service is massive. Because customers are now able to enter customer service conversations armed with competitor information, company information, and pricing demands, customer service needs to be similarly armed with data.

The main benefit sales can give to customer service is the gift of information and key customer data. They can instantly share information like adjustments to pricing discrepancies and new changes based on competitor movement. By breaking down information silos and sharing critical data, the sales team can keep the customer service teams in the loop so they’re not hit with surprises. This, in turn, helps the customer service team maintain thriving and profitable customer relationships.

In this new world, communication between sales and service not only generates revenue but also builds brand credibility and makes the customer a part of the conversation.

How customer service benefits sales

Even though customer service frequently comes after the sales aspect, it still affects sales in a variety of ways. How can good customer service increase sales? With satisfied customers.

Satisfied customers will likely become repeat customers, and repeat customers are crucial to business success. Not only do repeat customers build brand credibility, but they also save radical amounts of time and money.

When customers are scarce, sales has to spend additional time generating possible leads. This process is expensive. It winds up costing companies around six to seven times as much to gain a new customer as it does to retain a current one. Meanwhile, a scrambling sales team is unlikely to generate qualified leads, so the cycle continues.

In an ideal scenario, the customer service team is able to provide a quality experience so that customers not only return, they are also open to upsells. Furthermore, if a customer is happy, they are likely to share their experience with potential future customers, which in turn lessens the pressure on sales. With the right strategy, a business can turn its customer service team from a cost-center to a revenue-generating part of the business.

Alignment strategies and best practices

We now know alignment between customer service and sales is essential, so now let’s discuss how it’s done. Below are strategies and best practices for synchronizing your teams.

Five strategies that bring teams together

Sales and service best practices

  1. Focus on pleasing the customer, not beating the competitor

    Product superiority is a great goal to have. But it’s not the most realistic selling point. At a certain level, customers will simply have brand preferences regardless of any product advancement unless it’s a never-before-seen invention. Because of this, it’s beneficial to shift the company mindset from beating the competitor to pleasing the customer.
    When sales and customer service make this shift, it might seem counterintuitive, but it leads to an increase in repeat customers and long-term company growth.
  2. Incorporate customer values into the company culture

    It’s easier to meet your customers at their level when your company is practicing what it preaches. If you’re selling reusable and recyclable products but using non-eco-friendly methods to produce them, chances are that your target audience is going to find out about it.
    By incorporating your target customers’ values into your company’s day-to-day operations, you give a leg up to sales and customer service. Sales gets to back up their claims with company facts, and customer service doesn’t have to field complaints from misled consumers.
  3. Focus on great customer experiences to reduce customer churn

    Customer churn is a financial black hole for any company. It costs so much money to create a first-time customer that losing that customer is frequently an overall loss no matter the value of their purchase.
    Focusing on the quality of the customer experience can reduce churn and create a healthier pipeline. Customer retention is about more than just transactions—it’s about relationships. This is especially relevant in companies who deal in subscriptions or packages and may lose customers down the line without cultivating relationships or offering benefits.

How Zendesk can align your sales and service teams

The easiest way to get everyone on the same page is to, well, put them on the same page. With Zendesk Sell and Zendesk Suite, your sales and customer service team can work on one, simple, streamlined platform that interacts with the rest of your company’s software.

Having full context of the entire customer journey—through a single view—empowers reps and agents to deliver personalized and relevant experiences. It creates easy access to customer accounts and it’s a way to align your departments without having to put in a ton of time or effort—and that’s the goal. Alignment is a part of running your company, but it shouldn’t be your sole focus. That’s why Zendesk was created: to help you do more in less time.

Request a demo and start aligning your teams today.

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