For a long time, I have been arguing that companies need to rethink their service, sales, and marketing process. These processes need to be completely integrated with the customer service team – as a customer contact hub – because customers don’t think of a company as distinct silos or functions – to them your company is just a brand. Yet, too many companies still have all these different customer-facing teams that are just not really working closely together.
The Daily Telegraph ran a feature on this subject recently and argued that social media is the main driver that has blurred the line between service and marketing, but I would argue that the distinction goes further. It is not just social media, rather it is a combination of the mobile internet and social media that has changed the way that customers communicate. This change in behaviour, and change in customer expectations, is what has created this situation.
But this isn’t a new idea. I have been talking about this since the early days of multi-channel customer contact and the industry analyst Gartner even wrote a research report on it three years ago.
Some companies are finding it very difficult to blend departments. Sales and marketing and service have always had distinct functions and different styles of management. Historically the sales team was always considered to be a profit centre and team members were handsomely rewarded with bonuses. The service team was just an essential cost centre and generally tolerated the minimum possible level of reward. This has changed forever.
The service team has the deepest insight into what the customer really wants. They need to be intimately involved in planning any marketing strategy or sales plan. Companies that find it hard to merge the teams often create a Chief Customer Officer with oversight over all the functions. It’s possibly not as effective as just getting the teams to all work in a coordinated way, but it does at least acknowledge that they need to communicate and try to work together.
Nobody can deny the way that customers communicate with each other, and with brands, has changed in the past few years. We need a new approach to customer interaction and it is becoming impossible to determine if a customer that gets in touch requires help from a sales or service representative – is it really only a sales call if the customer literally calls up and says I want to buy something now? I don’t think so.
Customers are more engaged with brands and each contact is a great opportunity to reinforce the brand to customer relationship. Sales will come from these interactions, but sometimes the customer just wants information or advice. This more diverse nature of customer interactions means that there really is no differentiation between all these internal departments any longer – although most companies are clinging on to the existing structures.
The Gartner prediction for a complete merger of all these customer-facing functions was 2020. We still have about a year and a half to go. Change is coming and it’s going to be great for your customers if you can improve how your brand engages with them. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.