Why and How Your Sales and Customer Service Departments Should Work Together

Forster Perelsztejn

November 22, 2021

You have customers coming into your business, buying things, and leaving. Sales is the department that deals with everything leading up to that point. Customer service is what happens after they've left.

Sales' job is to determine where the customers are along their journey. That way, they know what message to use. They identify the prospect's needs and offer solutions that the prospect buys.

Customer service's job is to deal with any issues that get in the way of customers continuing on their journey. That is, after they've made a purchase.

Why sales and customer service need to work together

Sales and customer service need to work together. In fact; they are part of the same journey for the customer. 

As far as your customer is concerned, your company is one entity. It doesn't matter how many departments interact with them.

Your customers' journeys start when they first hear about you. It ends when they stop doing business with you. 

Everything that happens in-between is part of the journey. As such, the transition from one step to the next needs to be as smooth as possible.

It's up to the sales and customer service departments to ensure that.

What happens when sales and customer service don't work together

Bad alignment between the two departments can lead to a series of issues. The main ones are a waste of time for everybody and low customer satisfaction.

Here are a couple of examples:

- Customer service doesn't know about needs discussed between the salesperson and the customer. So customer service doesn't know about the customer's use case.

- Customer service might get calls from customers trying to get the help that sales should have been providing. Which wastes their time and yours.

On the other hand, working together will help provide the right information. Which will improve customer satisfaction, and thus generate more revenue.

How sales and customer service should collaborate

There are various ways customer service and sales can come together.

Knowledge

Customer service and sales are part of the same journey for the customer. They need to share the specific challenges and issues that are going to arise along that journey. That way sales can prevent issues that tend to happen down the line. And customer service can anticipate the initial concerns of the customer.

Discount management

There's nothing more frustrating for a customer than having a customer service agent deny a discount promised by a salesperson.

Whether it's timing-related (Black Friday, Spring Sale,...) or personal (long-time customer), it's important for both departments to be aligned.

Efficiency

Customer service can let sales know which customers are not buying certain products. Thay way, they don't waste their time on them anymore.

It also allows both departments to see where in the process your customers are getting stuck. Or spending too much time. It could be during lead generation, purchasing, or afterward.

Both departments should know whether a certain customer's issue is a one-time thing, or if it will continue to happen. That way, customer service can make a note of it and keep an eye out for future issues. That was, they can flag small issues before they become big problems.

With more efficiency, customers won't get stuck along the journey. Thay way, sales can spend more time serving them. As for customer service, they save time by not having to call about things they already know about.

More revenue

Customer service is in a perfect position to generate more revenue for the company. They're in direct contact with the customer and they know how the customer's needs have evolved.

This enables them to get more out of current customers. They can sell them related products, upsell services, and cross-sell other items.

A helpful and efficient customer service agent will be trusted by the customers. This means that they'll have a good edge when it comes to upsell or cross-sell.

But to maximize that effect, sales has to give customer service the right tools and knowledge.

Marketing

Sales should be able to give suggestions for marketing efforts once they know what needs to be targeted, why (e.g., services that customers are already using), and when (e.g., focusing on one-time events). This will also help keep lead costs down because you won't have to generate as many leads to find the "good" ones.

Do as much marketing as you want, but the best way to measure its effects is through customer interaction.

Timeframes

Sales should be in contact with customer service as soon there is a deadline involved. There could be an expiry date, or the product might needs to ship before something else does.

Customer service needs the information so it can order, ship, and communicate with customers. And they can follow up if there are any special instructions or updates along the way.

Contact management

It's important that sales and customer service let each other know which customers need the most attention.

Sales and customer service should also generate reports on their joint activities. An important indicator here would be the average time spent per interaction. Or the number of interactions for a given project.

Customer service can also send sales info on what's happening with each customer. This will keep them in the loop and up-to-date so they don't have to start from scratch on every new interaction. They might even be able to offer suggestions for proactive engagement if it seems useful or appropriate.

Getting feedback from customers

At each stage of the journey, sales should collect feedback from customers. It's important to know what went well and what went wrong.

This could include anything from how much information was given out about the product, in what way it was provided, and if there were any problems.

They should also ask for feedback on the customer's experience with sales or customer service itself. That way you can improve it.

Each department is looking at the experience from a different perspective. In that sense, collaboration will help get a more complete picture of what went wrong and how to fix it.

The same goes for customer service. They should speak with customers to find out where they are seeing friction in their journey. Even if it's not within their department's control, it could affect future business.

What you should do next

Now you know why your sales and customer service departments need to work together. Set up a meeting with the people in charge of both teams to figure out how you will implement these changes.

Sales might have preliminary ideas about which leads are most promising. Customer service could give some feedback on how lead prioritization is currently handled. Just make sure you have a robust system to gather everybody's input and insight.

Both departments have something to gain from better collaboration. Anything you do along these lines will help you provide better service to your customers.

By helping each other instead of  focusing on their own priorities, sales and customer service get the job done faster.

Conclusion

Sales and customer service departments both want the same thing: happy customers.

The best way to achieve that is through collaboration.

This might be during the initial stages of a journey. Sales provides information about upcoming promotions or products. That way, they get more customers in the door. Customer service works on communicating with people who buy items. That way they know exactly what to expect and when.

It's also important for sales to know which customers will need more attention down the line. Things don't always go according to plan. So they need to share that information with customer service. Especially if there are delays or issues along the way.

Both departments should also ask their customers for feedback about the journey itself.

The bottom line is that both departments have a lot to gain from working together. And when they do, everybody else benefits from it.


About the author

Picture of the author: Forster Perelsztejn

Forster Perelsztejn is the head of marketing and customer acquisition at Rooftop. He has spent most of his career working in SaaS and creating content for a variety of authoritative publications. When he’s not working, you can find him playing music, taking photos, and taking care of his pets.

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