Bridging the Gap between Sales and Customer Service

“Customer point of view. Always. Filter everything you’re doing, saying and pitching through that and you’ll  improve just about every metric you care about today.” – Matt Heinz

The quote above describes extremely well how a company can bridge the gap between sales and customer service. Both must be seen in conjunction since when customers buy they derive pleasure and satisfy a certain need. However, if the level of service post the buy does not match up, customers can quickly become disgruntled enough to leave. While companies do their best to make their process of buying simple and uncomplicated to ensure a steady flow of ‘buys’, they sometimes forget to focus on the post sales customer service, which is often rife with glitches and lapses. The gap that currently exists between sales and customer service is that while buying produces positive emotional responses, even a single interaction with customer service can elicit an opposite response in customers. No company can survive today with any amount of customer dissatisfaction and churn and neither are one-time customers a profitable means for a business.

For companies that still have well-defined distinctions between their sales and customer service processes, losing goodwill and gaining customer ire due to the gap could prove detrimental to them. The customer service staff in such companies believe that sales is a function that is used to trick customers into buying stuff even if they do not need it and use carefully crafted words to entice customers. Customers that perceive this form of deception could leave the company for good, resolving never to trust it or any similar company. Customer service conversely is viewed as the team that must influence customer loyalty by ensuring customer satisfaction, thereby keeping customers for a long time. Poor customer service can drive away sales generating existing customers, and possibly potential customers too. Hence, it is essential for any company to bridge the gap between sales and customer service if they expect to attract and retain customers consistently.

Is your company able to bridge this gap and if not what do you believe are the reasons for that? As mentioned, the primary reason is probably disengagement between the sales and customer service teams. The silo effect does not allow seamless processes to serve customers and each team is too caught up in their own timelines and objectives. During a sales pitch, customers may present a service request, which could be forgotten in the buzz to make a sale. Hence, when a customer connects with a company again via the customer service team, they are usually forced to repeat their request – something that customers hate and this adds to their level of frustration.  When customers vent their frustration on the service teams, they in turn would blame the sales team for making false promises and or withholding information.

The very fact that companies do not align and bridge the gap between sales and customer service teams indicates their inability or unwillingness to see things from the customer’s point of view. The business does not anticipate what the customer would like beyond making a purchase and neither does it proactively think of possible issues that customers could have. Customers expect a company to make their ‘journey’ with it simple and easy but a lack of proactivity, failure to anticipate issues, and the silo approach all contribute to poor experiences for customers. Post buying, a seemingly nonchalant attitude on the part of the company via the customer service, could lead to the customer either cancelling their current purchase, or not providing repeat business, or both. Such disgruntled customers are most likely to let others know of their poor experiences, shutting out potential business for the company.

The reason that companies seem incapable of bridging the gap between sales and customer service is because both are viewed as distinct teams / departments. However, when both teams work together as a cohesive unit, they are a lot more effective and can prove more efficient in working for the benefit of customers. Even though their set of tasks may be different, the end goal for both (and all other teams in the company) should be common – to provide the best and most memorable customer experiences to every customer in every interaction. It is the duty of a company to think of ways to bridge the gap between sales and customer service for its own long-term benefit by way of loyal and profitable customers.

It is strange that despite the obvious similarities between the two teams, there exists a gap between sales and customer service. Both have direct interactions with customers and attempt to understand the needs and expectations of customers. Their job is to ensure that customers feel happy when interacting with the company such that not only do they buy more and consistently, but also encourage their friends and associates to engage with the company. As a customer, you would have had a sales rep ask you to provide references of friends and associates for a product or service, and customer service too relies a lot on the customer word of mouth.  Negative impressions and feedback from customers could lead to the downfall of the company in both scenarios.

It is the onus of a company to ensure that both customer service and sales teams align their goals and processes in order to address customer needs in the best way possible. Sales teams must inculcate a service mind-set – they must provide customers with accurate information such that customers can make an informed choice. This is completely different to the ‘make a sale at all costs’ kind of mind-set, which makes sales people tell lies or half-truths during the pitch. The focus has to change from manipulation to working with the customers to assess their needs and requirements, and suggesting the options that would best suit what they need. This is the kind of mind-set that customer service representatives are expected to have, in order to keep customers satisfied and coming back for more.

Without initiative from the leadership of the company, it would be hard for any business to bridge the gap between sales and customer service. There can be no service without selling, and selling without an attitude of service would yield no results or at best short-term results. While the definitions of sales and customer service may be handed down traditionally, it is the job of a company to ensure that the attitude and mind-set of their service and sales teams are aligned. Both teams must work towards giving the customer the best experiences, top class products, ease of doing business, and an endless number of reasons to trust and stay with the company. To bridge the gap between sales and customer service means changing the manner in which both these teams think and dispense their individual and joint responsibilities.

Even if the sales team succeeds in getting the customer to buy, poor customer service could potentially ruin any emotional connection or engagement the customer may have developed with the company. This is turn could damage the reputation of the company, ensuring that the customer refrains from any future purchases, irrespective of their level of satisfaction and happiness when they first bought the product or service. A disconnection between the two teams could easily undo the efforts made by either one of the teams. It makes sense then, for any company to take ample measures to bridge the gap between sales and customer service by ensuring that both teams work together and have the resources necessary to assist the customer to their best ability.

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