Service as the New Sales
Cloud computing has helped make CRM less expensive. Social media has radically changed customer services. Marketing and mobile devices have opened up new sales and marketing channels. So where do you start?
In both B2B and B2C, service is often the new sales—and most of the sales process happens without the aid of a sales person. Millennials, who grew up with technology, are generally comfortable looking to their friends and social networks for solutions and product advice. Why call your call center when they can text, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even email at their convenience? Why just return a product when they can blast a bad review to the whole world? With new technology comes new expectations. Companies should adapt their sales and service solutions, and quickly.
The customer journey map defines the user experience and channels customer interaction with your company, from pre-sales through customer service. Whether you sell through traditional channels like inside/outside sales teams, through partner/resellers, or solely through e-commerce social networks, the customer experience remains the focus.
What do we typically find in this process? Opportunity: to streamline the sales process, enhance operation processes, better define customer segments, service clients in the channel that best serves them, and be pro-active in resolving customer issues, questions and concerns. By better engaging with customers, businesses can work directly with them to help improve products and find new services to bundle – while the Internet of Things (IoT) and new data sources can alert customers to pending issues before they arise.
On this roadmap, the most impact-oriented programs and infrastructure enhancement come first. But that doesn’t make it easy. Breaking down the walls between departments often remains a challenge, but it’s critical in defining the full customer journey. Traditional sales teams may resist change and technology, while millennials and some channel partners tend to expect it. Companies typically face competing interests before they start.
This is where user experience design can make a difference— by helping design a new sales process that accounts for leading practices with customers already engaged. Combined with social and segmentation data, channel partner interactions, service history, profitability for existing customers, and lead generation for new customers, this is where the science meets the art.
Companies can find the critical path when they marry the science of process design, data mashups and technology-driven solutions with the art of beautiful, intuitive systems that support user expectations. Many organizations have the science part covered: With pre-integrated cloud packages and configuration in place of customization, they can stand up applications more quickly.
The art part is the challenge for many IT organizations. It raises an old question: Build, buy or rent? Do you build a UX/UI team, buy applications with creative UI built in, or rent people to do the job then go away? I admit to a career consultant’s bias here. At first, I couldn’t understand why companies would not hire for these positions. As new technologies made it harder to keep up, it became clearer. What closed the issue for me was when mobility and “an app for that” took over the user experience.
“In many companies, customer loyalty begins and ends in service. Mess that up and you could lose not one customer, but thousands”
Most of us believe we can recognize a great user experience (we all know a bad user experience when we see it). But can we create a great one? I’ve been developing and implementing computer systems for three decades, and I can’t. It’s a unique skill set to design a user experience. Few companies have (or can acquire) the specific breed of resources it takes—the artists and right-brain thinkers who can visualize a new world.
Beyond your partners and sales team, beyond the journey map, the science, and the art, let’s not forget marketing. Imagine you’ve designed and developed a killer sales app. Studies indicate many CMOs spend more than their CIOs. Why? Due in part to the shift in the consumer buying process, and the shift in segmentation technology. Remember the days when having basic customer data—like a list of names from a third party provider—was enough?
Now, social has changed the game. Programmatic advertising is the new wave. Why do leading social sites and other information aggregators have such large market caps? Because you no longer need to hope your ad reaches the demographic that might buy your product or service. Now you can measure those impressions—based on who they are; what they like, watch, what they buy; who their friends are; what sites they have visited; and even what they’ve said about you to their friends.
This is another way the Cloud can offer value. There are platforms—not just applications—that can scan the social network, analyze the results, and interact with them in ways your sales, marketing, and service teams can use to help differentiate your company. These tools can then interact with your sales and service organizations to help generate a higher percentage of leads to close.
Which brings us back to the beginning? Service as the new sales. In many companies, customer loyalty begins and ends in service. Mess that up and you could lose not one customer, but thousands. Have a major music icon say something bad about you, and you may have to change your business model. Or consider the nanny who almost single-handedly stopped banks from applying a surcharge to debit cards.
Thanks to CRM and omnichannel communication, many call centers can understand their customers’ problems, resolve their concerns, respond in personalized ways, and retain the information for future data mining and sales opportunities. So understanding and enhancing your customers’ experiences, across every channel, isn’t follow-up anymore. It’s where you should start.