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The Role of Customer Communication Teams – Then and Now

4 min read
The Role of Customer Communication Teams – Then and Now

A long, long time ago, before Photoshop replaced hand-painted designs and tone of voice took the place of creative writing, you wouldn’t call marketing a customer-facing department. The strategies were created as a complex mechanism of product information distribution with no room for testing or customer feedback, unless things got out of hand. The world was simpler, the media were at the full service of advertisers and left practically no power to the customer.

Meanwhile, the sales department was where all the action happened. Short-term goals, relationships, closing deals—this was where all the real adrenaline boosters were found! The key role of sales reps, wholesalers and retailers was to provide the product to the customer and count the profit with no greater reflection on what happened next with the customer and their interaction with the company. That was the job of the customer service.

When businesses started turning digital, it’s likely that nobody expected the impact of these changes on sales and marketing. Suddenly, customers became able to respond to companies in multiple channels and create an actual reputation crisis.

The digital revolution transformed marketing into a customer-facing department, and the data flow between these departments – or rather a lack of it – became completely obsolete. The roles of marketing, sales and customer service would never be the same.

Quote by Benson P. Shapiro and a blue shopping basket

The snowball effect of department silos

If you’ve worked long enough in marketing, sales or customer service, you are probably used to the silo structure and workflows of these departments. The power of habit lets you think certain problems are an indispensable cost of dealing with customers. More and more often, you can prevent certain problems by breaking down typical department silos:

  1. The marketing team creates a narrative around the product, which is distributed across different communication channels. There’s a certain call to action, which is supposed to help marketing accomplish their goals. The problem is that the narrative and the call to action don’t fully cover what the sales team tells potential customers.
  2. The leads passed on the sales team base their expectations on the narrative and CTA served by the marketing team, so the conversation starts with misinterpretations and false assumptions. The sales team can either continue the false narrative or deny what has been told by the marketing team, which results in disappointed potential customers or difficulties in converting the lead into a customer.
  3. After the sales team gains a new customer, their next point of contact will be a customer service representative. With all the miscommunication issues starting from the marketing narrative through the sales team slalom, the direct contact with customers is burdened with disparities.
    This scenario not only causes frustration in leads and customers, but also creates an atmosphere of distrust and tension between teams. It doesn’t have to be like this – in fact, it can’t be, and there are several reasons for this.

Two sides of the Venetian mirror

When it comes to understanding why your customer-facing departments need to cooperate, the most important thing is to understand the customer’s point of view. Communicating with a customer is like talking to someone on the other side of the Venetian mirror. You – as a company – can see the customer at all times, observe their behavior and listen to what they say.

The customer, on the other hand, can’t see you as a group of people working in separate departments. They see you as a single brand, one organism. If you start speaking in different languages and give contradictory information about the same issue, they are very likely to get confused, irritated and will walk out the door. Consolidating customer communication between departments will create a better understanding of the customer journey.

Statistics from AppointmentPlus report and blue flip chart

Benefits from creating a joint strategy and closer cooperation

More aligned and complete customer persona

When you gather customer insights from three teams, the picture of your ideal customer will gain more dimensions and contexts, which lets you develop more effective communication patterns across the whole sales funnel. Your goal is to agree on customer personas, target audiences and funnel stages.

Sharing customer stories for marketing purposes

Brainstorming sessions and storytelling exercises consume a lot of time in a marketing team. You can save a lot of it by simply asking Sales and Customer Service to tell you the most common, funny, happy or simply memorable customer stories. Based on an insider material, your content narrative and overall communication will become more authentic and appealing.

The team structure and roles

Managers and directors are used to manage their teams alone, employees are used to report to a single person without open communication with other teams.

So how to create a friendly environment for cooperation? Here you'll find some useful tips:
1. Help customers self-serve with automation
2. Leverage automation for customer nurturing
3. Identify your top customers and make them feel special
4. Make yourself available

Wrapping up

Breaking down silos involves just a few simple rules that keep dialogues going and prevent departments from closing themselves off.  Start by opening the lines of communication between the content creators on the marketing team and your team. Meeting regularly to teach them about the problems your customers are facing and brainstorming about the types of content they can create to address those problems also helps. For example, our blogging team uses a page on HubSpot's internal wiki as a way for members of the sales and customer teams to submit blog article ideas based on their communications with customers and prospects.

As a customer support rep, you can share ideas for content that you think would be especially helpful for customers and prospects -- from step-by-step instructions for how to use a certain software or tool, to a bigger explanatory guide to how best to employ a new social network.