Many moving parts need to work in tandem for any organisation to be successful. One of the key components of making this happen is aligning marketing and customer service departments. By connecting the two, businesses can streamline communication, create a more unified customer experience, and increase sales and customer loyalty.
Poor alignment is also the root cause of many problems and complaints. According to the Aberdeen Group, alignment leads to a 14.4% customer win-back rate, compared to companies who do not align both departments (who see a win-back rate of – 0.3%). Other gains documented include higher rates of customer satisfaction and retention, as well as a greater number of positive social media mentions.
This article services to review various ways in which alignment is beneficial and the steps an organisation can take to ensure both departments are on the same page.
The Importance of Alignment
Marketing and customer service departments have unique roles and responsibilities, but their goals point to the same outcome – increased revenues. Some may argue that customer service can be considered as a branch of marketing for this reason. Regardless, when these departments are aligned, they can combine their efforts to build an even stronger customer experience. Alignment also ensures greater marketing ROI, preventing efforts and resources from going to waste.
Ensuring a Consistent Experience
Companies that establish a customer experience that is “significantly above average” have demonstrated 89% better revenue growth and 90% better profitability than competitors, but misalignment between the two functions detracts from that experience in many ways.
One problem that arises is that it can create an inconsistent experience for the customer. Marketing campaigns may put forth the business’ desired impression but if a customer has an interaction with a customer service agent that does not line up with that impression, it can be problematic.
This is especially true in the case of managing expectations. For example, if customer service agents are misinformed about what customers are being told through marketing promotions, they may not be aware of the type of service or quality the customer expects. Customers then feel misled by marketing and disappointed by customer service who are not prepared for how to deal with it. This frustration will only cause customers to do business with competitors.
Consistency also helps to increase sales; when a customer trusts the business due to positive service interactions, upselling and cross-selling is more effective. Ensuring service agents understand their role in building consumer trust is therefore a necessity.
Improving the Employee Experience
In addition to the benefits for the customer and brand, aligning the two departments brings internal benefits. It can help employees to better understand how their work contributes to the success of the company as a whole, and this type of alignment can make them feel as though they are contributing to something larger than themselves. For some individuals, this will increase job satisfaction.
Customer service and marketing departments can share a wealth of data about customers, including their preferences and buying habits. This data may be captured through service interactions and passed on to marketing for various purposes. This includes post-sale communications, which are another great source of insight that marketing needs to have access to. Sharing data in this way also helps with developing personalised initiatives.
Steps for Bridging the Gap
The first step is to create a strategy that details the goals that will be achieved as a result of the two departments working in tandem. This may begin by clarifying the role each department needs to play in the grand scheme of things and aligning KPIs between the two departments, ensuring there is a mutual focus on customer experience. Next, concrete plans can be drawn up for how to bring the alignment into fruition, including the methods discussed below.
It is important to provide the means for better collaboration and resource sharing. Some ways to do that include creating open communication channels such as an internal forum or application, or using the company’s internal social media groups.
Holding regular meetings with key members of each department is also important for ensuring continued alignment. Meetings may relate to upcoming projects or may be about the overarching strategic goals, and both departments should be briefed on any insights that arise from analytics and must understand their implications.
Employee training should be developed so that each department understands the role of the other in terms of reaching business goals. For example, customer service employees may undergo training on how to create a positive brand experience, ensuring that the language they use is in line with the company’s image. Hosting workshops to bring departments together so they can learn from one another is another option.
Ensuring that both parties understand customer expectations is the first step to overcoming the types of issues discussed previously. From there, developing a communication plan that outlines how customer service and marketing teams should work together is essential for success. This plan should include who is responsible for what, how communication should take place, and how information should be shared. Employees should also be informed on the organisation’s external communications strategy.
Use Appropriate Software
Technology can be a great asset when it comes to aligning customer service and marketing expectations. Using tools such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can help to streamline the process, capturing large volumes of data, including interactions with service agents or chatbots. Any other software used by both departments must bring separate sources of data together for analysis in order to overcome the issue of siloed data sources.
Use Feedback to Inform Content Planning
There are many ways to use customer service data to inform content marketing. For example, knowing customer pain points allows the marketing department to develop in-demand content that meets customers’ needs and will therefore keep them engaged. Positive feedback can also be used as testimonial content and in some cases, customers may be approached to provide more detailed case studies.
To be proactive in this area, it may be worth having content teams and service staff meet regularly in order to learn which topics are arising often. Alternatively, set up a system for customer service to report common themes. Sentiment analysis software is another way to quickly analyse feedback from reviews and brand mentions.
Improve Customer Acquisition
Discrepancies between the two departments can cause marketing to have an inaccurate perspective of the customer. When marketers are referencing buyer personas that do not reflect the true nature of the typical customer, customer acquisition suffers; targeting is sub-optimal and leads are not of the highest quality.
Create a Unified Customer Experience
Research is the first step in creating a seamless experience for customers throughout their journey. Conducting focus groups and surveys provides rich data on customer impressions and experiences. The common themes that arise will help inform not only how an organisation can make the customer experience consistent, but it will also provide more insight into the internal steps the organisation needs to take to align the efforts of both departments.
Setting accurate expectations in potential customers is crucial for providing a unified experience, as mentioned. When both departments are communicating, misleading marketing information can be rectified. For example, if customer reviews indicate that marketing claims about the effectiveness of a product were exaggerated, marketing can adapt their copy, setting more realistic expectations.
Measure the Success of Marketing and Customer Service Alignment
The importance of aligning KPIs was mentioned above. The most relevant metrics to consider in this case are customer satisfaction, customer win-back rate, customer retention rate, and other customer experience metrics. Checking how sales figures and brand reputation data has changed since establishing alignment may also indicate positive steps in the right direction. (Focusing on customer experience comes with additional benefits – 84% greater employee retention compared to competitors.)
It is critical that customer service and marketing activities are aligned. Failing to align the two is akin to pouring the marketing budget down the drain; many problems arise that send customers off to competing businesses, meaning that ROI on marketing activities is reduced. Companies that ensure the alignment of both departments will benefit from greater efficiency, improved marketing ROI, and increased revenues.
Employees also benefit from alignment; it reduces the frustration resulting from poorly managed customer expectations and provides a more tangible sense of how they are contributing to business goals which, for some individuals, will improve job satisfaction.
There are many steps organisations can take to bridge the gap, from sharing data between the two functions to using customer service insights to inform buyer personas and content planning.
Facilitating collaboration through regular meetings and digital tools, as well as developing internal and external communications plans, are also essential steps. At the heart of it all is prioritising customer experience and ensuring both functions are working to improve the associated metrics.
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