Let Sales and Customer Support Actually Fix Problems

  |  December 10, 2010   |  Comments

It's time to give your marketing and customer service departments the tools they need to affect the changes they are trying to sell.

Today's topic is a simple one: giving your marketing department and customer service department the ability to actually get things done. This 100 percent affects customer loyalty and satisfaction, and can make or break your company's first impression with new customers.

The column I am writing today stems from my own frustrations this week. I am of the "instant gratification" generation. Movies are on demand, restaurants deliver in under 30 minutes, and everything I want to know, see, or do is available on the Internet immediately. My generation doesn't like to wait for anything, for better or worse.

This week, I signed a client of ours up for a trial at a contact management online service. I won't tell you who it was because that wouldn't be fair. Never mind, it was SalesForce.com.

I really like SalesForce.com and would recommend the company whole-heartedly to most people, but one snafu led me to write this column. And the snafu isn't about its services (which are awesome). It's about how the corporate structure has mishandled the roles and capabilities of its sales staff.

I signed up for the free trial for one of my clients. Two minutes later (while I am still setting up the system), a sales rep from the company called me to see if I had any questions. While I've already written long ago about how creepy this is, I didn't mind the guy from SalesForce calling me. Why? For the simple reason that there is no good start-up guide when a new user (who is not familiar with how they set the world up) is just starting out.

The gentleman on the phone asked me what my client's needs were, and after a brief conversation it began to sound like I needed a trial of the tier higher than what I had signed up for. The tier I was on didn't offer all the features my client would eventually need. This is the point of the sales call, right? To upsell me? Well, it worked, and I got excited to start the trial of the higher tiered membership instead of the one I had originally signed up for.

And here is where the "now generation" part of me gets upset. It turns out this guy can't actually change my trial to the different tier. I first need to get assigned to an account rep, and then he/she has to do it. He did give me the number of the tech department because he thought they could do it. They couldn't.

I went from being excited to enter sample data and test the system out, to being frustrated because I had the wrong version and there was nothing to do but wait until I had access to the right version.

To be fair, it only took about 24 hours for me to get access to the right person, and my account executive has been very friendly and helpful since then. So, this column is definitely not a rant against SalesForce or its employees. The guy who called me originally was very helpful in getting me to understand the tier I needed, and my account executive was helpful once she was in the loop.

The Achilles' heel here is the fact that the sales guy is charged with upselling my account, but can't actually do it. It would have been amazing if during my phone call with him he had flipped a switch and magically my account was upgraded to the tier he told me I should be on. That would have kept my excitement about the trial going, and my need for instant gratification appeased. Further, I was told that I would have to tell my account rep (once she was assigned to me) that I needed the upgrade. This was not taken care of behind the scenes for me. (In fact, when I asked him to do it, he told me to e-mail her instead.)

The powers that be gave him a use case to follow, but gave him no tools to actually affect the change that was needed, or the intra-office communications to assist me in doing it.

This is where most companies fail. They charge customer service or sales with tasks that they can't actually complete themselves. Instead, these departments put the onus on the user to work within the company to find the right department to actually get the work done.

Does your company do this? Make a list of all your use cases, and all the objectives your sales team has when reaching out to customers. Now check that list and see how many of these objectives that team can actually execute by themselves, or facilitate in a timely manner. Do the same thing for customer support.

Now work on closing the loop. Get these people the tools they need to actually affect the changes they are trying to either sell or help the customer with. Only then will you have an efficient operating environment that is actually thinking about what the customer needs, and not about your company's organizational charts.

Thoughts, comments? Leave them below.

Until next time…


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Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at Shop.org and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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