My friend, Robert Pease, wrote an interesting post arguing that sales equals support. I have been thinking about this idea as well recently. There are some interesting trends that anyone who is customer or prospect facing needs to consider.
Social media has made it possible to signal intent on an unprecedented scale. Buyers now signal. Customers now signal. The traditional walls that created internal barriers in the customer-facing organizations (sales, marketing and service) are eroding. It is important to understand that these signals are inputs. A lot of great companies who get CRM do not understand inputs. Essentially, signals are positive or negative. Sales, Marketing and Customer Support have to be able to filter and respond to the signals that matter to their mission. In the end, it is all about how you support the customer across the customer life cycle.
The traditional sales pipeline has been inverted. No longer is there an information gap between your prospect and customer and you. It is becoming increasing difficult to find the right decision makers and engage them. When is the last time a cold call worked for you? That well-timed email has better results. Responding to that tweet is even better than that. Sales needs to support the buy signal.
Marketing is tasked with engagement and building awareness. What is the barrier between you and customer if your product is a web-based service or a free application? Marketing needs to support the buy signal and deflect the negative signal.
Customer Service is about fixing the negative customer signals — fast. The only way to truly differentiate yourself in a signal based paradigm is through Customer Service. The negative signal is a customer who wants to stay a customer. In his post, Robert correctly states, “It is now the way you will engage, amaze, and retain customers.” By taking that view, your organization must also address the most overlooked area of customer service: Feedback mechanisms into the organization. Development needs to understand the customer service data and experience. Marketing needs to understand why customers are unhappy. Look at the companies who get the customer experience. Amazon comes immediately to mind. (Disclosure: My wife works at Amazon, but she does not read my blog.)
To be successful in this new social CRM world, it is important to understand the role of support in your organization. It is everyone’s responsibility. Social CRM as a trend has been generating a lot of buzz. Even Gartner says that Social CRM spending will soon top $1 Billion worldwide in their Predicts 2011: CRM Enters a Three-Year Shake-Up. I am not one to point at an analyst report and say “See, it is right here.” I point it out for 2 reasons. First, the trend is undeniable. Second, one of the authors, Matthew Goldman is very sharp and knows CRM. Matt and I worked together at KPMG.
CRM is about supporting prospects and customers. Companies that understand support across the three segments will dedicate people to look for the signals just as they would answer the phone.