The customer journey is often thought of as a baton passed from one department to another. Marketing generates leads; Sales follows up on said leads and then, once a sale is completed, it’s over to Customer Success (or After-Sales) to manage the customer’s ongoing needs. The ownership of the customer relationship traditionally follows a similar structure, transferring through the departments. But given that social media gives the customer much more control over how that relationship plays out, is the old model going to work? And if not, what should replace it?
What is a customer journey?
Whether you think in funnels or pipelines, the customer journey is the route taken from the initial awareness on the customer’s part that there’s a problem that needs solving, right through to purchasing and beyond. The journey doesn’t end after the sale. Even if your customer doesn’t need continuing support from your business, their experience is valuable to you – whether as an advocate, if they’re happy, or as a learning tool, if they’re not.
What’s wrong with the existing model?
For one thing, when you’re passing the customer from one department to the next, there’s a real danger that you’re delivering a fragmented customer experience. In most businesses, Marketing, Sales and Customer Success have very different – and unaligned – goals. It may look something like this:
Marketing – I got you the leads. Now it’s up to you to sell them.
Sales – I made the sale. Now you have to keep them happy.
Customer Success – You promised them what??? How am I going to deliver that?
In all this, the separate departments are goal-oriented, not customer-oriented. That much will be obvious to the customer, who is passed from pillar to post by people who are essentially saying ‘you’re no longer my problem’. If you’ve ever been on a call like that as a customer, you’ll know how frustrating it is.
The other side to this is that social media has completely changed the customer’s relationship with your company. They now have the ability to talk to whomever they choose within your business with a social networking account. Those conversations will most likely take place in a public forum, for the world to see, which means you’re not just talking to one customer, but to thousands, or even millions.
How many times have you heard the phrase ‘it’s not personal, it’s business’? Well it’s about time we scrapped it, because these days all business is personal.
What’s the alternative?
If you agree that the customer journey is relationship-driven, you therefore have to accept that the customer needs what they need from any relationship in their life: trust. And you can’t build trust by offering inconsistent communications, passing the customer relationship baton (or the buck) and generally making the customer feel like just another cell in your spreadsheet.
Marketing, sales and after-sales need to be brought into alignment with one clear goal: customer-satisfaction. (Or, as this Critical Eye article suggests, ‘customer delight’.) That means consistency throughout the company with clear messaging communicated both internally and externally. (FYI: This is your brand. It’s a whole group responsibility.) It may also necessitate a total change in the structure of your company and in the way you reward your staff in order to put the customer at the centre of every aspect of your business.
Where should I begin?
Getting your sales and marketing departments to work together is a great place to start. Once it’s agreed that both are working towards the common goal of helping the customer achieve their objectives, it’s a matter of converting this ethos into a practical process. One aspect of this should be to help close the loop on marketing collateral by encouraging your sales team to give feedback on content. Are they using it? What are customers saying about it? How could it be improved?
Involving sales in the process brings marketing greater customer insight and gives sales a buy-in that will make it easier for them to engage with collateral going forward. If this sounds impossible, never fear – with a Sales Enablement tool like iPresent, salespeople can easily leave feedback within the sales enablement app immediately after a meeting. That feedback is received by marketing and can be acted on straight away if amendments are needed, or used in the development of future content.
Why a common goal is so important
Unhappy customers go elsewhere, and so do unhappy staff members. Passing the buck on customer experience will lead to greater division among your departments and that’s the last thing you need. Bringing your teams into alignment may seem like a mammoth task, but with the right attitude and the right tools at your disposal, it is definitely doable and it will improve the customer journey.
What do you think? Can marketing and sales work together, or is it rivalry for life? And how are you putting the customer at the centre of your business? We’d love to hear from you!