If you’ve been working within the world of marketing for any amount of time, you’re surely familiar with the traditional iteration of the customer journey:
Awareness → Consideration → Purchase
And you’re almost certainly aware that, in the past decade or so, two more stages – retention and advocacy – have been added to the backend of this journey to reflect the idea that getting a customer to make a simple purchase should not be your endgame; rather, your goal should be to keep them coming back and to have them recommend your brand to others.
The problem with this model, however, is that it’s still linear:
Awareness → Consideration → Purchase → Retention → Loyalty/Advocacy
Albeit unintentionally, this model of the customer journey makes it seem as if retention (and subsequent stages) is something that happens in a vacuum – as if, once the sales team gets the customer to convert, it’s up to another department to keep them coming back. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is, the modern consumer remains loyal to a given brand – or doesn’t – due to the quality of their interactions with various members of the organization. Case in point:
- According to data collected by Econsultancy, 72% of consumers report that customer service is a leading determinant of whether or not they become loyal to a company.
- This same data shows that, aside from providing high-quality customer service, all other drivers of loyalty deal in some way with tailoring the customer’s experience in a unique and personal way.
- On the negative side of things, Customer Experience Insight found that the main reasons customers churn/defect are that they received poor service from the company’s sales team (70% of consumers), or they experienced what they interpreted as indifference on the part of the sales team (60%).
Though there are certainly a number of reasons a sales team might provide such subpar service or act indifferent toward a given customer, we’re going to focus on the idea that all of this can be avoided if the company’s sales and retention teams begin working in tandem, rather than in isolation. In doing so – rather than focusing on independent, department-specific goals – both teams can work toward one common goal: keeping customers onboard. We’ll discuss three main ways in which you can get your sales and retention teams to begin working hand-in-hand with one another. Let’s get started.
Create and Maintain Alignment
The traditional approach to marketing, sales, and customer retention saw each department as isolated segments of the company that rarely – if ever – interact with one another. In large part, this is why the customer journey had been seen as a linear process for so long. On paper, this makes sense: once an individual has been properly marketed to, they’ll be ready to be “passed on” to sales, and so on. The main problem with this approach is that it can cause each department to focus solely on goals that are specific to their function within the company, and ignore everything else. For example, if the sales team is responsible solely for making sales, they might not care whether or not a given sale leads to long-term value for the company.
Not only can such an approach lead to a disjointed experience for the customer, but it can also cause dissention and discord among the company’s departments. If the company’s sales numbers are high, but its overall CLV is rather low, the sales team might blame the retention team for losing customers they’ve brought onboard. To mitigate this problem, sales and retention teams (and all other customer-facing departments within the company) need to align themselves under the singular, common goal of improving CX – and increasing the company’s overall ROI in the process.
Each department should still own their respective duties: the retention team is still responsible for determining the best way to reach out and engage with customers, and the sales team is still responsible for personalizing a specific offer and sealing the deal. But by aligning under a common overarching goal, both departments will begin to share responsibility for the customer experience as a whole – rather than just a part of it.
Maintain Lines of Communication
It’s essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy: The more isolated departments are, the less likely they’ll communicate with one another. The less they communicate, the more isolated they’ll become. It’s a vicious cycle that ultimately leads to a disjointed, subpar experience for your customers – which, in turn, will all but cause them to churn. With this in mind, it’s clear that your sales and retention teams need to create and maintain open lines of communication with one another. This can – and should – be done in both structured and unstructured ways. With regard to structured communication, you’ll want to schedule meetings, brainstorming sessions, and the like in which both teams are actively involved. During these sessions, each team stands to gain valuable insight into the way in which the other operates – allowing both teams to understand just how their individual duties overlap.
Another possible way to structure these meetings is to allow one team to take the reins of a given session, enabling them to explain the ins and outs of their current initiatives and campaigns. During these sessions, the other team’s responsibility will be to brainstorm ways in which they can complement the efforts of the presenting team. The roles will then be reversed during the following meeting. Now, maintaining communication requires more than just conversing with one another in a structured setting.
It also means ensuring both teams should have access to one another whenever the need arises. Ideally, members of your sales and retention teams should be stationed in close proximity to each other to allow for quick and easy communication between teams. If logistically impossible, you’ll want to facilitate communication however possible – be it email, text, phone, or third-party apps such as Slack. Lastly, it’s important for each team to understand that communication goes beyond simply talking to one another; it also involves ensuring all involved parties always have access to up-to-date data and information. Communicating recent developments – whether in a structured manner, such as via the company’s CRM, or in a more on-the-fly manner – is essential to ensure that both teams remain on the same page at all times.
Play to Each Other’s Responsibilities
Even though we’ve focused on the idea that both sales and retention teams should have the same overall goal in mind, the fact remains that each team plays a separate role in attaining this goal. It’s important that both teams keep the other’s responsibilities in mind as they complete the tasks assigned to them. Pertaining to the sales team, this means gaining a true understanding of a given customer’s goals, and communicating such to the retention team. In turn, the retention team can get to work developing specific offers that will resonate with customers once they’ve reached a milestone or have gotten full use out of the original offer.
As for the retention team, their goal should be to develop messages and offers that tickle their current customers’ buying bone, so to speak, enabling the sales team to make subsequent sales with as little friction as possible.
Yes, when it comes down to it, each team will still be “handing off” customers to the other, but, rather than doing so simply to get the customer “off their plate,” each team’s goal is now to make the other team’s goal easier to achieve – and, in the process, keep as many customers onboard as possible.