December 19, 2014

Customer Service Is Not a Silo

It’s amazing that some companies isolate customer service from everything else in the company — sales, technology, marketing. Doing so can be detrimental to your business. Let me explain with an example.

I had a medium grade fancy coffee maker. I was pretty happy with the quality of coffee (it was one of those you had to buy coffee pods for). But my customer service and user experience were poor enough to make me sell it and buy another brand.

Needing to reorder coffee, I clicked an advertisement the company had sent me via email. I ordered some of what was on sale, then clicked to another page to buy other items not on sale. Wait–my cart was now empty. What gives? After a few attempts I realized they hadn’t bothered to connect the sales page to the rest of the site so that you could add items from any page to your cart in one order. Wanting to give them a chance, I figured it out and placed my order.

love coffee

A day later I got an email from customer service. Some of the items I ordered were out of stock…only they couldn’t tell me which ones. I logged into my account and there was no record of my order, so I couldn’t remove the out-of-stock items and buy others. I went through this process two times before cutting them out of my life forever. Dramatic, I know, but if you’re a coffee lover/drinker, you get it.

My point: Why didn’t customer service know which items were out of stock, and why couldn’t they suggest other items for me? They already had my sale at that point, so it would have been easy to get me to spend more. They weren’t connected to the order intake department, so they couldn’t help. Do you want this to be your customer service department’s problem?

Working Together

You might not see why your sales department should know what’s going on in accounting, but it’s better that they do. Good ideas are bred when people from different departments work together, and this can also make your customer service more efficient.

And speaking of customer service, make sure they have contacts in each department so they can solve customers’ problems. A simple call to the sales team or Internet team would have solved mine, but instead they lost a customer who complains loudly online. Their loss.

How can you connect your departments to improve customer service? It can be as simple as holding a company-wide meeting once a month or sending a regular email with news from all departments. Have people get to know key contacts in other departments so they are enabled to help the customer, which should be every team member’s goal.

How are your departments set up? Do they speak to one another and have visibility into what the other departments are doing? Why or why not?

7 Comments ▼

Susan Payton - Awards Communication Mgr.


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

7 Reactions

  1. First, knowledge is power. Giving customer service reps more information will help them solve more problems and come to better solutions.

    Second, I manage paid search campaigns and one of my top resources for research on keyword possibilities, common concerns and the most valuable benefits are gained by speaking with customer service and sales reps. They talk with the customers every day and therefore have a pulse on how customers talk about the product, what is important in their decision process, and concerns.

    Couldn’t agree with you more Susan.

  2. @Robert-
    My ever-loyal commenter. Disney and Zappos enable their reps to solve problems and it works so well. Why aren’t others doing this??

  3. Most companies really don’t get it. You have to provide your customer service staff with training and empower them to solve problems. Scripts cannot always provide good solutions.

  4. Susan,

    I saw that as a purchaser at a manufacturing company. The sales people sold products that were not made yet, missed to deliver reliable sales prognosis, etc.

    Zappos is a great example on how integrated their high service level is.

    It has all to do with the supply chain and value chain.

  5. If you don’t make it easy for customers to purchase and get support, you’re business will never succeed. I completely agree with the previous commenters on how Zappos is such an incredible example of quality customer service. However, they are also an oddity. The amount of empowerment they give their employees is unheard of as is the focus of taking any question that comes in even if it doesn’t pertain to the business.

  6. @Brian–
    You’re correct. Just got back from #DellCAP, where Dell is working on this.

    @Martin–
    I heart Zappos as a great example.

    @AprilS–
    It’s not all about the product; we like great service too!

  7. Susan’s blog on customer service is fantastic. Examples like Susan’s make everyone understand what happens every day in the “real world”. Companies do not seem to get the phrase and meaning behind, “you only have one opportunity to make a good first impression.” Companies in all industries, of any size lose customers every day because of their first impression. Companies need to endure that at every customer touchpoint, that every transaction is delivered in a customer friendly manner, where the company clearly articulates that the customer is welcomed, important and appreciated. Richard Shapiro, The Center For Client Retention

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