Sales may be the department that moves the deal, but it’s customer service that drives customer loyalty: Service professionals communicate with customers as much as 10 times more than sellers, according to the Technology Services Industry Association. While many business leaders believe that customer experience is a key competitive advantage, they may not have identified specific strategies to grow customer service experience into a thriving practice. This is abundantly true in manufacturing sales.
According to the World-Class Sales Practices Report from CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, customer retention among sales organizations dipped by 3% since the 2017 study. Only 35% of sales organizations indicated that sales, marketing and customer service aligned on customer wants and needs.
To better serve customers, manufacturers must connect sales and service in a holistic manner that places the customer’s needs at the center of every decision. By sharing information between sales and service, manufacturers will develop brand loyalty and increase the lifetime value of their customers.
Sales Sells the First Deal, Service Sells Future Deals
While sales may originate a deal with a customer, service plays a critical role in building long-term relationships with customers, particularly in manufacturing. Because the service team communicates with the client most often, it’s often their responsibility to manage customer sentiment. It’s important for them to provide not just excellent assistance but to report back to sales on a client’s needs and wants. When customer success delivers on providing the service that a client needs and makes a client feel valued while doing so, they’re more likely to convert on renewals and upsells.
Additionally, when you develop a reputation for excellent customer service, the customers of your competitors may bring you their service work. In some industries, such as heavy manufacturing equipment, this recurring revenue is just as valuable than selling the original product. As a result, a trustworthy service department can generate higher revenue in the long run by building relationships with companies that own competitors’ variations of a product. Then, when the time comes to upgrade or replace the product, they are more likely to purchase from you versus your competitor.
Service Understands Your Customer’s Needs
Your customer service team has the best understanding of your customers’ needs and priorities because they communicate with them on a regular basis.
Keep an open dialogue with your service team so they continue to give you customer updates and understand when sales should participate. For instance, if a customer is constantly servicing two older pieces of equipment, the service team can pass along that information to the sales team. Now, sales has a qualified lead with an existing customer who trusts your company.
Or if your service team goes out to a customer’s plant and sees that they’re expanding, your service providers can ask if the customer still needs to purchase the necessary equipment to support the expansion plans. If they haven’t, they can ask about the expansion process and if they are willing to meet their sales representative to discuss available solutions. Now, sales has an opportunity to connect with an existing customer earlier in the process than they would have without the service team’s guidance.
The service team also has the ear of the customer, giving them insights on your products in an informal, casual manner. For example, maybe your customer didn’t know about an approach or product use case that can help them improve efficiency. A reliable service team builds the power of your brand because they connect to your customers through the sharing of information and processes.
Sellers Need to Develop a Relationship with Service Staff
Manufacturing sellers often focus on larger deals. Renewals, cross-sells and upsells may fall to the service team, allowing sellers to focus their energies on those opportunities. But sellers also shouldn’t lose that connection to existing customers—if they do, they could miss future opportunities when a customer expands or replaces existing equipment. Service providers are a valuable source of leads and information on existing customers so it’s important that sellers stay close to them. Schedule a regular check-in with service leads and ask the following questions:
- Has the customer mentioned plans to expand?
- Have they recently reorganized priorities?
- Have they discussed future projects or timelines?
- Is their current equipment due for an upgrade or replacement?
- Is their current equipment not meeting their needs?
Through these questions, the service team provides sellers with key insights about the motivations behind customer activities to help sellers uncover opportunities they may have otherwise missed.
Align Sales and Service
Unfortunately, some organizations still lack a strong connection between sales and service. These organizations are playing a game of tug-of-war about which department is more important to the organization’s growth. In fact, some sales leaders don’t allow service teams to complete a sale—no matter the size.
To connect the silos and align your organization’s departments, you need to become customer-centric in every aspect of your business. To achieve this, often your C-suite needs to make it a priority by emphasizing true collaboration between service and sales with intense focus on the customer.
This sentiment positions the organization to become a leader by improving their customer satisfaction levels In fact, most senior leaders strongly view customer loyalty as a core to the success of the business. When service and sales put the customer at the center of their work, customer satisfaction levels increase, which leads to deeper levels of brand loyalty and increases the likelihood of repeat business.
To improve customer satisfaction, you need to realign the goals of every department to focus on the customer’s needs. It’s important to remember that:
- Sales sells the first deal; service sells future deals.
- Service understands your customer’s needs.
- Sellers need to develop relationships with service.
- Sales and service need to be aligned with common goals.
Are you struggling to connect sales and service? Our Service Ready program helps sales teams connect with customers, including how to allow service to build a deeper relationship with customers.