How to Prevent a Style Conflict between Customer Service and Sales

Sales and service team meeting

Aligning these key areas of business is essential when dealing with customers.

Style in this sense, is the way your company addresses clients. Let’s take two main approaches: the formal way and the more personal approach.

I have seen websites that have a virtual receptionist with the image of a real person. “Rose,” I found on one of those sites and they have selected this name and her look to represent a real person. Other sites with a virtual receptionist often choose to a cartoon or digital character. Less personal.

To prevent a style mismatch you have to treat your clients in the same way whether they are being serviced by salesmen or by the customer service department.

If the approach is like the above, with the personal touch — this site in question shows even real employees with their face and real name on the home page with an invitation to discuss a idea, product, service, etc — than make sure you offer this approach during the whole contact-cycle.

If you use the personal touch in sales, and all of a sudden a customer issues a complaint and you send a letter in response without any name, nor function of the one who has written it, but only the name of the company, you are breaking the style of the approach; Personal in sales, impersonal at customer services.

Clients do not only understand this, they also assume that the impersonal approach is the real one, thinking – “so this is your real face.” It shows that the organization is not responsible; when there is a problem they hide behind the brand of the company. This damages the image of the organization as well as the brand, because it sends a marketing message to clients who may chain it to others.

The best thing to do is to consequently choose one style and use it all the way.

To prevent such a mismatch, first look at the business. A complaint may turn out to be a claim but it can also turn into a loyal customer. When designing the organization you have to choose what business process you want to stress most; claims you will always have, but if you are preparing for them in a defensive way you will increase their number too. So design the personal approach with a focus on loyal customers and not on preventing claims.

This requires education and training. sales is much more pro-active, customer service is used to a more reactive approach and that invites a defensive attitude; “there is another customer, what will it be this time.” Changing that into: “I bet five dollar if I can change his mood.” is not an easy task.

Both departments also differ in focus in the way that sales is return-driven, customers service is more often cost (saving) driven.

Alignment of the approach throughout the organization however (both in sales and customer service) is the (only) option: in either department you propose a friendly and personal approach. That includes accepting mistakes… if you have to … with a smile. When sending an apology do it in a responsible way, signed with the name of the executive.

About the Author

Hans Bool has combined his experience as an external consultant, project manager and business architect with his economical background into a new vision on consulting. His focus is set on the areas: management, change and culture.

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