5 Ways To Align Customer Service And Marketing

customer service and marketing alignment

You finally did it.

After eyeing those Facebook ads for weeks, you decide to book a week-long stay at a fancy resort for several hundred dollars below market rate.

There’s just one catch: The rate you saw applies to a different property. 

You don’t discover this until you hit the landing page where your comparatively crummy accommodations become clear.

Frustrated, you call support for an explanation. Instead of providing one, they reaffirm pricing and ask whether you’d like to book the deluxe property.

They’re more than willing to charge your card. But they’re not so willing to discuss the root of the problem—poor alignment between teams. 

These scenarios happen often. At some point, we’ve all felt misled by marketing messages. We’ve all grown frustrated when support seems oblivious to their promises, and in response, we’ve all taken our business elsewhere.

Your customers will do the same.

The cost of misalignment

The lines between customer service and marketing have blurred.

From customers seeking help on social to the growing focus on brand advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing, there’s never been a better time for these teams to make friends.

But at most organizations, the divide between customer service and marketing remains firmly intact. As people whose work relies heavily on effective communication, the majority of marketing and support squads never compare notes.

Unsurprisingly, their level of rapport can impact revenue.

customer service and marketing alignment

Source: Aberdeen Group

According to research from Aberdeen Group, companies that align their customer service and marketing activities are able to:

  • Earn free marketing and brand awareness via more positive social media mentions
  • Salvage relationships and undo churn with high customer win-back rates
  • Generate loyalty in a disloyal era via significantly increased customer retention 
  • Prioritize the customer experience to drive high levels of customer satisfaction

As for the companies that don’t, their support teams function like fancy resort reservationists, striving to push things forward without really considering the customer’s perspective.

For these organizations, lack of alignment translates to:

  • Less customer retention and more churn
  • Wasted marketing efforts and spend
  • Negative reviews that scare prospective customers away

Make no mistake—misalignment between customer service and marketing is decidedly unprofitable.

Here’s the good news: Whether you’re in B2B, B2C, SaaS, or eCommerce, your team can spearhead at least one of the following activities to drive better alignment between teams—and, more importantly, better experiences for customers and prospects.

1. Start a knowledge base for marketing promos

Marketing promotions may succeed at generating interest, but it often comes at a price.

Whether they’re pushing an upcoming webinar, site-wide sale, or local event, marketing rarely fields questions from customers. Customers make a beeline for support.

And they expect agents to address their concerns with the same level of authority as they would any other question.

But when a company’s customer service and marketing teams don’t sync on promos, agents are forced to find the fine print before they can actually help people.

This can be especially problematic when marketing promos are inadvertently misleading. Customer service must inherit the confusion—and probable frustration—of the customer while also feeling pretty frustrated themselves.

Without the facts at their disposal, they have two options: put the customer on hold while they try to flag someone down, or take a message, wait on marketing, and then get back to the customer.

Not only is this an ineffective use of agent and customer time, it also reminds customers that your marketing and support teams are separate units operating on their own terms.

To bridge the gap, create a repository for all company promotions. It could be as simple as a series of well-organized Google spreadsheets, as accessible as a Slack channel, or as structured as a knowledge management system.

What’s most important is that it’s:

  • Easily accessible to both teams
  • Owned and maintained by someone in marketing

When customer service and marketing align on promos, your organization can better calibrate customer expectations and empower reps with a single source of truth. Instead of making customers wait, reps can deliver promo information as reliably as they can information about your product or service.

This will help to create seamless brand experiences that make customers feel like they’re speaking to the same person—no matter what department they’re in.

2. Craft a social media support strategy

One of the most obvious but frequently overlooked ways to drive alignment between customer service and marketing is social media.

According to Microsoft, almost two-thirds of adults between 18 and 34 believe social media is an effective channel for customer service issues—and they’re probably right.

But with most company social accounts nestled under marketing, support reps often have no idea what’s happening on customers’ favorite networks. And marketers lack the knowledge—and often the patience—to figure out how best to respond when customers enter their domain with issues instead of interest.

For example, when marketing receives a complaint on social, they can respond in a few ways:

  • 📣 The laissez-faire approach: Marketing notifies the support team, leaving them to handle it.
  • ⛷️ The caution-be-damned approach: Marketing takes a stab at handling it themselves, even if they’re not totally sure how to respond.
  • ✋ The team player approach: Marketing asks support how to respond and replies to the customer based on this feedback.
  • 🚫 The not-my-job approach: Marketing sees the message but doesn’t notify support or attempt to respond.

While ignoring customers on any channel is a poor choice, responding and getting it wrong could be equally damaging: The number one reason consumers unfollow brands is bad customer service.

According to Sprout Social, poor brand responses on social also lead consumers to:

  • Share their experience online (41 percent)
  • Share their experience offline (42 percent)
  • Boycott brands altogether (50 percent)

Rather than risk their reputations, organizations that align their customer service and marketing functions define exactly how to handle support requests across networks. To get each team on the same page, they eliminate guesswork with a social customer care strategy.

Here’s where to start with marketing:

  • Conduct an audit to understand issues and volume: How many incoming messages or @mentions are customer service related? What are customers asking about?
  • Define when to deflect: It’s not uncommon for social support teams to respond once or twice before moving a customer to another channel—you just need to agree on when it makes sense to do so.
  • Decide who responds to what: If marketing is open to fielding simple support requests, let them—even if it’s just to say “We’re so sorry! Please DM us your [unique identifier] and someone from our team will get back to you.” If they’re not, task a select agent (or two) and have marketing share login information.
  • Consider a dedicated tool: There’s a growing list of third-party social media tools that make it easy for marketing to route support requests to agents. If you have or anticipate a high volume across networks, getting one is a must to scale.

3. Build better buyer personas

Buyer personas are a challenging notion. As fictional representations of potential customers, they’re supposed to help marketing teams connect more effectively with target audiences—the motto being if you can understand them, you can engage them.

The idea makes perfect sense in theory. In practice, many marketers operate with a superficial understanding of their target audience. In their zeal to define and document personas, they lean on data found in market research and Google Analytics. 

Removed from the human element, they profile and pursue ideal buyers instead of real ones. In the process, prospects are often reduced to demographics and feature sets.

And it takes more than that to resonate with human beings.

It takes a holistic understanding of the real-world situations that lead to a sale—something customer support reps build naturally over time.

Whether your organization is starting from scratch or revising an existing set, creating buyer personas shouldn’t fall squarely on marketing. Not when there are so many resident experts on your support team.

Marketing may not think to ask for support’s help, but that doesn’t mean your team can’t offer it. According to industry-leader, Content Marketing Institute (CMI), sharing customer support data can help marketers suss out information they can use to build better buyer personas.

Ask your support squad to consider:

  • What questions they hear from prospects: This may not seem super important to support reps in the moment, but for marketers, it’s a goldmine. Questions almost always precede decisions––especially purchase decisions.
  • What questions they hear from existing customers: Understanding what existing customers care about post-sale enables marketers to add more depth to buyer personas. In what ways do they seek help applying your solution to their problem?
  • What internal content helps get the job done: Does your team take on manual tasks for customers to make their lives easier—or to make up for product shortcomings? Any internal how-to document that helps agents do their jobs will reveal a lot about customer needs and values.
  • What skills customers need to be successful with your product: Many SaaS products (Aircall included) are capable of doing more for tech-savvy users while remaining useful and accessible to people who prefer plug and play solutions. With data from support, marketing can meet different buyers where they are.
  • What customers say about your product: Customers do more than complain when things don’t work. They also shower brands with hard-to-beat praise when things do. Given insight into both positive and negative feedback, marketing can write to your strengths and prospect pain points. 

By looping support into the process, marketing can leverage their knowledge of real customers to speak to the real-life situations prospects actually care about.

4. Create trustworthy content and campaigns

Every marketer’s chief goal is to build a bridge between what’s being sold and who’s buying it.

  • For content marketers, this means coming up with relevant ideas and transforming them into engaging and educational content to attract prospects.
  • For acquisition specialists, it involves experimenting with different channels and tactics to attract and convert prospects into customers.
  • For marketing operations, it’s about making sure the various touchpoints connect so the team can assess the ultimate impact of their efforts.

But good marketing doesn’t materialize like magic. Marketers can attend conferences, earn certifications, scour review sites, spend hours on keyword research and still fail to connect with their target audience.

The problem can usually be traced back to empathy—the most persuasive and engaging marketing ideas often come from the audience itself.

Which is why customer service teams are uniquely poised to help drive better marketing content and campaigns: The best support reps don’t just field customer frustrations, they inherit them.

And if they’re encouraged to share their insights with marketing—including why they care about customer problems on a personal level—marketers can write with the empathy needed to make meaningful impressions on prospects. The kind that makes them sit up straighter, share a link with a friend, or finally request that demo.

Using the same framework from CMI, here’s how marketing might leverage support’s insights:

  • Use prospect questions to create on-demand content, like an FAQ page that lives on your site or a whitepaper they can download.
  • Use existing customer feedback to create and inform content that demonstrates an ongoing commitment to meeting their needs, like Q&A videos or articles that address popular questions and common complaints.
  • Use internal how-to documents to create relevant blog content that addresses pain points upfront. Offer how-to guides and/or video tutorials to new customers post-sale.
  • Use positive customer feedback to create testimonial content that doubles as social proof. Quotes, customer videos, and case studies chock full of positive customer experiences are all good options.

Finally, ask marketing if there are any writing opportunities for interested members of your team. One of our own senior support specialists used her expertise to write about customer service language—and the Aircall marketing squad really appreciated it. 

If you’ve ever been successfully sold by a landing page, or clicked through a company’s blog archive after reading one exceptionally good post, this is the level of familiarity to target. Support can help marketing achieve that.

5. Share some KPIs

The key to productive collaboration is purpose. If you can’t answer the question of Why are we doing this, your alignment efforts will likely lose steam before making a discernible impact.

For support and marketing to collaborate effectively, there should ideally be more at stake than a nebulous goal like “improving the customer experience.” Both teams should be able to answer the question of How.

The solution here is to identify a few key performance indicators (KPIs) that both customer service and marketing can work towards.

Depending on your industry or vertical, this might include:

  • User Generated Content (UGC): From YouTube to Yelp, UGC powers some of the most popular websites in the world. To lend trust and transparency to the buying process, support reps and marketers can join forces to strategize ways to elicit more (and better) user generated content.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): Support knows who’s who among your customer base. Involving them in NPS recruitment means you can more easily and reliably curate reviews from your most enthusiastic customers. Known as promoters, these folks are likely to be thoroughly satisfied with your product or service, and even more impressed by your support team.
  • Data associated with collaborative activities: To ensure your teams aren’t working together in vain, you may also want to track data associated with their newfound collaboration. This could include:
    • Number of support requests about marketing activities (e.g. promos)
    • Support-influenced campaign performance vs. previous campaign performance
    • Social media sentiment (as measured by support + marketing engagements)

Maintaining the relationship

The relationship between customer service and marketing is far from symbiotic for most organizations, but it should be.

Support needs to know where and how marketing plans to pursue and engage new and existing customers—and marketing needs a finger on the pulse of customer needs to create effective plans for prospects and existing customers alike.

You can invest in integrated tools and figure out how to align KPIs, but without a motivated group of people, you’ll be back to separate interests in no time.

Pledge your allegiance by:

  • Setting clear goals, both overarching (e.g. improve CX) and measurable (e.g. earn more social media mentions)
  • Defining how to achieve goals—and who will own the work needed to see them through
  • Meeting regularly, always with a pre-defined purpose and action items for follow up

Whatever you do, don’t allow support reps to act like fancy resort reservationists—customers really hate that.

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