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7 Practical Tips for Improving the Relationship Between Marketing and Customer Service

In a few select companies, the Marketing Department and the Customer Service Department are like a happily married middle-aged couple. They like the same music, they finish each other’s sentences, and they’re even starting to look alike. But in most companies, Marketing and Customer Service aren’t even dating much less in a long-term happy marriage. Sadly, Marketing and Customer Service are often so painfully unprepared to support each other’s efforts that they actually harm each other, as follows:

Slammed and Backlogged. Marketing hires a new ad agency. The new agency comes in hot and launches a huge promo campaign with discount coupons and online ads on radio, tv, social media, email, and in bricks-and-mortar retail stores. Marketing fails to give Customer Service complete information or enough time to prepare to support this campaign, so the Contact Center is slammed and backlogged. A fun round of the Blame Game ensues, and Customer Service loses. Marketing claims the campaign would have been a tremendous success if only Customer Service had supported it properly.

Not Allowed, Can’t Change, Won’t Change. Customer Service is led by a strict, by-the-QA-scorecard manager who loves AHT and FCR more than they love empowering frontline agents. So when Marketing’s efforts to reach out to a new customer base succeed, the Contact Center is ill-prepared to help. The new customers have lots of questions, and they need some hand-holding from CSRs. But these frontline folks are not accustomed to staying on the phone a bit longer or risking a low quality score for a naïve or confused customer. They stick to the scripts they’ve been given and rush these new customers off the phone or out of the chat. Another fun round of the Blame Game ensues, and Marketing loses. Customer Service claims that the new customers cost more to serve than the revenue they would have generated. 

Seven Practical Tips for Improving the Relationship Between Marketing and Customer Service

 Are Marketing and Customer Service Destined to be Montagues and Capulets? No, they are not. Marketing and Customer Service can improve their working relationship and learn to collaborate to improve customer experience and company profit. (No one wants to end up like the feuding Romeo and Juliet families, right?).

Here, I present seven tips that will build a better working relationship between the two departments. Each tip involves sharing something that was previously “owned” by one department, collaborating to produce something new, or simply getting to know each other better. I saved my favorite tip for last, so be sure you read number 7.

  1. Share social media. Really share it. Customer Service and Marketing have been splitting Social Media for more than a decade now, but I suggest really sharing it. That would mean shared recruiting for new employees and shared staffing in each social channel. It would mean paying people in both departments equally whether their role is to pitch a new product on Instagram or help a customer change a shipping address via Facebook Messenger. Sharing social media would mean the two departments would use the same software to manage social, they’d train their employees together, and they’d share a content calendar.
  1. Meet each other’s outsourcers. Both Marketing and Customer Service rely on outsourced teams, but each department is rarely aware of who the other department’s outsourcers are or what the business relationship is with the outsourcers.
  • Marketing, ask your ad agency to give a pitch meeting to Customer Service. Have the agency show Customer Service how they go from concept to campaign and how they measure results. Have agency leadership explain how their team is organized to support its contract with your company. Show Customer Service your contract with the ad agency and describe the results this agency’s provided for the company.
  • Customer Service, ask your BPO to give a pitch meeting to Marketing. Have the BPO introduce its leadership and a few frontline agents. Have them show Marketing around their facility, either virtually or in person. Show Marketing your contract or agreement with your BPO and explain why it’s structured as it is. Tell the story of your relationship with this BPO, including any concerns you have with their performance or any changes you’ve asked them to make.

3. Review the corporate Brand Guidelines together and ensure the documents meets the needs of both teams. In most companies, the Corporate Communications team creates the Brand Guidelines document, and Marketing relies on it all day, every day. Sadly, in many companies, Customer Service has never seen the Brand Guidelines document and may not even realize this resource exists. To improve the relationship between the two departments, leaders from both departments should review the Brand Guidelines and request added content if the Guidelines don’t meet everyone’s needs. For example, if the Brand Guidelines contains twice as much info on the color palette for the corporate logo as it does on the corporate tone of voice, it won’t be very useful for Customer Service. This shared resource should contain useful content for both teams.

4. Ask your Internal Communications team to share soup-to-nuts Customer Stories. To sustain collaboration between Marketing and Customer Service, keep telling the story of it happening. Ask Internal Communications to develop a content property where the two teams can regularly tell customer stories that represent the full arc: from acquisition to satisfaction to retention. The Customer Stories feature could be published on the Intranet or in a Slack channel, in a newsletter or as a video series.

Recruit people from each team to contribute to each Customer Story, but consider telling the stories with one perspective or the other. For example, when Customer Service tells the Customer Story, start with the complaint or compliment and tell the story in reverse, all the way back to the Marketing offer. When Marketing tells the story, they can crystal-ball the story from the offer or campaign, forward.

5. Collaborate to develop a Customer Loyalty program or improve the one your company already has. A Customer Loyalty program is the perfect place for Marketing and Customer Service to work together because such a program will need the special expertise of each department to succeed. Marketing knows what motivates customers and what kind of stimulus inspires them to buy; Customer Service knows what customers’ needs are after purchase and what their pain points are. Together, the two teams could pilot a Customer Loyalty program, determine who would be eligible, and decide what the incentives and perks would be. Together, the two teams would devise a plan to measure the success of the Customer Loyalty program, a task which would involve shared measures of success.

6. Mutually improve self-service content. When you think about it, self-service content such as FAQs or knowledge articles support the efforts of both Marketing and Customer Service. So what better way to collaborate than to improve self-service content together. This improves the chances that content will be useful to prospective customers (Marketing) and existing customers (Customer Service) alike.

For example, Marketing and Customer Service could work together to improve this FAQ from a national grocery store chain.

Q. Do I need to print digital coupons?

A. Our digital coupon will work automatically as long as you be sure to click to save them to your account and enter your unique 10-digit phone number.

The unclear answer affects shoppers’ willingness to use the digital coupons, so it hurts Marketing’s efforts, and it causes shoppers to call or email the Customer Service team because they’re still confused.

Marketing and Customer Service should work on a rewrite like this one, below. Fixing the problems with self-service content will allow both teams to stop compensating for them in promotional materials or in a higher-than-necessary volume of contacts.

Q. Do I need to print digital coupons?

A. No, you do not need to print digital coupons. When you enter your 10-digit phone number at checkout, the coupons will automatically be applied to your purchases, as long as you have saved them to your online account. To save digital coupons to your online account, log in to your account and click the coupons you want to use.

7. Organize an annual Marketing and Customer Service Problem-Solving Summit around this idea: “Give us your hardest problem to solve.” As I mentioned at the top of the list, this is my favorite tip because it uses each team’s special expertise to help the other team solve a difficult problem. Marketing can continue to think in a very Marketing-ish manner, and Customer Service continues to think in a very Customer Service-y way, while they each bring a fresh approach to the other team’s problems.

So, for example, at your 2019 Marketing and Customer Service Problem-Solving Summit, Marketing might bring Customer Service this hard problem to solve, “We have to prove the ROI of our marketing activities.” While Customer Service doesn’t have experience proving ROI of marketing, it does have experience proving ROI. Even frontline customer service agents, who aren’t accustomed to proving ROI, may have unexpected insights because they’re in touch with customers all day every day. They’re the receivers of customers’ most candid responses.

And what difficult problem will Customer Service offer up for Marketing’s help> Maybe Customer Service will give Marketing this difficult problem to solve: “We’re hiring all the time, we suffer attrition of new hires before they’re fully on the job, and onboarding takes forever. So how can we keep our operation running when other departments keep poaching our best frontline employees?”

It’s time for Marketing and Customer Service to meet, date, get engaged, get hitched and at last launch that long, happy marriage. And we don’t need to blow up the org chart to get this done. Even in the most siloed companies, the marriage between Marketing and Customer Service can happen if the two departments collaborate on projects, share resources, and simply get to know each other better.