Business Practices | | Published July 07, 2016

Sales and Customer Support: A Circular Relationship

Because they function as two separate departments, many businesses make the mistake of viewing sales and support as independent operations. They see the customer journey as a straight line where the customer comes into contact with the business, purchases a product or service and seeks help from support should any issues arise.

This linear viewpoint ignores the value of existing customers and misses out on the opportunity to "wow" them and create long-term value so they will renew, add seats, and potentially add additional features. Current, satisfied users of your product are perfectly primed to increase their subscriptions and also provide word of mouth referrals. Sales and support should work as a circle, not as a straight line.

Using support to fuel sales
Your business should use its support team to funnel existing customers back to sales and increase usage. It's easier to sell additional services to existing customers because you already have a relationship with them.
It's easier to increase sales with satisfied customers.
You don't have to repeat the marketing process like you do with new customers, and you don't have to work as hard to convince customers that working with your company provides numerous benefits over the competition. As long as these customers are happy, increasing sales should be a breeze.

Customer satisfaction is the result of multiple factors, but your support team is in a unique position to help. If a customer is dissatisfied because he or she encounters issues with your product, your agents have the opportunity to fix the problem and turn the relationship back to a positive one.

"Support reps have unique insight into how customers use your product."

In addition, support representatives have unique insight into how customers use your product. Armed with customer support software that records previous tickets, provides customer notes, and supplies agents with a list of the products customers have purchased, your reps can easily suggest additional features to help your customers meet their business needs. This is where customer support can be proactive – they can let customers know about new features and options available that will help make their lives easier.

Upselling when appropriate
Upselling isn't a tactic agents should use without discretion. Kissmetrics noted two occasions when it's inappropriate to try and sell additional products to your customers. The first is when they aren't satisfied with your business. Attempting to sell products to unhappy customers makes it appear as though your company is more focused on profits rather than customer satisfaction. 

"B2B support software that monitors satisfaction gives a good indication of customer sentiment."

It's sometimes difficult to gauge a customer's attitude toward your business, but B2B support software that monitors satisfaction gives your team a good indication as to how customers feel. For example TeamSupport includes a Customer Distress Index (CDI) that estimates the customer's point of view by evaluating variables such as number of open tickets, number of closed tickets, average resolution time and other elements. What's most beneficial is that your business gets to choose the weights of the variables the system uses to evaluate customer distress, so your team gets metrics appropriate to your unique business.

The second inappropriate situation is when the suggested product or enhancement provides no additional value to your customers. You don't want to sell customers things they don't need simply to increase revenue. Rather, you and your agents should position your business as an ally in your customer's endeavors, providing them with the exact tools they need to succeed in their goals.

Acting as a true partner will increase sales.

This is why customer support is great for upselling. Agents know how your customers operate better than anyone, so they can provide the best suggestions to help them work more efficiently. Acting as a true partner and providing suggestions for best practices and tools that can enhance efficiency will automatically lead to increasing sales. Agents also know which services customers are looking for and can use this information to supply ideas to your developers for products that fulfill a customer's unmet needs.

Your customer support team is a great asset in selling additional licenses, features and services to existing customers. Businesses shouldn't think of support and sales as separate. Instead, they should focus on how the two can work in harmony to better assist the needs of your customers. Should customers encounter any problems with their new services, they already know and trust your support team to be reliable and helpful.