Throughout my working career, I’ve often heard of sales reps referred to as “the enemy.” Far too many organizations have a rift between their sales personnel and their customer service staff. More importantly, that rift can – and often does — have a significant impact on employee productivity and on overall organizational profitability.
Over the years, as I heard more and more customer service organizations refer to their sales staff in adversarial terms, so I began to research why that was. And the answers that I got all expressed a similar sentiment:
“. . . because the only time sales reps come into our department is when they’ve got a customer with a problem and they need our help.”
In examining the sales-to-support relationship, I found this to be absolutely true. In organization after organization, practically the only cause for a sales rep to go into the Support department was to request assistance for one of their clients or prospects. Sometimes, the dread the customer support staff has when a salesperson enters the room can be downright palpable.
The perception is:
“Sales rep visit” = “more work for support”
I found that sales reps rarely (if ever) came into support just to be sociable; seldom did they offer a quick “hello” or even give brief thanks to a rep who had helped a customer of theirs.
But the fault doesn’t only lie with the sales reps; the managers in charge of support typically viewed each day’s success based on the number of support calls sent their department’s way. The more calls sent support’s way, the worse the manager’s day. And the majority of customer support managers whom I’ve encountered haven’t been shy about sharing their level of joy (or lack thereof) with their staff.
So how can an HR department go about healing that rift between sales and support (or any other departments that might be feuding)?
For starters, you have to work with the support managers to help them understand that they and their staff directly affect the productivity and profitability of the overall organization. This is especially true in companies where support calls get logged for prospective clients as well as existing ones. You also need to utilize analytical reports that show the connection between resolved support calls and closed business. Finally, make sure that you implement measurements that gauge customer satisfaction – and set satisfaction goals that – once reached – come with commensurate service staff rewards.
On the sales side of the equation, make sure that every account rep fully appreciates the role that customer service has on revenue. Sales reps should be sure to thank support staffers for their assistance on requested calls, and sales should also keep support informed on the progress of new or incremental sales. This is important not only because support often plays a role in it closing these deals, but also because it’s sales’ job to convey the indisputable fact that “new business is good for all of us”.
The HR department can be a catalyst for lasting change within an organization. Even a simple act such as leaving a stocked candy jar within a department can encourage team members to congregate in the area and can foster organic communication. Healthy collaboration between departments leads to happier team-members, more satisfied customers, and a robust bottom line.