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Over the past few months, the committee spoke with several organizations from various industries to gather general market input. We discussed the integration of sales and service, how organizations perceive this trend, and identified which organizations have the desire to implement this, which have tried it, and which have successfully integrated. After gathering this input, we expanded upon this topic during an Elite session using several assertions and varying perspectives.

Sales vs service

The definition of sales and service is a key jumping-off point. What is considered sales (or commercial value creation) and what is considered service? Where do we draw the line? This line proved to be exceptionally thin, and the definition is open to debate. Does an upsell take place because the organization wants to meet the needs of the customer (service), or because it generates (more) revenue for the organization (sales)? Both are value-enhancing. Is an organization driven by costs (Cost Center = sales) or customer value (Value Center = service)? In that case, is sales short-term oriented and service long-term? Or is sales, in fact, service and vice versa? Perhaps we should forget these concepts altogether and consider a hybrid form of contact center operations in which the customer is ultimately the focal point? In short, an interesting topic.
When we look at activities that generate (commercial) value, we notice that, for the time being, professionals mainly consider turnover-related aspects such as cross- and upsell, while they rarely focus on lead generation, data enrichment, data completeness for the benefit of a customer profile, or information that can be of added value elsewhere in the organization, such as obtaining opt-ins for marketing campaigns. Not to mention the less measurable side, where an individual decides to remain a customer longer simply because he or she received excellent customer service.

From inspiration to implementation

A distinct market trend is evident; an increasing number of parties are recognizing the added value of integrated sales and service, yet implementation appears to be somewhat challenging. Organizations run into a wide range of determining factors, such as the structure of existing business processes, time (lengthy process), expenses, communication (translation within an organization, but also between teams and different departments), mindset, (changing) tasks, culture, people (stakeholder management) and changing employee profiles (more complex and more commercially driven), but also the lack of (centralized) data (supporting ROI business cases).

Shift in employee profile and corporate culture

During the transition from pure service to a service department with commercial value creation, it has become clear that organizations must be prepared to accept that not everyone is willing or able to participate in such a transition. The objective is generally to incorporate as many people as possible. In practice, however, this does not always succeed, or may not even be advisable. How do we manage this? What impact does this have on the labor market? Clearly, with the integration of sales and service, the profile of the customer service employee is becoming increasingly commercial and complex. How does the employee view this, though? Innovative technology already removes many peripherals, allowing employees to focus more on conducting quality conversations. Still, our discussions indicate that a more commercial profile aligns better with the requirements for value maximization.
Another obstacle that organizations experience involves organizational culture. What if you run into these issues as a department, or organization? What options do you have? We sometimes see parties opting for an outsource strategy where commercial inbound calls are conducted by a facility-based customer contact center. This in turn can have implications for management, especially when different KPIs are being pursued (internally/externally), which may also conflict with each other. How do you manage this as an organization and how do you communicate this internally? Within the organizations we spoke to, this is handled with (very) different approaches. Communication again appears to be key, as does the value-based approach throughout the organization.

What’s next

As more organizations (begin) to integrate sales and service, the market will continue to evolve. Expanding upon our interviews and the Elite session, we as a committee will explore this in more detail over the coming period. We will study the interaction and factors that determine successful integration, the role of the employee, outsourcing strategies, data and technological innovations that can play a supporting role. What is the market-wide impact, which examples can we learn from, and which specific tools are available?

It goes without saying that plenty of knowledge remains to be shared on this topic. That’s precisely what we will do – in various forms. To be continued…!

Larissa van Sunder

Chief of Growth & Strategic Partnerships bij Uitblinqers

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