Automation and AI are changing the nature of work. Every company job — including every front-office job — will be impacted. Always-available commerce and intelligent guided-selling solutions erode field sales teams. Automated self-service obsoletes generalists and Tier 1 customer service agents. This means that inside sales teams are now handling more highly considered purchases. Customer service agents are advising and guiding customers to the right purchase and solving harder issues.
Sales and service organizations need the right data, information, and insights about their customers at the right time — and in context, so that they can focus on nurturing relationships instead of data entry. CRM vendors are making this easier by bringing sales and service tech closer together. This explains Oracle’s Engagement cloud, as well as why Zendesk recently purchased Base.
Here are four points to think about when better supporting your customers throughout their sales and service journey:
1. Realize the fine line between sales and service. Customer service spans both pre-purchase and post-purchase activities. Sales activities target new and existing customers. There is not much difference between the conversations that customer service agents and inside sales reps have prior to a customer purchase — explaining the details of a product or helping properly onboard a customer. In addition, the technology capabilities that these roles use to interact with customers are similar, even though they are currently provided via separate sales automation and customer service application ecosystems.
2. Deliver highly personal engagement. Relationships matter — and customers expect interactions personalized to who they are, what they have done, and what they are currently doing. To meet these expectations, sales and service personnel must have a full view of the customer; details about their industry; their interaction and transaction history; their current account status, which includes open incidents; and even their current context and journey.
3. Learn to work side by side with AI and automation. In a self-service and commerce-first world, authentic, humanized customer relationships become rarer and even more important. Sales and customer service personnel must learn how to work side by side and leverage AI and automation, exploiting the unique advantages of these technologies. AI and automation can help improve empathy and customer understanding in real time and enhance the ability to personalize and contextualize engagement. In turn, sales and customer service personnel will better serve the customer — improving retention and revenue.
4. Start to rethink workforces. Customers expect consistent experiences across their life cycles, and they expect companies to coordinate the efforts of their outside sales, inside sales, and customer service agents. Today, these organizations do not have access to the same customer data — let alone consistent measures of quality or success. With the rise of self-service, roles are also requiring up-leveled skill sets. Companies should first think to empower customer-facing roles with consistent technologies. They should also explore how these roles may blend in the future, including experimenting with role swapping.