I’m a marketing person, so communication is my game. I take information from our management team and communicate it to our internal staff, as well as externally to our customers. But I’m not the only one doing the communicating. Our sales and support staff are in contact with our customers daily, which can sometimes pose a bit of a problem. Even at an organization our size (our sales team has four members, and our support team has five), internal communication can turn into something of a game of telephone. From the “he said, she said” of product updates or policy changes to general confusion caused by one too many emails, botched internal communication can quickly turn into inaccurate external communication, and inaccurate external communication can turn into lost business.
So the moral of this story? Improve external communications. How? Improve internal communications. Wait, what? That’s right. One of the most effective ways to make external communications more consistent is by improving internal coordination between departments. If everybody has and understands the same information, they’ll relay that information to the customer in the same way, and you won’t keep hearing back from your customers “Well So-and-So in support said this,” or “My sales rep didn’t tell me that.”
Bolstering the quality, frequency and consistency of your internal communications is often easier said than done. To get you started, here’s four tips on how to better coordinate your sales and support teams so that everyone is getting the same message:
While it may seem like the most obvious way to coordinate your internal communication, proper documentation can often be overlooked. Be sure to document everything you want your teams to know. These should be working documents that change if someone from your sales or support team raises a relevant question or a valuable piece of information that is missing from the document.
Most importantly, put ONE person in charge of updating the documentation and keep these materials in ONE place. I can’t stress this enough. With frequently changing service offerings, program details and more, documents change often, leaving potentially incorrect information floating around the inboxes of your company. Be sure to archive old versions, communicate changes thoroughly and maintain a system of document identification so both sales and support teams know which documents to reference.
Once you have documentation created, sending it out to your sales and support teams by email is not enough. In-person training sessions with the FULL teams, all together all at one time, are the best way to communicate changes to internal information. While it might be difficult to get away from the phones, especially for the support team, it’s critical that everyone is on the same page. Try scheduling meetings before or after sales and support hours to ensure everyone can attend.
Training should be opened up for questions, and staff should be encouraged to ask them. What they always said in school is true, no question is a bad question, and if you have the question someone else probably does too. The person compiling the documentation may have not even thought about including certain information, and the sales and support teams’ questions can offer fresh perspective.
3. Standard Language and Roles
While your whole organization should run on synergy and work together, there are still certain things that should be left to the sales team and certain things that should be left to the support team in order to avoid confusion. While support can (and should) help sell additional services and solutions, leave the finer details and deal closing up to the sales team. And although the sales team can (and should) help their clients with technical questions, they should defer to the support team on the more advanced issues. For the sake of consistency, decide the appropriate time for one department to hand a customer over to the other.
Additionally, decide upon a set of terms to use and stick to them. If sales calls your service one thing and support calls it another, the customer will get confused and frustrated when trying to contact you.
4. Coordinated Goals
Finally, be sure there’s motivation for improving internal communication. Telling your teams to start changing the way they communicate is not enough. Shared goals will incentivize your staff to change their work habits. For instance, if your support team does not know the number of new customers your sales team hopes to bring on this month, or your sales team does not know the maximum call time your support team is hoping to reach, there is little motivation to help the other team out.
When support knows that sales is trying to close 10 new accounts this month, they might mention additional complementary services to a customer on a support call. When sales knows support is trying to keep their average call time below 10 minutes per call, they’ll try to answer simpler questions to help free up support’s time. This will help improve overall performance of your organization as a whole.
Improving internal coordination has a ripple effect on an organization. By fine-tuning internal communication, external communication is sharpened, customers are happier and better informed, and, in turn, business does better. Take a few simple steps to put your internal communication strategy on the right track.