Talking about and delivering good customer experience are generally two very different things.

For many organisations Sales and Service are distinct offerings delivered by different functions in the business. This split inevitably leads to differing experiences, additional pressures on departments (when recognised) and frustration in that it is counterintuitive for customers who want all their requirements to be catered for under one roof. In SalesSense we recognised this challenge and developed a methodology which offers both experiences in combination. 

We call it SOS². Today our culture is built upon it. SOS because it incorporates “Sales Oriented Service” and SOS because it incorporates “Service Oriented Sales”. It is the foundation in how we deliver. It gives us the ability to respond to our customers with one single point of contact who owns both Sales and Customer Care. This ensures customers receive a faster response and enjoy a better overall experience.

For years far too many businesses ran their customer service and sales functions in separate silos.

Gerard Teahon, CEO

Organisational design has tended to keep the functions of sales and service separate and in some businesses, at quite a distance from each other. This has created a silo effect. We have experienced notable examples in energy and telecoms, where large contact centres with annual costs of €20m and upwards would receive inbound calls from customers experiencing issues such as poor coverage, slow broadband, faulty handsets. For every time there was a technical issue to be resolved, there was equally a time when the requirement was more a case of the existing solution no longer meeting the customer’s need. 

In the Service centre, this type of call would be classified as resolved due to no fault being found, whereas through the sales lens this same call would be treated as a red-hot lead. Meanwhile in the same organisation a budget of €10m upwards is likely to be spent on outbound sales teams charged with “upselling and cross-selling”. 

In turn this team faces countless situations where the opportunity to close the new deal is based upon first resolving and de-escalating customer frustrations from the service experience. Once again silos intervene and sales agents are forced to walk away from opportunities. For me the realisation was clear and I asked myself the simple questions, what are we actually doing here and why are we doing it this way?

For years far too many businesses ran their customer service and sales functions in separate silos. All that was happening was that they were missing opportunities to sell, to serve and to exceed customer expectations.

Simon Brown, COO

From philosophy to experience

We know that customer behavior continues to change. We also know that there is a demand for engagement on those channels that meet the customer’s preference be it a combination of call, mail, chat, bot, text or social and – pay attention – because these preferences change from one interaction to the next.

Trying to satisfy this demand through a modern Customer Engagement Centre places new expectations on traditional measures of success such as FCR (First Call Resolution) and FPOC (First Point of Contact). The always on 24/7 society means organisations have less time to drive home their messages and demonstrate that every customer is special. There is a short window to delight and exceed expectations in ways that competitors fail to do. Gone are the days of Telesales or Customer Care over the phone or email, multi-site transfers, over-elaborate IVR’s and long wait times in queues. Customer expectation means that every touch point has greater value and greater potential than ever before. Equally it means they carry greater risk.

Customers no longer accept that sales calls can be answered in 10 seconds when it can take days for underlying service issues to be addressed.

Translating our SOS2 philosophy into a series of repeatable processes begins with how we hire, how we train and how we deploy our people in the first instance. This is a Customer Engagement business; our people are at the heart of everything we do. Supporting people with technology is easier when everyone is pointed in the same direction. In one of our energy partnerships, we identified that the separate teams for sales and service were driving down first call resolution and impacting on customer success. Traditional processes were the cause of avoidable call transfers, additional calls, and unnecessary customer frustrations. Within a few weeks of deploying SOS2 the customer’s NPS score improved from +8 to +80, achieved by placing our agents in an empowered position to manage at FPOC what historically would have been a customer experience of IVR ‘traps’, inbound enquiry, call transfers, potential resolution or worse again the dreaded ‘call back’.

With one of our Omni-channel clients we experienced significant customer frustration on our sales lines. Giving access to the service system and deployment of SOS2 through a single point of contact in customer engagement meant that we could achieve a positive customer service resolution in 30 seconds. Previously the calls were being placed on hold, required supervisor escalations and call backs over an average 5-minute handling time. By dramatically improving First Call Resolution (FCR) for sales and service the client gained the confidence to bring additional components of service such as fuel cards and credit control under the same roof, recognising that customers were no longer accepting that sales calls could be answered in 10 seconds while it could take days for underlying service issues to be addressed.

How did we build this CX? Training the agents is obviously key, but the real requirement is to empower them through best-in-class technology and support. The philosophy is simple, what is the point in having an IVR system that routes calls to human beings if those people cannot make decisions.

Importantly SOS2 champions the philosophy that truly customer centric brands don’t pat themselves on the back at how big they can make an IVR but how small they can keep it.

From a technology perspective we introduced omni-channel to facilitate customers to communicate through their preferred channels. When we designed our digital interfaces, we similarly applied our philosophy to “empower” these processes. This included simple steps like ensuring that webchat is equally proficient for all sales, customer care and tech support engagements.

SalesSense puts our customer at the centre of everything they do, the team has a real passion for our brand and they are clearly passionate about our product, with the team often going above and beyond to help our customers.

Colin Bebbington, Bord Gáis Energy

The culture of SOS² – embedded in the walls

When we designed our Customer Engagement Centre in Dundalk in 2015, we took many years of philosophy and literally embedded it in the walls. We created signage to reinforce key messages and installed artefacts to serve as a constant reinforcement of our culture. This has helped us to deliver for our key partner clients. In the energy market, a highly competitive environment where switching is a constant challenge, we deliver sales growth through SOS2 but even more importantly the enhanced customer experience has helped two of our key partners achieve #1 and #2 positions on Trust Pilot. The SOS2 model is proven to raise Net Promoter Score (NPS)and First Call Resolution (FCR). It is embedded in our culture through our values of Teamwork, Inspiring and Excellence.

Future developments and emerging trends

Customers are driving the need for continuous innovation in the delivery of CX. As a partner company SalesSense is focused on being at the leading edge of new delivery capability. We work with research organisations such as CeADAR to explore emerging solutions. We are developing data-driven processes that will be supported by AI and machine learning. As our evolving capabilities are driven by the requirements of customers in the future, we include our empowered teams, partners and customers in the design phase as we explore the art of the possible.

Having embedded SOS2 in the walls we are continually working on new ways to embed it in our emerging technology solutions and processes, further enhancing our partners’ results and customer experience.

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