Real Customer Service Maturity

There's a lot of talk about customer engagement today, and much of it focuses on customer experience—the latest new tagline for almost everything CRM-related. Although we all talk about a single view of the customer, few companies have actually done it, and it means they're not just upsetting customers but leaving valuable sales dollars on the table.

In looking at customer service maturity, the most mature companies use service information to inform sales, marketing, and product development, but we estimate that 70 percent of companies miss out on sales opportunities in the service department. Often bought by completely different teams and implemented in completely different ways, service and sales CRM applications are coming together but not yet reaching their potential.

The average customer comes into contact with customer service five times more frequently than sales, yet companies do not give agents the information they need to turn those customer interactions into sales opportunities. If companies truly tied customer relationship management (CRM) software to service, they could experience up to five times as much sales revenue. Without the customer data to personalize sales tactics, most of the companies that do currently sell through service are just delivering canned sales pitches that fall on deaf ears.

That's not to say customers wouldn't consider purchasing through service channels. Eighty percent of customers we spoke with would be willing to make a purchase through customer service agents if their recommendations would help them avoid more problems in the future.

This may be surprising, as selling through service seems counter-intuitive. After all, people are not usually in the buying mood when they call to complain about a product. But if agents knew more about the person on the other end of the line, including her demographic information, purchase and call history, overcoming this would be easy. Agents could cater their conversations to customers' needs, or companies could field calls to the agents best suited to handle the call.

Adding sales responsibilities to the service docket will cost agents more time, but we believe the revenue it will bring in would offset any loss in productivity. Not to mention, with customer service's call volume and high degree of customer touch, agents would only need a 5 percent success rate to break even if sales had a 25 percent success rate.

With customers willing to buy through service agents and nearly all enterprises already using CRM systems, tying CRM to service is a no-brainer. The same goes for CRM vendors. The functionality is already there, so messaging to the benefits of tying CRM and its customer data to service would be a slam dunk.

Moira Smalley is a research analyst at Nucleus Research.