Many companies maintain strong firewalls between their teams, limiting opportunities for cross-functional synergy. Encouraging collaboration among your company’s teams instead can increase traction toward your shared goals while reducing costs and internal friction.
One of the best opportunities for this type of collaboration is between your support and marketing teams. Specifically, you might consider:
- Keeping support in-house whenever branding is important.
- Using support as a second pair of eyes for marketing, and vice versa.
- Thinking of pre-sales and post-sales support contacts as separate audiences.
1. If your company is large (>500 employees) or primarily focuses on B2B sales, you may not need a close interpersonal connection between your support representatives and your customers. In these situations, it can make strategic and economic sense to have some or all of your support needs served by an outside vendor.
In almost every other case, however, the ability to hand-pick your support team has significant benefits. For one thing, the support reps on your front lines won’t be distracted by the terminology and tone appropriate to their other clients. Instead, they can focus on one tone of voice — the one that serves the vision of your company. Unlike an outside vendor that must find reps who can support a wide range of products and services, you can specialize in staff with the background that fits your company best.
There’s also a shorter conduit between message and messenger. When support team members are attending company meetings, seeing marketing briefings in person on-site, and otherwise marinating in your company culture, they’ll more easily and more intuitively understand how to stay on-message.
2. Before a given marketing initiative goes live, don’t forget to loop in your support team. Especially after customer contacts have started to roll in, your support team will be more attuned to the precise needs and concerns of your actual customers than perhaps anyone else in your company.
Hiring experienced and competent support reps is like adding dedicated customer-analysis machines to your team. Don’t forget to use these resources to their full potential by soliciting their feedback. You can then avoid many potential PR hurdles and hassles, just by slightly tweaking or expanding your intended messaging.
On the other hand, don’t just assume that your support team itself will always stay on-message. Have marketing, product and legal teams periodically look over technical documentation, release notes, and — for gold star bonus points — check out the occasional support email thread or phone call to better understand what’s happening in the trenches.
3. Understand that there is an important distinction between inspiring confidence and communicating empathy. Pre-sales support content should be accurate, upbeat and aspirational. On the other hand, post-sales support needs first and foremost to reassure the existing customer that their concerns have been heard, and that help is on the way.
A strong marketing team can easily be tempted to go overboard and try to set the tone for every word on the company website, including the help center. This may work while a company is first gaining media attention or right before it launches a new product, but this shouldn’t always be the template that you follow.
The best place for strong marketing input is in pre-sales support documentation. This area should be the result of strong collaboration between both teams, ensuring product has a voice here as well.
However, once the product is in the wild, the time for determinedly insisting on optimism and aspiration has passed. A customer with a problem doesn’t want to hear that the product is powered by rainbows or works 110% of the time. What they need is a concerned, listening ear that hears the problem, and then responds by using language that reflects the concerns and vocabulary of the typical customer.
Obviously, there is a line here, and the urge to apologize in public or over-emphasize possible faults of the product should indeed be avoided. But pick your battles. If the support team is clear that the most frequent question they’re hearing, “Why is my computer crashing?,” resist the urge to insist on substituting in the help documentation the question, “In the very unlikely event anything goes wrong, what should I do?”
In short, have enough confidence in your product to understand that at least a few issues are inevitable, then appreciate that a problem well-responded to is already half-solved.