Field tested tips for aligning customer service and marketing

If a business is an orchestra, then every department is its own instrument. When teams work in isolation, the result is simply noise. However, when everyone unites around shared goals, beautiful music is made. And there’s no sweeter harmony than what’s created through collaboration between customer service and marketing.

Looking for proof? Look no further than Instant Brands. The company is home to an iconic portfolio of seven kitchenware brands including Corelle, Pyrex, Instant Pot and more. Managing customer service for such a diverse range of beloved business units demands continual innovation driven by consumer insights. To achieve this, Instant Brands has embraced a top-notch approach to social media customer service.

Social Media Manager, Camille Pessoa, is the driving force behind Instant Brands’ social customer service initiatives. She partners with Maggie Lowman, who is responsible for managing the content aspect of Instant Brands’ social media strategy. Together, they work to create a consistent feedback loop that empowers each team to deliver on a customer-obsessed strategy.

“The collaboration between our departments is vital for the business,” says Pessoa. “Working this closely together is how we achieve the success and goals that we strive for.”

We spoke with Pessoa and Lowman to get the inside scoop on what makes their approach to collaboration between marketing and customer service work. In this guide, you’ll find tested advice on aligning both teams to support better customer outcomes.

Why your marketing and customer service departments need to work together
How to align marketing and customer service teams
3 ways marketing and customer service can work together
How Instant Brands’ customer service and marketing teams stay connected with Sprout Social

Why your marketing and customer service departments need to work together

In a competitive market, the only way to win is to be customer obsessed. When marketers collaborate with customer service teams, they get unparalleled insights into the driving forces behind customer experiences. Grounding marketing strategies in customer feedback elevates initiatives big and small.

But what’s in it for customer service teams?

According to Lowman, it’s rich social insights. “Social media is a direct line to your consumer. One of our main goals is obviously to provide consumer value, and they’re telling us what they want on social every day. By the way that they interact with us, by the comments and complaints that they leave—it’s really valuable information.”

If that doesn’t make the case, don’t worry—we’re just scratching the surface. Here are three more benefits businesses gain from close collaboration between customer service and marketing teams.

It’s what consumers expect

What it takes to meet consumer expectations is changing. In the past, providing superior customer service was a speed issue. But, as customer experience standards continue to rise, so does the need for high quality, personalized care on social.

The latest Sprout Social Index™ found that 76% of consumers notice and appreciate when companies prioritize social customer support, and the same percentage of consumers value how quickly a brand can respond to their needs. To do both of these things well, marketing and customer service teams need to stay in constant contact.

It helps each team reach their respective goals

Increasing the flow of customer feedback and insights between customer service and marketing teams elevates the performance of both functions.

When a support channel as critical as social lives solely in the hands of marketing, customer service teams are forced to take a more reactive, inefficient approach to providing customer care. Maintaining service level agreements across channels starts with removing data silos with shared tools and resources.

Marketing teams stand to benefit along the same lines. “Our social customer service team catches content issues quickly,” says Lowman. “For example, if a link isn’t working or there’s an error in the copy, they’re able to alert us quickly so that we can make the changes that are necessary to ensure a better customer experience.”

It surfaces opportunities for surprise and delight

More than half (51%) of consumers say the most memorable thing a brand can do on social is respond to customers. By involving your customer service team in social engagements, you have the opportunity to elevate this even further.

When customer service and marketing teams work together, they can better identify and act on opportunities for surprise and delight. For example, when a member of the Instant Pot Facebook Group shared that her beloved appliance had been destroyed after a hurricane, the Instant Brands team was able to get to work quickly to send her replacement, along with their well wishes.

“This person said that they had been using their Instant Pot almost every night for years,” says Lowman. “Our Facebook Group is over three million strong. If we weren’t taking the time to go through all the comments and conversations we get daily, we wouldn’t have gotten to have that very sentimental and important engagement with our customer.”

How to align marketing and customer service teams

Making the most of every customer care opportunity begins by strengthening the bond between your marketing and customer service teams. As your working relationship deepens, it will become easier for both parties to identify new ways to wow customers.

If you want to make cross-functional collaboration a well-worn reflex for all your team members, we’ve got four tips to help you along the way.

1. Align on shared goals

When you’re just beginning to build connections with colleagues from other teams, it can feel like they’re speaking a different language. Everything—timelines, rituals, commonly used phrases and acronyms—can feel utterly foreign, even though you all work at the same company.

Aligning on goals is the fastest way to break down the barrier. Once teams are looking at a shared goal, all the work that goes into getting there makes a lot more sense.

For Perssoa’s team, social media response time is the top priority. “I work with a team of six moderators that rotate in for 24/7 service. We try to maintain an average first response time of four hours for general engagements, and one business day for reviews.”

There’s also quite a bit of quality assurance work that goes into ensuring all conversations meet the Instant Brands standard. “I usually pick three conversations at random, then analyze them against our customer service rubric,” says Pessoa.

These goals enhance outcomes for both teams, giving everyone something to rally around. When customer service teams are able to meet and exceed their service delivery standards, marketers reap the benefits of heightened customer satisfaction.

2. Assign roles and responsibilities

Businesses without dedicated social customer service teams often face bottlenecks when it comes to managing social media engagement. Marketers are typically equipped to handle standard issues and frequently asked questions, but more complicated inquiries can gum up processes for both teams.

To successfully navigate these complex issues, you’ll need to outline clear, cross-functional roles and responsibilities for the channel. By 2024, the majority of companies anticipate social customer care becoming a shared responsibility. Adopting a responsibility assignment matrix—like the Responsible Accountable Consulted Informed (RACI) model, for example—can put your team ahead of the curve.

Of course, there’s no one size fits all approach to defining these roles and responsibilities. For maximum efficacy, they need to be tailored to your business. If you’re having trouble determining what that might look like, here are some thought starters to guide your approach:

On average, how many messages do you receive across your social profiles per month? Does your social team have the capacity to handle those messages? If not, what percentage are they able to resolve on their own?
What are the most common types of questions, complaints or comments your team receives on social?
What situations often call for case escalations on social? In your current processes, when do you tap in your customer service team for help?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can outline how you’ll approach customer service tiers on social. For instance, if you get a large amount of tier zero requests through social channels, it may be time to make the case for a customer service chatbot tool. This empowers customers to resolve issues independently, aligning with their preferred time for outreach.

3. Eliminate data silos

Now that you have your roles and responsibilities outlined, it’s time to ask the tough questions. How will your social team pass cases over to their colleagues in customer service?

Findings from a Q3 Sprout Social Pulse Survey reveal the biggest challenges customer care professionals face when providing service on social media are largely related to routing. These hurdles revolve around the significant time invested in manual tasks and the insufficient access to comprehensive customer information for agents.

To address these challenges, the same Pulse Survey found 45% of customer care leaders intend to invest in integrated technology that enables their teams to collaborate within unified systems. It’s a solution that Instant Brands has relied on to limit confusion when working between teams.

“We use Sprout Social to manage our social customer service strategy,” says Pessoa. “It allows us to address issues in a single platform, rather than having to switch between email or Microsoft Teams to resolve a case.”

4. Create spaces for collaboration and information sharing

A refined approach to social customer care is achieved through ongoing two-way feedback between customer service and marketing teams. As team members become more familiar with their roles in the process, it’s crucial to provide them with spaces to surface opportunities for improvement.

At Instant Brands, that looks like a shared channel on their business communication tool, along with a weekly 30 minute meeting. “Our Microsoft Team’s chat is crucial,” says Lowman “It keeps Camille and I, along with a few others on our team, connected. We use it daily to bring up questions, concerns and other items our teams need to work together on to address.”

It also gives Pessoa and her team a chance to provide direct feedback on Instant Brand’s social media content strategy.

“We tailor our strategy based on consumer demand,” says Pessoa. “If we see there’s an opportunity to educate our consumers on a common product-related question, we pass the opportunity over to marketing so they can create content around that specific question. It creates a strategy that’s more aligned with consumer needs.”

According to Lowman, this approach creates a measurable win-win for both teams. “Say we have 300 customers asking how to do a water test with their Instant Pot. We can make a how-to video and put that out on social media. We typically see really strong engagement from this type of content because it’s informed by our customer care team.”

@instantpotofficial

The Water Test is great for troubleshooting all sorts of Instant Pot issues, but do you know how to do it? Worry not, we’re here to help! Follow these steps and if everything goes well, you’re ready to go. Didn’t get these results? Reach out to our social team and they’ll be happy to help you troubleshoot. 😊 howto, instantpot, instantpotrecipes, instantpottips, instantpotcooking, instantpotlove, instantpotbeginner, pressurecooking, beginner, #pressurecooker

♬ original sound – Instant Pot

3 ways marketing and customer service can work together

Building a strong partnership between two teams is an ongoing commitment that requires routine checkpoints. If you set it and forget it, chances are your teams will too. Avoid this fate by nurturing collaboration between your marketing and customer service teams using these three field tested methods, courtesy of Instant Brands.

Shared reports

Lowman had always shared social media performance updates during a monthly meeting. However, these updates were specific to the marketing end of the channel. Without the customer service perspective, stakeholders only got a fraction of the story. Combining reports told a bigger picture—one that allowed them to capitalize on new opportunities.

“Combining reports helped us a lot early on in our relationship,” says Lowman. “When we pulled in Camille, she was able to add a new layer that explained what our consumers are talking about, where their frustrations are, what common pain points are coming online—things like that. It brought a new layer of value into our monthly meeting.”

Shared resources

Brand guidelines, promotional calendars, strategy briefs—the resources that keep marketing team members on the same page can also do the same for your teammates in customer service.

“Simple things, like getting an advanced look at the marketing content calendar, can make a world of a difference,” says Pessoa. “It gives my team time to identify opportunities or flag issues. We get so much value from that proactive exchange of information.”

This holds particularly true for social media. Think about it: the content you share can significantly impact the number of service inquiries you receive on the platform.

For example, this TikTok on the do’s and don’ts of owning an Instant Pot received over 505,000 views.

@instantpotofficial

Make sure to follow these Dos and Don’ts when using your Instant Pot. These helpful tips will keep you pressure cooking safely and more efficiently! #instantpot #tiptok #dosanddonts

♬ Peace – Official Sound Studio

It’s an incredibly helpful piece of content that was bound to generate quite a bit of engagement. Without a proper heads up on when and where it would be published, the Instant Brands social customer service team wouldn’t have been prepared to address the 100+ comments received on the video.

By collaborating with your customer service team, you provide them with an opportunity to review scheduled content for clarity. Leveraging their firsthand knowledge of customers, they can proactively address potential issues before they arise.

Shared tools

While eliminating data silos may seem like an obvious choice, the reality is that investing in new shared tools takes a lot of work. It involves the challenge of aligning stakeholders on priorities and the complex task of integrating new and existing systems—no easy feat, indeed.

However, it’s important to remember that connected tools lead to reduced operational hassles for teams and result in superior customer experiences. You simply can’t argue with those results. Just ask the team at Instant Brands.

“Customers talk about us on social media all the time, and that can be positive or negative,” says Pessoa. “What matters is that we address them as fast as we can. That’s why Sprout’s integration with Salesforce is so crucial for us. It keeps us connected with the service agents that handle escalations so we can extinguish fires with minimal risk.”

By investing in a social media management platform that integrates with Salesforce Service Cloud, the Instant Brands team is able to get the most out of both tools. It’s an investment that benefits everyone—leaders, agents and customers.

How Instant Brands’ customer service and marketing teams stay connected with Sprout Social

Social media operates at the intersection of brand marketing and customer service, serving as the thread that weaves these two disciplines together. The channel’s role in connecting both teams underscores the importance of a unified social media management tool.

For this purpose, Instant Brands chose Sprout Social. Here are the tools that drove their decision:

Cases foster in-platform collaboration

Some customer questions are best suited for tenured agents who have a better understanding of the nuances of your business. Others may require additional context from another team—like brand or legal. Cases allow agents to delegate messages to a specific team member along with all the helpful context needed to set them up for success.

“We use Cases all the time,” says Pessoa. “Not just for interacting with marketing, but also for interactions between our moderation team as well.”

With Cases, team members across Instant Brands can resolve issues without having to navigate between disparate platforms. Team leads can also measure the number of cases being assigned and completed, along with other critical customer service metrics, from the Case Performance Report.

Tags break down the trends in common social media support requests

Tags are a Sprout feature that act as labels you can attach to any piece of content you plan to publish, or any inbound messages received in the Smart Inbox. Using Tags allows you to filter social media reports to identify themes across your outbound publishing and inbound messages, enhancing your social media insights.

“We divide our Tags into three categories: information, support and sentiment,” says Pessoa. “Then, under those umbrellas, we have all sorts of specific Tags. For example, we have an information Tag for influencers that reach out, a support Tag for potential damage claims, a sentiment Tag for customer advocacy. We get very granular.”

“This helps us zero in on what consumers are asking and what we need to address—either internally with customer service or through content with marketing.”

Social Listening extracts actionable insights from conversations across social

Teams across Instant Brands use Sprout’s Social Listening tool to extract insights from across social. This simplifies and expedites the process of analyzing the conversations and trends related to their full portfolio of brands and within their industry.

“It’s so important for us to know what consumers are saying about each specific brand,” explains Pessoa. “We use listening to automatically generate reports that are shared with our leadership team so we can all share an understanding of what consumers are talking—or complaining—about.”

Social media listening also surfaces interesting product use cases from across the social-sphere, which helps the Instant Brand marketing team come up with new content ideas. “We see so many interesting use cases for the Instant Pot,” says Lowman. “It gives us a birds-eye view of the general customer landscape.”

Sprout’s Salesforce Service Cloud integration supports superior care for high touch issues

You can only take social customer care issues so far in a public forum before you need to escalate things to a private channel. Without an escalation management strategy in place, you risk customers sharing sensitive information—like home addresses, phone numbers and account information—in a non-secure environment.

Sprout empowers teams to provide seamless, omnichannel care through our global partnership with Salesforce. As Salesforce’s preferred social media management solution, we offer deep out-of-box integrations that allow Salesforce customers to do more with their social media data.

“We’re always generating cases with Sprout for Salesforce. We get quite a few requests for Instant Pot and Pyrex—usually things like requests for replacements or product defects. To solve those issues, we need to be able to ask for consumer information which has to be done in Salesforce.”

Customer service and marketing teams do better together

When marketing and customer service teams join forces, they create a positive impact that can benefit an entire business, from sales to product and beyond. But the biggest winner in this partnership is the customer, which makes it even better.

For additional insights into the consumer preferences shaping the future of social media, check out the latest Sprout Social Index™. Inside, you’ll discover valuable data to enhance your approach to social customer care.

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