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How digitised customer journeys are replacing the long sales lunch

By Stuart Templeton, Head of UK at Slack


We may have held fewer long client lunches and spent less time traveling to meet new partners, but the importance of customer experience has only continued to grow in the past year.

In the globalised marketplace, customer experience standards have continued to rise as the world’s biggest brands have demonstrated the power of offering flawless and sophisticated services in every market.

That means today every business must raise its own standards in response. Customers want a seamless experience whether they are dealing with sales, marketing or customer success, in-person or, as is more likely, digitally.

Instead of doubling the drinks budget for an in-person meet-up, it’s time organisations think about how they can revolutionise the way customer teams collaborate. Because, in today’s world, where experience reigns, not even the best lunch will smooth over clunky digital interactions and the outdated technologies behind them.

Defaulting to digital while adding value 

Digital channels matter more than ever.

Even as the pandemic recovery gets underway, fundamental changes will remain when it comes to customer experience. Just as consumers will be less likely to return to brick-and-mortar shops for every need, B2B sales teams will be visiting fewer customer offices. Clients themselves may be working remotely too, or swapping to a hybrid model of work. In short, opportunities for face-to-face interactions will remain rarer than they were pre-pandemic, so its vital more value is unlocked digitally.

Less time in offices, though, doesn’t mean less customer-facing time. Instead of long journeys (with anxiety-inducing train delays and dodgy internet access) to reach an out-of-town office, customer-facing teams will continue to refine how they meet and collaborate digitally.

As McKinsey outlined, 90% of B2B companies transitioned to virtual sales models during COVID-19. As things open up, we need to keep iterating on those models to enable a dynamic hybrid approach. That means making better use of everyone’s time, saving face-to-face meetings for key milestones, and unlocking the real value of defaulting-to-digital elsewhere.

Relegating email to the history books 

For complex campaigns, resolving customer issues, handovers between teams, and putting the finishing touches on a deal, email chains simply don’t cut it. It’s too easy for a vital expert to be missed off a ‘cc’, for non-stop ‘reply-alls’ to unnecessarily swamp people’s inboxes or for information to get lost as customers get shuffled between departments.

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For every element of the customer experience, from campaign planning through to configure-price-quote processes, cross-organisational channel-based messaging apps like Slack Connect can break down silos and drive faster, more nimble interactions with customers in real-time. And, with individuals easily added to or removed from channels as needed, they can enable frictionless handovers from sales to customer success as deals progress.

Meanwhile, by reducing overloaded inboxes, our research also suggests collaboration tools could save users 81 minutes each day – or almost 7 hours a week. That time can be reinvested in better serving customer needs, problem solving, or even closing more deals. Perhaps most importantly of all, using a collaborative messaging app ensures customers never face those dreaded ‘out of office’ or ‘call-back in business hours’ messages that slow collaboration to a crawl and extinguish customer engagement.

Integrating tools and teams  

While email has too often remained the default mode of communication for B2Bs, in other areas solutions-focused software has proliferated across sales and marketing teams. Despite being powerful tools, these new apps can increase fragmentation of information. That complexity creates an unnecessary burden for teams seeking greater agility and collaboration.

Operations teams are leading the charge when it comes to reigning-in growing tech stacks by integrating them into a central hub. By consolidating tools into a central collaboration app, whether you’ve got a sales team using CRM tools or an incident management team using the likes of PagerDuty, everyone can see and access the information they need.

As James Coxon, Chief Product Officer at Stax notes, “The information that’s normally scattered across applications gets concentrated in the right place in Slack. The integrations become essential to how we work every day.”

Maintaining a central space for all customer touchpoints also enables companies to triage customer service requests and rapidly enlist the right experts to help on big issues. And, with research showing 64% of customers used a new support channel (like live chat or chat bots) in 2020, this is particularly important.

In order for those channels to scale and keep adding value as organisations evolve or unexpected challenges arise, they need to be plugged-in to the entire organisation’s knowledge.

Keeping customers and prospects happy 

Exceptional customer service requires empowering every employee, wherever they are, to share their expertise. It means dissolving the walls between customer-facing teams, rejecting legacy tools like email and getting a handle on growing tech-stacks.

Under the guidance of operations experts, collaboration hubs do this. They bring all internal customer-facing teams and the tools or support channels they use, into a single space. Those same hubs can also be used to collaborate externally with customers, ensuring everyone (whether sales-person or customer), has the information, people, and tools they need.

This mindset shift and digital transformation adds more to the customer experience than any pre-pandemic long sales-lunch could. But, that’s not to say that once you’ve got it right,  you shouldn’t get the teams and your happy customers together to celebrate in-person.


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