Using Chatter to Form a Unified Voice to the Customer

A number of years ago when my company was much smaller I had one very large customer say to me “How do you do it? Your team works very well together. Everyone knows what the other person is doing and the progress we’ve made. You have a unified voice.”  I was proud of that accomplishment as I had taken the time to make sure our internal team that consisted of a sales rep, a customer success manager (me) and our premier support rep were meeting regularly and updating each other via email. While this method proved successful, it wasn’t very efficient, would cause information to be lost if the account team changed and was not carried out consistently across the company as we grew in size. Something better was needed.

The best way to track all of the communication with a customer is using a CRM. The problem with a CRM is that you have so much information about the customer that it may be overwhelming when you’re just trying to get a quick update or the latest important detail. In our CRM, we have items such as opportunity details, product purchases, support cases, customer surveys, projects and communication activity (emails, calls) just to a name a few of the sections. It’s all jumbled together and there was no single location where updates are being made on the progress, successes and/or challenges of the client. The solution that I’ve pushed that is being adopted better than any method is Chatter.

Chatter, a product by Salesforce.com, is like Twitter. It’s mainly geared to internal communication amongst employees but also allows companies to communicate externally. It allows people to follow conversations, add comments, reply to comments, tag comments so that individuals receive an email notification and upload images and documents to the comments. It can be used as a central repository of all client communication.

Chatter_account
Example of Chatter on an Account

One of the advantages of Chatter on the Account that I quickly picked up on is where it’s positioned. Within Salesforce.com, the Chatter box is right at the top of the Account record. It’s the first thing anyone sees when checking out a customer. The most recent comments are displayed first so if it’s used consistently you get a running diary that naturally forms. You no longer have to piece a bunch of data points together when you want to get the latest on a customer. It’s not going to replace Cases or logging activities nor is it meant to. It should be used to jot down short summaries based on a recent customer interaction. For example: “Met with Jane Long from ACME. They really like our new widget. I need help from @David Green and @Jennifer Winn”. This short note keeps everyone informed on a recent conversation and will send an email to David and Jennifer that their help is needed. In addition, instead of this note getting lost in email, it will be recorded so others can see it in the CRM. The bigger issue is how to get your company to adopt this tactic. Just because you us Chatter, doesn’t mean you can just launch this process immediately.

How to Get Your Company to Use Chatter on the Account

  • Set the example. I knew that it would be difficult to force all groups to start jotting down notes in Chatter. I asked my team to set the example by using Chatter and recording key pieces of information that either we received directly from clients or we received from others. Always tag people who send you the client information which encourages them to post it in Chatter next time instead of emailing it to you. You need to start somewhere and show what it can do. We found that others used it more as they found the updates on other accounts useful. It’s like a snowball that rolls down a hill – it just needs some momentum and it will grow.
  • Get executives on board. We’re lucky at our company as the CEO is a big proponent of Chatter. That said I even sent him a note asking him to post client Chatter updates on the Account rather than the general Chatter feed to keep a record of all client communications on the Account. Another executive started to notice these updates on Chatter and then requested these types of updates for accounts he wanted to call into.
  • Build champions. I floated this idea around to other groups including sales ops and sales enablement. I created a quick doc that outlined how to update Chatter and why. I constantly remind people to use Chatter – especially in situations where there was a communication gap that may have impacted a customer.
  • Create processes around it. I had my team use Chatter for specific parts of a project.

Progress was slow but the idea caught on because it was simple and it works. I knew that we hit pay dirt when it was discussed as a best practice at a recent internal cross company meeting.

We are far from cracking this nut but we are well on our way to improving our unified front to customers. Part of it has to do with getting people to change their ways and part of it has to do with getting people to realize the positive impact this can have on the customer. Customers expect more and there is no excuse not to take advantage of tools like Chatter to work more collaboratively.

Do you have a similar problem? How have you handled it?

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