Expert Insights: Trends Shaping the Success of Sales and Service Teams

By Alan Lepofsky

I recently sat down with Nicole France, VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, to hear her thoughts on the latest trends impacting both customer and employee experience. Nicole also shared her advice for organizations on how they should begin transforming their processes and the tools that support them.

Check out the video and transcript below. In summary, here’s what Nicole thinks are the three top trends impacting the way people work:

  1. Context: Tools should enable people to work within the flow of a business processes.

  2. Speed: Customers and employees expect to have the right information or expertise available right away.

  3. Transparency: Success often requires communication and collaboration across multiple teams and departments.

“The biggest change I see is that we're finally designing tools for the people that are actually using them as opposed to the people who are buying them.”
—Nicole France


Alan: Hi everyone, I’m Alan Lepofsky from Salesforce and I’m joined here today by Nicole France. She’s Vice President and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, where you are one of the industry gurus or experts around how professional employees — sales and service teams — interact. Thank you for being here.

Nicole: Thanks for having me Alan, always a pleasure.

What I want to talk about today is what you're seeing out there in the market. What are the big trends that are changing the way employees work today from maybe three, five, or ten years ago?

It's a good question. You know, honestly, I think the biggest change I see is that we're finally designing tools for the people that are actually using them as opposed to the people who are buying them. And it's a subtle but very, very significant shift. I think the other aspect that is really crucial is that we're recognizing that not everybody has the same job. Not everybody has the same type of collaboration requirements, and not everybody is working at the same cadence. So increasingly we're seeing the way employees work together shaping the tools, as much as the tools are shaping the way employees work together.

So general-purpose one-size-fits-all tools are not really cutting it. People need something specific to their job.

Exactly. It's all about recognizing different types of collaboration that happen in context, in the context of a particular business need or particular business process. And also, the different kinds of contexts and prompts that different employees need, individual employees might need, that actually help them to move through that process more quickly, so they get to the right colleague that they need to find, or get to the right information quickly. And that that's done within a certain sort of framework that's actually supporting the type of work that they individually are responsible for doing, as opposed to some generic type of collaboration process.

So that's great, I love that you're talking about context and getting collaboration into those business processes. I think that's absolutely fundamental in improving the way teams get work done. What's another big trend that you're seeing that's shaping the way people work together?

A big one is speed, and I think that's true really across any part of a company, but particularly anything customer facing. So for customer service, certainly; for sales, increasingly as well. It's really this expectation that we can go online in our consumer lives and conduct transactions and make purchases, even sometimes very complex purchases, really quickly.

So, is it to help against competition that speed has to do with?

I think it's definitely a competitive issue, but I think it's increasingly getting to the point of being simply an issue of meeting customers expectations. If I can do all this other stuff really quickly, why can't I do this stuff really quickly as well?

Okay, so sales teams are starting to use software within those business flows — that's the context. They need to be able to act quickly. What's a third big thing that you're seeing shaped the industry?

I think we're finally starting to see a greater recognition of how to facilitate collaboration across different teams and different departments particularly. And that's a big deal because different types of teams have different ways of working. So figuring out how to break down those silos and to build, not just approaches to collaboration or norms around collaboration, but also sometimes the kind of processes that help to foster that is actually a really important area of development that we're starting to see a lot of companies invest in.

So your thinking like from the past, when it would be sort of a need-to-know basis, now we're much more open. Just like our personal lives with social networks the things we overshare, you're saying we're starting to involve a lot more people at work in knowing about customer service, knowing about sales, and that that's beneficial.

Absolutely. And part of the issue is connecting those people so that they can find each other when there is particularly a customer issue that they need to be able to resolve quickly. So that might be in a customer service or customer support context, and that might even be in a sales context as well. So it's about making those connections easier, and a lot faster as well, across different parts of the organization.

Okay so big things that are happening in the industry: we have context, we have speed, we have the reach of people that are involved in these processes. Let's finish off with: What would be a piece of advice that you have, for people to get started with this? Company X, where do they look to change how they're working today versus where they should be tomorrow?

I think, start with two things: One is understand what types of challenges you can really clearly identify: where the processes aren't working, where that communication flow and that collaboration isn't happening as effectively as it could be. And two is, look at how you can examine the kinds of tools that are available to help address that. So it's partly a question of process and behaviors. It's also very much an issue of identifying the styles of collaboration and letting that drive the correct selection of the most appropriate tools that are actually going to help you to overcome some of those challenges.

Thank you very much, Nicole. This is Nicole France from Constellation Research who has just given us excellent advice on transforming industry trends in things like sales and customer service.

Thank you so much.