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Use Your Customer Support Staff to Improve Every Aspect of Your Business Not sure how to improve customer experience? Start with your team already on the front lines.

By Leyla Seka

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The Don Draper days of three-martini business lunches and gigantic advertising budgets without a clear picture of return on investment are long gone. In today's hyper-connected world, companies compete on customer experience.

Getting closer to customers is the new marketing mantra, but many companies don't know what that really means or how to get started. The best way to begin is with your customer support team. Your agents are already on the front lines, talking to customers every single day. They are sitting atop a virtual gold mine of information on customer needs and pain points.

Related: 7 Considerations for Finding Your Ideal Customer-Support Structure

If you connect this data to the rest of your business, you can unlock insights that can drive success for every department.

1. Sales

Couldn't your sales reps be more effective if they knew whether customers had any problems with your products or services? Couldn't they offer better cross-sell opportunities if they know more about customer needs and preferences? Couldn't your support agents make an impact on the bottom line by adapting the level of service offered to your most valuable customers, or the ones with the biggest open opportunities?

Connecting sales and service can be a huge win. When you share customer information in real time, sales and service both have the 360-degree views they need to collaborate more effectively and be more productive.

2. Product and engineering

Your support team can be one of your best sources of feedback and a key driver of product innovation. Like a virtual canary in a coal mine, service agents can spot problems before you even know they exist. If you connect your agents to bug-tracking tools like JIRA, you can catch and fix small issues before they become big ones.

Your support team is also a great source of information about what customers are looking for in future products. Connect with project management apps like Trello to add the most popular feature requests to your roadmap and prioritize product updates.

Related: 5 Books Your Customer-Support Team Should Be Reading Right Now

3. Marketing

Connecting marketing and support is a no-brainer. By learning about customer needs and wants, marketing can craft messaging that speaks to your targets, not to mention the right offers and promotions.

With information from support, marketing can outline new campaigns and do a better job of measuring their effectiveness. Support can also help you identify which customers are at risk for churn so you can take the right actions to retain them. And not to mention, having great customer service is the best form of free marketing you can get.

4. Finance

Customer success can also help keep your finances and business on the right track. Doesn't it all boil down to improving visibility, predictability and planning? Usage patterns at the customer level can help with forecasting revenues, operational costs and attrition. Customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores and trends can help demystify your business landscape as well.

Your support team gets pricing and packaging feedback that's straight from your customers -- when you have a better sense of market-based pricing dynamics, you can develop more efficient pricing plans and strategies. Visibility, predictability and planning improved? Check.

5. Strategy and operations

Running a business requires constant strategic and operational decisions while trying to sprint forward with finite resources and plenty of constraints. Data from your support tool can help you optimize agent productivity, ensuring that customers always come first. It can also give you valuable insights about the competitive landscape that can help you fine-tune short-term initiatives and long-term strategy.

You can find out what customers need and want, along with what customers don't need and don't want. You can even analyze support information to determine what part of your business needs the most investment.

You might think that connecting that data to the rest of your business requires expensive integration projects and high-priced consultants. Wrong! With today's customer support tools, even small businesses can integrate too. So start now.

Related: Why Customer Support Stories Spread Like Wildfire

Leyla Seka

EVP of Salesforce AppExchange

Leyla Seka is an executive vice president who leads the Salesforce AppExchange, an enterprise cloud marketplace. In this role, she is responsible for driving recruitment, product, go-to-market and other key programs supporting startups and ISVs in the Salesforce ecosystem.

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