Turning Your Customer Service Representatives Into Your Best Sales Agents

CSR SellingCustomer Service Reps must be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to upsell, cross-sell, and make sales offers.

The world is changing rapidly, but many customer service departments seem to be stuck in the stone age.

With a few simple moves, however, smart companies can transform their customer service department from a cost center into a profit center.

It’s just a matter of getting service reps tuned into a real-time world and giving them the tools to be successful. In fact, many firms have found that the customer service team can actually generate more sales.

Not only that, they may even drive more bottom-line profits than their peers who are exclusively dedicated to sales.

How the World of Customer Service Is Changing

The global recession, paired with the prominence of new channels of communication, are driving a renewed focus on technologies that help reduce service costs and improve the customer experience.

Things like web chat, call centers, kiosks, online self-service, location-aware services, social networks, and mobile applications are among the tools becoming mainstream today. They are making it easier for consumers to obtain information about a brand – and consequently – also about a brand’s competitors.

With this instant access to information comes a desire for instant gratification across channels. When it concerns customer service, consumers can often be impatient, with an expectation of real-time information, a dynamic Q&A and intelligent recommendations. Customer needs that are not addressed in an instant are lost forever, resulting in missed revenue opportunities and increased customer retention problems.

This fundamental shift in the consumer’s worldview requires that service representatives must not only be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to satisfy growing customer service expectations, but they also must be able to upsell, cross-sell, and make sales offers that will avoid the loss of a customer. With service reps now having to sell more than ever before, the way companies must look at customer service centers has effectively been turned on its head relative to approaches that may have been effective in the past.

The Shift from Service to Sales

Have you ever called to cancel your cable service, or issue a complaint to your cell phone provider? It’s likely you have, and you’re not alone. Many companies are losing customers unnecessarily today, when, in reality, a simple offer might retain them. This is where real-time marketing comes in to play. Imagine this scenario:

What if brands could — in real time — enable service agents to automatically determine how valuable a particular customer is to the brand, and in turn make them a personalized offer to incentivize them to remain a customer? Those potential offers would be generated automatically based on the customer’s historical communications with the brand. Additionally, their purchase history would tell the agent what other products or services might interest the customer?

Technology today is enabling these types of interactions, in which yesterday’s problem solvers become today’s solutions providers. Not only should customer service agents be prepared to handle retention scenarios, but they can use real-time marketing technology to upsell and cross-sell opportunities as well.

With today’s consumers having greater access to information, being more informed before and during the sales process, they expect dynamic and efficient interactions handled by a single point of contact. Does your customer service department deliver on that promise? Is your customer service department hitting its sales quotas? If not, it may be time to rethink your approach to customer service – especially if your competitors have already done so.

Recently, analysts accurately judged that the concept of ‘real-time decisioning’ was two to five years from mainstream adoption. As a result of these shifting consumer expectations, it’s becoming increasingly important to equip service agents with the ability to easily deal with critical ‘moments of truth’ situations. It’s not enough to help customers resolve an issue; the agent must become a partner to the customer and an advocate in making sensible recommendations.

They should be able to further enhance that customer’s experience with the brand and effectively sell as well as service.

Of course, there is a limit to upsell and cross-sell potential under certain customer scenarios, and representatives should know when it is appropriate not to cross that line. Good customer service technology can help service reps make these decisions. It’s all about using technology to augment and enhance your service rep’s selling skills and decision-making process.

How to Get to Real-Time Customer Service That Drives Incremental Revenues

The issue at hand is that brands often don’t know how to achieve this balance without having to drastically transform their servicing systems and training programs to enable sales actions.

So how can a brand merge the gap between customer service and sales, given that a successful service or customer retention interaction can easily turn in to a selling opportunity?

1. Empower agents to interact with customers for upsell and cross-sell opportunities by giving them technology that doesn’t require a learned skill set. Enable them to be proactive, not just reactive, by leveraging available real-time marketing tools.

2. When you think multi-channel, you should consider only what data is needed to enable multi-channel interactions. Expect that your real-time decision based solution is capable of pushing results to multiple channels. Customer data should come from multiple channels, while response history should be centralized and universal.

3. Consider implementing SaaS-based contact center tools to extend existing systems rather than replacing core functionality. This will help contain costs, increase time to market and simplify IT demands.

4. Examine real-time decision based technologies for their ability to solve specific business problems. Look for pre-defined or proven strategies, the ability to control them, and one that provides actionable data insights your organization can effectively consume.

Ultimately, it’s important to leverage the collective best practices of agents with innovative technology to make logical, process-oriented decisions in real time. These decisions should be governed by a unified strategy backed by a central team of people that control the systems spending and focus.

The tools to achieve this success are evolving in radical ways. Organizations no longer need to introduce massive amounts of technology with huge startup costs.

It will continually become easier for organizations to find the best strategies in the marketplace to make their current systems and operations better. Integration costs will be significantly reduced with technology and architecture innovations, which will allow organizations to be competitive regardless of their size.

About the Author

Joshua Smith is co-founder and CEO of Toovio, a SaaS-based real-time marketing (RTM) solution provider. He is known globally for his ability to design and create simple and pragmatic solutions to modern global business problems using cutting- edge technical and analytical frameworks across a variety of industries: Retail, Telecommunications, Communications, Banking and Financial Services.

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