By Carole Sue Jones
The Sales Stigma
Somewhere along the way sales got a bad rap. I’m sure all of us can relate to having dealt with a salesperson that made us uncomfortable, pressured us into making a decision, or even mislead us about the product or service.
We have all survived a contract we didn’t want or have things in our house that we were lured into buying only to be disappointed in their performance or usability.
However, some of us may be able to recall a good sales experience in which a conscientious salesperson made us feel positive about our purchase. In these instances, customer service made all the difference. During a good sales experience, I feel as though the salesperson really listened to me, understood my needs and provided a solution that would satisfy those needs. Great customer service skills really drive an outstanding sales experience and that is an invaluable trait to pass on to your Call Center customer service representatives.
The Customer Service Challenge
As the needs of the Call Center industry change and our customer service representatives are required to take on more tasks and responsibilities, they also find themselves in the position to sell more products or services Initiating this behavior can be a challenge for those who feel threatened buy the sales process. Sometimes, representatives are uncomfortable with positioning sales to customers who have called in for other issues. They fall victim to the sales stigma – that the customer will assume they are offering something that is not needed or that will not be useful. But it is the manager’s responsibility to help representatives understand that great customer service includes an additional sales offer.
Customer Service Sales
Providing great customer service is about listening to the customer’s problem, investigating the source of their problem, offering solutions and sometimes even providing solutions the customer did not realize were available. Let me share an example of a great customer service sale I encountered a few weeks ago with my cellular phone provider.
I received my cell phone bill several months ago only to be shocked by the charges. I have exceeded my plan to the tune of over $200. Realizing that I was probably going to continue to overspend I called my cell phone providers customer service line to discuss a plan change and other options. Once the agent had listened to my complaint and pulled up my account she was able to make several recommendations about my cell phone plan. She noticed that I exceeded my minutes by hours and suggested that I move to a plan that left me with more minutes than I had used at my highest usage rate. She also noticed that a bulk of my calls were placed between 7and 9pm and recommended that for a nominal charge per month, I could start my free evening minutes at 7pm, which would further save on overage fees.
The customer service representative sold me additional services because she listened to my problem and offered a solution based on my needs and usage patterns. She also was able to offer information about other products and services that the company provided because she had built rapport by addressing my basic needs first. My customer service sales experience with this provider not only resulted in satisfying my needs, but also engendered my customer loyalty. The customer service agent was able to make the sale because she did what great customer service agents do. She listened and provided a solution.
Customer Service Skills vs. Sales Skills
Effective customer service representatives and sale people may not realize it, but they share several skills.
|Customer Service Skills||Sales Skills|
|Attention to detail||Attention to detail|
|Problem solving||Problem solving|
|Effective communication||Effective communication|
|Handling difficult customers||Overcoming objections|
Although their skills are similar, they are used in different formats and under varying circumstances. Helping customer service representatives understand what skills they already possess and how to use them to navigate effective sales is an essential step in reassuring them that sales doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, dishonest or aggressive.
Building new attitudes
Call Center managers can help representatives enhance skills and improve comfort levels to ensure success in customer service sales. As managers, we can adopt the following techniques when coaching our representatives.
- Help them see that the customer service skills they already possess are transferable to the sales process.
- Provide them with “cheat sheets” and lists that link products and services to common problems.
- Give them opportunities to role play and practice the new behaviors you want them to develop.
- Monitor them one on one and model effective offers for them.
- Provide consistent feedback on how they are doing.
Wow! Customer Service Sale
Helping your representatives become effective at offering additional products and services can create Wow! Customer Service. When representatives really listen to the customer, they can solve their problems, offer solutions that your customers may not be aware of and create a rapport that will facilitate long-term customer loyalty. You will build the confidence of your customer service agents in their customer interactions and create a flexible workforce that will be able to face the challenges of the changing work environment. Now that is Wow Customer Service!
Carole Sue Jones is a Trainer and Instructional Designer with 10 years of experience in Call Center Management and Training. She is a contributor to callcenterbestpractices.com and callcentercafe.com.