Customer service: Your next best sales generator
Could Customer Service be the driving force behind your next big sale? Absolutely! And maybe the one after that. And the one after that.
Customer service professionals are in prime position to increase sales or help salespeople find new deals.
“For starters, your organization and customer service teams need to embrace the right philosophy,” says Fara Haron, CEO North America, Ireland and Southeast Asia & EVP Global Clients, Majorel. “Instead of thinking about sales and the act of selling, think about selling as a service.”
Customer Service can help build sales by creating great post-sale experiences, sharing and acting on what they learn about customers through regular interactions and actually making sales.
Incorporate these strategies for Customer Service to increase sales.
Customer Service enhances the sale
Customer service professionals usually continue to build on the great buying experience customers had after a deal is closed. Their ongoing interactions are a valuable tool for encouraging growth within accounts.
Here are five ways service pros can create post-sale experiences that prompt customers to buy more and more often.
New customers are especially accustomed to lots of attention. They got fast answers and follow up when salespeople were working to close the deal.
Now they’ll expect the same when they need something from customer service. They want fast responses on the phone, social media, email, live chat or any other way they contact you.
Customer service needs to maintain and follow specific guidelines for responding in each channel. The faster you answer questions or resolve issues, the more likely customers will come to rely on you and not look for other providers.
Handle the early days with extra care
Customer service gets the awesome responsibility of cementing on the initial trust salespeople built with new customers. To do that:
- Avoid exaggerations. Follow the golden rule of service: Under promise, over deliver. Make sure your service channels – websites, social media, phone queues, FAQs, lead generation materials, etc. – don’t promise things your customer service professionals can’t deliver.
- Don’t fake familiarity. Refer to things you’ve learned from what sales has passed along in your CRM or sales software. But show interest in learning more about them and their preferences.
- Be exact. Give customers exact dates, phone numbers, direct email addresses, etc. Let them know the best ways to get answers, when they can expect those answers and who’ll deliver them. Avoid vagueness such as, “ASAP,” “soon,” “someone.”
Ask and listen with intent
After coming through the sales process, new customers usually feel “understood.” Salespeople got to know them, their challenges and biggest desires. Customer service pros want to continue letting customers know they’re understood and appreciated.
Two key ways: Ask the right questions and listen with intent. Good listening leads to good questions.
- Good listening: Take notes on important details. Let customers finish their story or question. Pay attention for strong emotions behind what they say (heard in tone or seen in facial expressions and body language).
- Good questions: Ask clarifying, probing questions before jumping to problem-solving. When you think you understand the question or problem, say, “It sounds like you need/want/prefer X. If that’s right, here’s what we can do.”
Act small, gain big
Service pros sometimes have contact with customers more frequently than salespeople after initial sales. So they have ample opportunities to “wow” customers with small, yet significant, gestures.
Try to recognize what customers want beyond what they request. Rather than just answer the questions they ask, offer to do what they seem to want. For instance, if a customer asks how to handle a return, explain what to do and offer to process it immediately.
Also, add hospitality to service interactions. Hospitality is about how you make customers feel. Say or do something that will make each customer feel special. Examples: Compliment their choices, thank them for choosing you or remind them that you look forward to their calls, social media posts or feedback.
Confirm it’s right
Before ending an interaction with customers, review what they requested and the solution you gave them to confirm it was done right. Or, if it wasn’t resolved, confirm what will happen next and when.
This makes customers confident you have their backs and cuts the risk of miscommunication or mistakes.
Even better, let the customer know you or their salesperson – who will hear about the service interaction – will follow up to be sure everything is OK. Then make sure someone does it, of course!
Customer Service channels the next sale
Just in doing the major part of their job – answering customers’ questions and solving problems – service pros hear things that can help grow sales. However, they often don’t fully understand what’s valuable, have the means to share what they’ve heard or the time to collaborate.
Here are four ways you can empower and enable service pros to use their valuable insight to build sales.
Make it easier to share
One of the biggest obstacles in generating sales from customer service is a disconnect between the two functions. Organizations that successfully increase sales through service:
- Create a liaison position between sales and service who gathers, analyzes and shares critical data on customer behavior and areas for revenue growth.
- Keep the two functions under one umbrella, so leaders meet regularly, create and work toward common goals and update each other on progress, challenges and triumphs.
- Meet often. Even if they’re scattered about, sales and service teams get together online to share news and ideas, plus collaborate on ways to help each other.
- Make team members accountable. The best organizations do more than use CRM or sales software to keep up-to-date information on customers and their activity. They make sales and service pros accountable for consistently documenting what they do with or for customers, plus the insights they gain from those interactions that might be used to increase sales.
- Align customers. At some companies, salespeople and customer service pros share the same group of customers – for instance, by territory or industry. That way, they can work together to meet needs, their customers get consistent, familiar help, and the risk of anything falling through the cracks lessens.
Create a habit
Customer service pros can turn questions and problem-solving into a buying habit. When you create seamless experiences by handling questions or solving problems in one channel, you cut friction and make customers realize, “That was easy!”
So as you see patterns arise in customers’ demand for help, look for ways to offer proactive service and sales. For instance, if customer service professionals notice they contact you for maintenance on a recurring basis, suggest to them and/or their salesperson a plan to stay ahead of issues. Or introduce new customers to automatic, recurring ordering to create an effortless habit.
Get and share feedback
Good and bad feedback are valuable ways to generate more sales. Customer service professionals get feedback – solicited and unsolicited – every day. The key to capitalizing on the feedback is pulling and sharing only what’s valuable.
Never ignore negative feedback, but separate the complaints made by those who are never satisfied from constructive feedback about products, services or operations. Watch for and note patterns to identify potential problems that might affect a bigger population.
And ask more questions when customers give positive feedback: Why did that work so well for you? What’s the biggest impact? How can we make it even better?
Ideally, service will want to pass along daily or weekly constructive feedback that can help sales eliminate what’s not working and enhance what’s working.
Customer service professionals usually hear compliments more than complaints, and every one of those is an opportunity to increase sales.
Thank customers for compliments – whether it was on the service or sales experience, an employee or product or service – and ask them to share their positive experience on social media. Give them your social platforms to comment or encourage them to add to their own stories using your handle.
Every share is a potential referral and endorsement for more sales.
Customer Service makes the next sales
In many situations, customer service professionals can be the salesperson. Many can do outstanding work cross- and up-selling.
“Address a customer’s primary issue first,” says Haron. “This should go without saying, but teams must always aim for customer satisfaction first and foremost, before any effort to up- or cross-sell.”
After that, here are four tactics and strategies customer service pros can use to make sales.
Train service on sales
Even when the information flows well between the two functions, some customer service pros are at a disadvantage to help build sales. They might not recognize opportunities and what to do with them.
“You cannot expect all customer service representatives to know how to do this intuitively, which is why training is key,” says Haron.
She suggests a training program that:
- “Creates super fans of the brand.” Give them time and resources to immerse themselves in the product or service – perhaps using the product in their everyday lives to increase product knowledge.
- Offer story selling tactics so they can describe products in ways that make the complex simple to customers. Teach them to use analogies, personal experience and emotion like sales pros do in their presentations. Salespeople should be able to help with this training.
Every organization is different, so customer service professionals will need to be trained for selling opportunities differently. But some sales situations are universal.
Pay attention for certain phrases. When customers say things such as, I wish … I couldn’t find … Too bad you don’t … they’re alluding to an unmet need. That’s a signal to solve the problem at hand and look for an additional or different solution.
Understand complementary solutions. Service pros need to know which solutions complement others and why. It’s just as important to identify the situations where complementary solutions won’t work as it is to align a need and solution. You don’t want to set customers up with a solution that doesn’t fit their needs.
Offer a solution; don’t push a product
One thing customer service pros want to keep in mind before they try to cross- up-sell: Will this suggestion improve the customer’s professional or personal lives?
“The intent should never be to push a product or service on a customer,” Haron says. “Instead, you need to offer a solution to make things easier and better for them. By truly knowing your customer, and the product you’re offering, you can ensure the customer benefits in the end.”
Give them incentives
Incentives are a helpful way to increase sales. But when service is selling, you want to handle incentives with some caution.
“Rather than encouraging your team to sell as many products as possible, you should focus on the attempt, customer satisfaction, and overall quality and knowledge delivered during the interaction,” Haron says.
Some organizations give larger incentives for customer satisfaction scores than sales. That ways service pros maintain the service-first priority.