7 Ways to Make Customer Service Your Best Sales Channel
Many brands consider customer service a necessary evil. It’s a cost center they’re required to have, and they can’t do much about it.
While this may be true in 0.001% of cases, a well-run customer service team is usually an indispensable asset.
A great example of what exceptional customer service can do comes from Zappos. It used its customer service team and consumer first policies to grow to a billion-dollar brand in the retail space.
While you may not achieve a billion-dollar valuation, this guide will show you how to boost revenue with every customer support interaction.
HOW SALES IS EVOLVING
In general, sales strategies have moved away from high-pressure tactics. If you insist on using them, many consumers will ignore your messages and actively avoid your brand.
Instead, a consultative approach has been adopted. With this selling method, you spend a considerable amount of time understanding the customer’s problems before offering solutions that’ll meet their needs.
If you can’t help them achieve their goals, you tell them upfront. You may miss out on some opportunities that way, but it creates a net benefit for your brand. When, or if, they ever need the services you offer, you’ll be the first person they reach out to for help.
Because of how customer service interacts with people, they’re in a unique position to take advantage of the new reality associated with sales. As prospects and customers reach out to your support team, they can drill down into the issues and present the right offer.
Let’s look at different ways to make that happen.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE TEAM YOUR BEST SALES CHANNEL
1. Send out customer feedback surveys
Often, there’s a gap between what we believe about our brand, products, and services and what our customers feel. You may think you’re delivering high-quality support to everyone, while customers think it’s below average or even poor.
A customer feedback survey will help you understand whether or not you’re on the right track. After every support interaction, send out a simple questionnaire that asks the customer how they’d rate the service.
In the example above, WPX hosting asks me to rate the interaction as either good or bad. While this is a good start, it doesn’t help you understand the spectrum of feeling. Even though someone may be satisfied with the service, they may not be happy with it. In a case like that, they can still give you a thumbs up.
Include a range of possible responses in your survey. Rating scales or Likert scales work well for this. Instead of just yes or no, respondents can answer that the service was Very Good, Good, Satisfactory, Poor, Very Poor, etc.
In addition to asking how they feel about the support interaction, ask an open-ended follow-up question to understand why they gave you that answer.
The follow-up question will show you where you can improve or where you’re already doing well. Applying the lessons you’ve learned from customer feedback will help you improve your support. When people are happy with the support they receive, they’re more receptive to any offers the support rep may present.
2. Use upselling and cross selling
Support reps have a clear understanding of the needs and challenges of your customers. Because of this, they’re in a great position to upsell and cross-sell relevant products.
The image above from Proflowers is an example of upselling people with relevant and natural add-ons to the original product purchased.
In a support situation, a customer reaches out to explain an issue they’ve experienced. Support reps can drill deeper into the goal the customer is trying to accomplish and present add-on or complementary products.
These products make it easier, faster, or improve the customer’s ability to accomplish their primary goal.
If you don’t upsell correctly, it can negatively impact the relationship between you and your customers. That’s why it’s essential to understand what they’re trying to accomplish, so you don’t come off as insensitive when presenting offers.
Ask clarifying questions about their business, their goals, and their expectations of your products or services. With those insights, your team will be able to present the right offers. Even without deep insights into a customer’s unique situation, you can upsell effectively using your business data.
For example, if you know people who renew their monthly subscription three times are 60% more likely to stay with your service, prioritize those first three subscription payments. You can offer discounts, certain types of incentives, enrollment in a loyalty program, etc. so they stay with the service long enough to get value.
Maybe you know that people who spend over $200 per purchase are more likely to leave a review or recommend your products to friends. In that case, you’d prioritize your activity to gently nudge customers towards buying more items and passing the $200 threshold.
3. Utilize real-time customer service
Email is an effective support channel, but it’s not fast enough for most people. You can get around this by taking advantage of live chat support.
Platforms like Intercom, LiveChat Inc. Helpcrunch, and many others make it possible to reply to inbound requests in seconds instead of hours.
Beyond satisfying your customers, you’re able to ask multiple clarifying questions that wouldn’t be possible if you were using email to communicate.
These clarifying questions help you better understand the real outcomes your customer or prospect is seeking. That information allows you to steer them towards specific products or even present unique offers based on their situation (more on this in the next section).
Take this a step further by applying specific tags to customers based on your conversation. You can then launch email automation campaigns that do the heavy lifting of nurturing and converting browsers into customers.
Conversely, you can use live chat as a way to initiate sales calls. Ask questions to qualify prospects and if they’re ready for the next step, start a call. With a tool like Grasshopper or its alternatives, you’ll be able to push important calls to the right person.
Real-time customer support alone may be able to double your topline revenue.
4. Give your support reps the ability to make new offers
The power of your support reps comes, in part, from being able to ask questions, answer queries, and solve problems quickly. This benefit is lost when they don’t have the authority to make decisions that’ll solve problems or secure a sale from new customers.
For example, a support rep may realize that a prospect is interested in a product, but it’s just out of their budget. A 10% off coupon may do the trick, but the rep doesn’t have the authority to create discounts on the fly.
The support rep takes the prospect’s contact information and promises to work on getting them a discount. By the time it gets approved, the customer has already purchased the product somewhere else.
Unless you’re actively tracking it, you may not realize how often this happens within your organization. Support reps without the authority to issue refunds, give out discounts, and solve more significant problems have one hand tied behind their back.
Prevent this by empowering support reps to use their discretion in unique situations. After the initial training period, you should trust them to make the right decisions. Of course, you’ll still have oversight but avoid micromanaging.
Start by giving them small amounts of authority to make offers like:
- Percentage discounts
- A certain amount off based on the price of the product
- Upsell or downsell authority
- The ability to add specific products at a steep discount to secure the sale
The route you go depends heavily on the products and services you offer but look at it like this. If you can secure a customer today by presenting a unique offer, you’ll make that money back throughout the customer’s relationship with your brand.
5. Focus on educating customers
Customers buy products to do a job. If they’re buying jeans, they may want to look good or show off to friends. If they’re buying business software, they want to make more money, save time, or save money.
If the product fails to do its job or customers cannot find success, they’ll drop it. There’s a simple way to avoid this kind of outcome – educate your customers.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling bracelets or consulting services; customer education is an essential part of your growth strategy. It ensures that people have the best chance of succeeding, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that they’ll stick around.
How does your customer service team factor into this?
Through their constant interaction with customers, support reps can recommend the right training material to make. Once created, they’ll be able to point people towards those resources when they need help.
The obvious choice is to start a blog. Cleverism does a great job of this and has many insightful resources for different audience segments. The problem with writing a blog is that relevant content is spread out and sometimes challenging to find.
I recommend creating a learning center.
A learning center or training hub contains a series of guides that are organized by topic. Each topic has a dedicated landing page that displays every resource you’ve made related to it.
It can be written, audio, or video. You can even use an online course tool and require people to sign up. You’ll be able to generate leads, retain customers, and establish your brand as an authority.
6. Consider ignoring your knowledge base
Neglecting your knowledge base may seem out of place because it’ll increase your customer service reps’ workload. If done correctly, it’ll have a positive impact on customer outcomes.
Buffer is a social media tool that allows people to schedule posts, interact with customers, and move their social media strategy forward. When there’s an issue that makes it to the customer support team, a knowledge base article isn’t created.
Instead, the team waits until enough people have run into the same issue, then they forward it to the product team. The goal is to update the product so that they never have the same problem again.
There are a few key elements needed to ensure this approach works:
- A single source of truth for issue documentation
If one person recorded information in their notes and someone else recorded issues in the company wiki, there would be a problem. You’d only be seeing a fraction of the reports related to a specific problem and may underestimate its importance.
Create a process for issue documentation and make sure everyone uses it.
- Direct communication between support reps and product teams
Bureaucracy can hinder even the best ideas. Instead of moving everything through you or a manager, allow your product teams and support teams to prioritize tasks without your input. They’ll be able to move more quickly and focus on the tasks that have the highest impact on customer experience.
- A rapid iteration process
This method can only work if your team moves quickly. If it takes them two months to squash bugs, make tweaks to product designs, or improve the UI, this route may not be for you.
Conversely, you can create a separate team or assign a person to prioritize the changes that need to be made in response to customer feedback.
If neither option is feasible, it’s best to create knowledge base articles or video tutorials that show customers how to get around known issues.
7. Be proactive about reducing customer effort
You take away your help section so people will contact you and show you where the problems are. You can then fix them and reduce friction within your product. Customers have to expend less effort to get their desired outcome.
According to a study by the Customer Contact Council, reducing the effort customers use has the most significant positive impact on their loyalty. In any individual transaction, a customer has to go through multiple steps. Look closely, and you’ll find many areas where you can reduce the effort they need to put in.
For example, if they need to update information in their account, help them handle it. If customers are due for a check-in, reach out and help them schedule it.
There are countless ways to reduce friction with any product or process. Set aside some time to map out the path people take when using your product or when making a purchase. Where do they have issues, and is each step necessary? Your customer support team can help you here.
If a process is necessary and streamlined, can you do some things on behalf of your customers? If so, do it. Your bottom line will reward you.
Your customer support team is an asset – but only when used correctly. This guide has walked through a few strategies that’ll help you boost sales. Of course, there are more methods out there, so think of this as a starting point.
Choose one or two to work on first and get initial results. Slowly introduce more strategies from this guide to unlock incremental improvement. Before you know it, you’ll be surprised at how profitable your support team is. Let me know how you’re utilizing customer support as a sales channel in the comments, and don’t forget to share.
Daniel Ndukwu is the Founder of KyLeads – a software solution that allows you to create smart popups and interactive quizzes to turn more website visitors into email subscribers.
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