Traditionally, customer service teams have been viewed as a cost center. A necessary evil needed to handle the inevitable complaints you’ll receive.
That’s no longer the case.
Customer service, because it’s not usually done well, has turned into a competitive advantage with clear benefits. Brands that work to improve customer service report an increase in revenue and higher customer satisfaction. Additionally, 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for an upgraded experience.
What happens when you take exceptional customer service and mix in a focus on sales? You become unstoppable.
This article looks at how to turn your customer service team into your best sales channel using proven techniques.
Turning customer service into a sales channel
Before you can turn your customer service team into a powerful sales channel, there’s an important prerequisite. Your customer service has to be above average – excellent even.
Commit to creating one of the best customer service organizations in the world. Your customers will take note and reward you with a larger share of wallet.
Send out surveys after every support interaction
Surveys are an important part of customer feedback and may unlock insights about interactions that customers won’t mention. Maybe you feel you’re delivering exceptional support but the survey data is saying you’re average or below average.
You can use short single question surveys that take advantage of rating scales then ask a follow-up question about why they chose that rating. This gives you both qualitative and quantitative data to improve your support team.
In the example above, LiveAgent automatically asks your customers if they were helped by the support rep. Over time, you can track the performance of individual reps and your support organization as a whole. You can also send out more involved surveys that use 5 or 7 point Likert scales to understand the degree of feeling towards a situation. For example, a question could be “How would you describe your support experience today” with the options:
- Very good
- Very poor
Take the insights you gain about where you’re lacking to improve. This will set you and your team up to take advantage of the goodwill produced and cross-sell, make well-received offers, and more.
Empower your customer support reps to make offers
A common thread amongst customer support teams that lack true organizational support is that they’re bound by regulations. They can’t easily issue refunds, make offers to customers, or otherwise solve bigger problems.
When a customer needs help, they’re the people who are there to assist them and create a seamless experience. If they’re unable to make meaningful decisions on their own, it slows down the entire process and creates a bottleneck.
Customers are unhappy because their issue isn’t resolved quickly and it’s reflected in their willingness to buy from you again.
How do you prevent this?
Give your customer service reps the ability to make offers to customers and prospects. Provide them with:
- A certain percentage discount
- Dollar discount
- Additional product as an incentive
- Bundle pricing opportunities
For example, if you’re average order value is $100, you can empower all customer service reps to offer 15% discounts on a new purchase or to resolve issues. If your average order value is $50, you may only give them $10 for discounts and dispute resolution.
The end result is a customer base that feels you have their best interest at heart, a higher chance of word of mouth recommendations, and increased loyalty. Second-order benefits include higher average order values and more frequent purchases.
Upsell and cross-sell during relevant support conversations
A customer support rep is in a unique position to upsell and cross-sell. Customers reach out and explain what their wants and goals are. Support teams can use this information to recommend the perfect product or pricing plan for customers.
Keep in mind that when done poorly, it can backfire because customers aren’t reaching out to the support team to be pitched another product.
The key is to tailor the pitch to their unique situation. That means taking the time to truly understand what they’re trying to accomplish and sharing ways in which they can make that happen.
When the product is pitched, it comes off as relevant because the concrete goals of the customer are used to frame the offer. It moves the focus away from trying to sell another product to giving the customer the best solution possible.
For example, let’s say you’re selling contact enrichment services and a customer reaches out because they didn’t know how to add a teammate. You help them out, ask a few questions about their business, and realize they’re trying to make their sales team more efficient with targeting and follow-up. With that information, you suggest an add-on product that helps sales teams automate the follow-up process using AI.
The pitch is tailored to the customer’s situation which increases the likelihood that they’ll take you up on the offer.
Another way to upsell customers is to use aggregate information you’ve gained about your customer segments through previous interactions and make the best recommendations.
For example, you may notice the customers that spend $100 or more on accessories tend to have lower return rates and leave positive reviews more often. The ones who spend $50 or less per purchase tend to have a higher return rate and leave feedback less often.
Using those insights, you can focus the energy of your support team on upselling the customers who have an average order value of more than $100. Offer them things such as free shipping, discounts, etc. the next time they make an order over $100.
Implement real-time service with live chat
It was found that 89% of customers expect to receive a reply to email correspondence within one hour. Only 36% of retailers respond that quickly and 14% never respond.
If you’re able to respond to emails within an hour, you’re among the best of the best. Make this a part of your organizational DNA by implementing live chat with a tool like LiveAgent.
Not only do you cut down the time it takes for users to get a reply, but you’re also able to dig deeper and ask clarifying questions. There’s only so much someone will say in an email. With live chat, they’ll share more about their problems and ask clarifying questions.
Experienced support reps will be able to steer the conversation towards the real goal of your customers. With that information, as discussed before, you’re able to present the right pricing plan or products to meet their needs.
The image above shows a portion of the conversion I had with a prospect who found our services. He reached out to understand if we had a certain feature. I ended up realizing he was unaware of what he was looking for and guided him through the process of understanding how different features would help him achieve his goal.
These kinds of interactions become commonplace when you implement a live chat solution. If you don’t have the capacity, consider implementing it on a few key pages and see how well it works for your organization.
Create an educational training library for customers
One of the largest barriers to adoption for any product or service is learning how to use it. The average company with less than 50 employees uses 50 saas tools so finding, adding, and getting teammates to use a new one can be difficult.
Customer service teams have deep insights into roadblocks users have when using your product. Compile the most common questions your team gets and create training material around it.
These programs should address the issue and help people achieve specific outcomes your product is designed to help with.
Serpstat has a training center with 11 courses that take people through different aspects of the tool. After launching, it gained 2,100 warm leads which turned to customers at the rate of 5% without talking to a sales rep.
All you need to get started is an understanding of common issues your customers face, the ability to sort information into learning paths, and the determination to get it done. It’s a good idea to segment your training library based on the type of customers you have.
For example, enterprise users may have different needs than individual users. Each of them would require different learning paths to optimize their experience.
Be proactive with customer support
One reason customer support has been seen as a cost center is that it’s reactive. A customer has to reach out to your team before anything can be done to help them. Proactive customer service is when you implement processes that help solve problems before they occur.
For example, if you have a software product that’s undergoing scheduled maintenance, you let your customers know ahead of time what’s happening and how it’ll affect them. If you’re sending out a shipment and it has been delayed, you could reach out to the customer with the new delivery date before they make an inquiry.
When you’re looking for opportunities to implement proactive customer support, ask yourself about the common issues are faced by customers and list them out.
Rank those items in order of priority and impact. The ones that can have the largest negative impact on the customer experience like shipping the wrong item should be tackled first.
What can you do to be proactive about the situation?
If it’s a botched order, let them know ahead of time that you’ve sent the wrong thing in the mail. Also, give instructions about returning it and assure them that their real order is already on the way. If you sell software, you may want to implement in-app notifications at places that tend to trip users up. Those notifications will send people to specific knowledge base articles or videos that explain how to use the features.
In the image above, we present a help article and video at a place where many people get confused and would otherwise give up. As a result, more people are successful which translates to more customers for us.
Prioritize getting reviews after positive interactions
According to a study conducted by Edelman, 41% of consumers don’t trust a brand’s marketing message. No matter how good your product is or how well you express that, almost half of all people who encounter it won’t trust it.
How do you get around that?
You get other people to vouch for you in the form of reviews, case studies, and testimonials. Not only should you be using testimonials on your website as LiveAgent does, but you should also get your customers to leave them on independent platforms.
Why does it matter?
When a testimonial is on your website, there’s a chance that it’s fabricated. Of course, it’s unlikely, but we shouldn’t rule out that people may think so. To remove doubts, take advantage of platforms like Capterra, G2, Yelp, etc. so people know the reviews are real. It makes it easier to tap into the 81% of people aged 18 – 34 who trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Whenever there’s a positive support interaction and you ask people to rate you, follow up by asking them to take a few minutes to leave an honest review on one of the independent platforms. Even though a small percentage of people will do it, the efforts compound over time.
Another way to approach this is by sending an SMS campaign to your entire customer base. Thank them for their continued patronage, ask them for a review, and consider incentivizing it. After the initial SMS campaign, repeat it once a month but only target new customers.
All your effort will pay off because when people start researching you, independent reviews will show up.
Previously, customer support was only good for fielding issues and considered a major cost center. Today, the best customer support teams are driving tangible revenue for their organizations.
Before you can reap the rewards, there are a few things that need to be in a place like an excellent team, powerful reviews, and organizational support. Once you have those, empower your team to make timely offers, upsell customers, and deliver service in real-time.
This article has gone through many suggestions. Implement them one at a time and see attributable revenue from your customer care efforts increase as a result.
Ready to make some sales?
Keep your customers happy and loyal to your brand by providing them with exceptional customer service time after time. With LiveAgent, it’s easy.
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- Why your business needs a customer portal (Checklist)
- How to provide data-driven customer service? (Checklist)
- 5 Customer Relations Tweaks to Delight more Customers
- Customer reps are more than just employees (Examples)
- How Great Customer Service Helps Repeat Orders (+Strategies)
- 5 Customer Service Skills That Make You Stand Out (Updated)