Ideas You Can Take to the Bank!: Improve Call Center Performance
Offsetting some of the operating costs of customer service with cross-selling or upselling has become much more commonplace than ever. A profitable cross-sell/upsell program requires a well-conceived plan and skillful execution to avoid pitfalls.
1. Resolve Customer Service Issues
A customer’s service issue must be resolved to his or her satisfaction before the selling process can begin. In some upsell/cross-sell programs, CSRs have been instructed to try to sell every customer. This is neither practical nor is it advisable. A customer with an unresolved problem will only be antagonized by the sales effort, and the program just won’t make sense to the CSR.
2. Begin With a Strong Transition
Assuming the customer’s problem has been resolved to his or her satisfaction, the CSR then can transition to the sales effort. This transition is a critical element in the sales process. When left up to the CSR, the transition may be weak and include “ums” or “uhs.” Write a strong transition into the sales effort. Better yet, provide several transitions for your CSR to choose from.
Here are some examples of strong transitions:
1) While I have you on the phone …
2) I have a special offer today. …
3) Mr/s____, before you go, I wanted to tell you about …
4) As our way of thanking you for being a valued customer, I’ve been authorized to offer you …
3. Use One Strong Benefit
After a strong transition, explain the offer clearly to the customer. Give one strong benefit that is common to many people. Avoid the temptation of giving a laundry list of benefits; this has been tested, and it’s not as productive as one strong benefit. And make sure your benefit is a true benefit—not just a feature.
4. Make Your Offer Compelling
The CSR and the customer both should feel there is a good reason why the offer should be accepted now—while they are on the phone. This can be a special discount, such as “This offer is only good over the phone.” It also can be a bonus offer with a deadline, such as “order for Valentine’s Day delivery, and we’ll send you an extra pound of chocolates.”
5. Formulate Offers Appropriate to the Customer
Look at past purchase history. For instance:
• Companies that sell life insurance can upsell a customer who has a $500,000 policy to an additional $100,000 in coverage by talking about changes in the customer’s family and adjustments for cost-of-living increases.
• Electronics marketers that reach computer owners can offer accessories for a particular model owned or an upgrade to a newer, more powerful model.
• Banks can reduce their operating costs by making an offer to convert their smaller customers to users of online services. For more valuable customers, a CD or other investment opportunity can be offered.
• Retailers can make an offer for a special discount if the customer visits the store within seven days.
• A newspaper or magazine might offer a discount price on a test of a larger ad to increase regular advertisers’ ad sizes in future issues.
6. Keep It Simple
It’s also important to have offers that are manageable in the contact center. Don’t use too many offers or offers that are too complex for the CSR to decipher quickly. One of our clients wanted to make a different offer based on the type of product the customer had purchased in the past. The problem was there were more than 40 products in most customers’ recent histories. Provide a simple chart in an “if, then” format with no more than six variables, unless you have a CRM system.
7. Script Responses to Common Objections
CSRs often feel uncomfortable with the cross-sell effort, because they don’t know how to respond to the objections of the customer. In addition to product-/service-specific responses, you’ll typically need to script responses to the following objections:
• too expensive;
• use competitor;
• not now;
• send literature;
• don’t need; and
• can I cancel/return.
8. Create Convincing Closing Questions
Finish with a convincing closing question that includes all of the following key elements:
• Explain why the offer is risk-free.
• State the cost of the product or service.
• Give a reason to order now.
• Explain exactly what you want the customer to do. For instance, “Order today with our special 10-percent discount, and, if you like it, pay only $29.95 or return it within 14 days and owe nothing, OK?”
9. Enlist the Contact Center
In real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. To attain real success in the contact center, it’s all about people, people, people. The CSRs and the management team must believe in the sales effort. Start with management at the call center, and make sure they understand the details of your program and its impact on the bottom line. Your program will be even more effective if you involve both management and the CSRs when developing the program and offers.
10. Provide Excellent Training
Start the training by selling the CSRs on the product or service you would like to offer. Make sure they understand:
• why someone would want to buy it;
• who would buy it; and
• why they should buy it now.
If the CSRs are not part of the product’s target audience, try to relate it to someone they know. For example, if the product is of interest to older customers, ask them to tell you why their parents might be interested in it.
Training should focus on transitions and closing. These are critical skills that the typical CSR does not use often. Smooth transitions are the most important part of selling, because they build confidence with the customer. Work with the CSRs on closing; it often is the hardest part for inbound reps.
Have the CSRs rewrite the scripts to personalize the presentation. Most CSRs are not comfortable with full-blown scripts, and this will help them sound more natural. Finish training with a substantial amount of time for serious role-playing. These exercises will help them become more comfortable on the phone.
11. Reward Performance With Incentives
Increase interest in your program by planning incentives for the CSRs and their supervisors. Incentives can be monetary if your budget permits, but don’t neglect motivational games. In one program, reps who were overheard making the cross-sell offer were rewarded by their supervisor with $5 and temporary possession of a trophy.
12. Measure Success
Start by measuring sales, offers, calls and talk time by CSR. Sales divided by calls is the easiest metric, because it usually can be computed without manual tallies. The end result will provide an overall sense of the success of the program.
To manage the program, sales divided by offers also should be tracked. This is an important measurement, because it is a true conversion rate. It should be tracked by CSR to provide a sense of the sales skills of the CSR, and by offer to provide a sense of the strength of the offer. The downside to this measurement is that most centers will need to track offers manually.
Finally, it’s also important to measure offers made during calls by CSR. This metric provides a comparison; it will help identify reps who are not making cross-sell attempts. You’ll be able to work directly with those reps to improve results quickly.
Marketers who take the time to develop a well-planned and carefully executed upsell and cross-sell program will realize a significant return on investment and will improve the profitability of almost any contact center. u
Deborah E. Pearlman is CEO of DKP & Associates Inc., a telesales consulting firm specializing in improving call center performance. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.