By the time a customer service rep responds to a question or complaint, looks through the necessary information and provides whatever answer or solution is available, they might be relieved to wrap things up and move on. A job well done, right?
To the best, most exceptionally customer-centric companies, though, resolving questions or complaints is actually only the first half of the job. The second half is cross-selling or upselling customers to something new, something more profitable, or (ideally) both. That’s why Salesforce has packed the latest versions of Service Cloud to make it easier than ever for those without an IT background to create a more dynamic and compelling customer experience.
If you manage to solve problems, the next level of excellence in customer service should be about helping customers discover things they didn’t know they needed. Think of it as the icing on the cake after you’ve helped them out.
There’s no magic formula to cross-selling and upselling, only best practices. Here are just a few of them:
If you shop online for a consumer product, you’ve probably seen those little boxes that appear near the end of a digital shopping cart experience. They often say things such as “Related Items,” or sometimes “Often Bought Together.” This works well when you’re selling fitness equipment or clothing, but it can make even more sense in a B2B environment, where certain products and solutions were designed to integrate with each other and solve multiple customer challenges at the same time.
With the right training, customer service reps can be like the human equivalent of these online recommendation engines. They have data at their fingertips from CRM and marketing automation to give them the best sense of complementary products across different categories or vertical industries, for example.
Reps can also go one step beyond traditional recommendation engines because they’ve also had a one-on-one interaction with that customer. That means they may have learned fresh information about what a particular company is focused on, its interests and so on. Don’t be afraid to use this information and offer the kind of detailed background about a cross-sell or upsell opportunity that would otherwise require more legwork on the customer’s part if they were to explore them on their own.
The other text you sometimes see on an online recommendation engine is “Customers Like You Also Bought . . .” which is pretty innocent when you’re talking about purchasing trends in the B2C market. In B2B, it’s the equivalent of competitive intelligence -- and you could define top-notch customer service as making sure the person whose problem you just solved doesn’t get left behind by their rivals.
This doesn’t mean giving away confidential information about your other customers, of course. It’s using the information in CRM, marketing automation and other sources to paint an accurate picture of how customers with similar service issues are trying to stay one step ahead of their next challenge by investing in additional products and services. In almost every market, from financial services to retail and healthcare, there is always a jostling to be No. 1. In as friendly a way as possible, service agents should let customers know when they’re at risk of being relegated to No. 2 status, or worse.
Let’s say a customer called in with a service issue and you know, based on their past history and any data you collect in real-time, that part of their value to customers is being more transparent about how they conduct business. Service agents should tap into the data about the value propositions of their own firm’s products and services and identify those that match the values of their customers. If you offer a tool that provides deeper transparency by sharing information more effectively, for example, it’s worth having a conversation about whether or not that customer is interested before you thank them and move onto the next person in the queue.
Even if what you’re cross-selling or upselling sounds like a great fit, customers may be put off at the notion of being transferred back to a sales rep, having to fill out additional information online or going through myriad other steps. Service agents should be armed not only with great data but some incentives and other mechanisms to make trying out a new product or service as easily as possible. This could include 30-day trial versions, for instance, or a discount based on the volume of business they’ve given to the other organization in their purchase history.
If they keep getting a polite but firm “no,” service agents obviously won’t want to risk angering customers by taking too much of their time cross-selling and upselling. In some cases, when all else fails the best answer you might get is, “Not now, but maybe later.” Whether the service issue has been dealt with via phone, chat, social media post or some other channel, it’s a mistake to let things end there. Get more details about when budget might be available, when purchasing cycles or strategic reviews tend to happen, or any other information that could give your company a chance to reach out professionally but in an ideal timeframe. Again, this plays directly into the mantra of the best customer service teams — being so good they help customers proactively, rather than merely reactively when something goes wrong.
If customers provide this kind of information, it’s not a consolation prize. It’s a real win, because even when it doesn’t lead directly to a sale, it provides more data back to the company, which helps with sales, marketing, service and more. That’s what turns traditional customer service from a cost centre to a profit centre — providing additional value. This is where every service function should aim to be.
Check out our ebook, "5 Ways to Make Service Easy for Today’s Customers," with more ways you can make the service experience easy for your customers.