The best companies already understand that a strong customer service operation is part of the cost of doing business. They still might not realize, however, that it is one of the areas that could also bring more money into the business.
Even for small and medium-sized businesses in Canada (SMBs), customer service probably feels expensive at times. There’s equipment and applications you need to acquire, people you have to train, and other resources that are all relegated to dealing with unexpected but desperately urgent needs from your customers. Avoiding these investments is not an option, but there is one choice every SMB really needs to make:
Do you want a customer service strategy that simply deals with troubleshooting and after-purchase care, or do you want to drive profitability for this area the way you would for your traditional sales team?
Tools like Service Cloud are already helping many organizations organize the way service agents interact with customers, boost productivity and reduce the number of returns or refunds. All of these have financial numbers attached to them, of course. Firms may not realize, however, that there are several other ways customer service can become a profit centre, largely using information you’ve already been collecting. This is how you begin:
In many organizations, upselling and cross-selling is like a warm day in the middle of winter: it’s nice when it happens, but it’s not really a surprise when it doesn’t. For obvious and necessary reasons, most companies prioritize what customer service teams do in terms of responding to questions and resolving challenges their buyers encounter.
Contrast this with the sales team, where there are quotas spread across a year, a quarter or even a particular week. Everything reps do is focused around crushing those numbers. What would it look like if customer service teams acted the same way?
This doesn’t mean being any less helpful when customers reach out with a problem, but it does mean looking more closely at the data to create a reasonable goal the team could work towards.
Focus on these kinds of questions:
Add to this list and you’ll eventually discover the many different variables that could influence the target. Then, begin experimenting and continuously measure the results to hone the profitability of your customer service team.
Several of the questions outlined above can be answered (to a degree) by manually looking back at historical data. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as Einstein can now be applied to platforms like Service Cloud, though, which means companies can also get a better sense of what’s likely to happen in the future.
Beyond setting goals, though, use the predictive analytics in AI to make selling to customers less generic and more specific, looking at areas such as:
These details are likely within in your existing data, but they also come up a lot during service engagements -- maybe even more often than during a sales conversation with a rep. Take advantage of this fact, and watch profitability grow.
Service teams hear it all -- what customers like, what they don’t and what takes up the majority of their time. If it becomes data that helps solve more problems, great. If it can attract more customers to the organization, even better.
A lot of marketing teams focus on all the benefits of their firm’s particular products and services, but what often resonates with customers is the challenges they share. Encourage your service team to think more strategically about what they’re hearing and collaborate on assets that drive more conversions. Some examples include:
Depending on how creative you can be, working with the customer service teams on these kinds of assets could shorten the time for marketing teams to produce them, the resources required and, ideally, boost the number of leads for the sales team. That’s an easy way to look at profitability from a service perspective.
Sometimes reps learn just enough about a product to sell it, but not enough to really deal with the ins and outs of using it. The same goes for marketing teams in some cases. Any of the details that really matter to customers -- from how they want to buy to what they expect from the customer experience and long-term relationship you establish -- will likely make its way through the customer service team.
Harness the insights to look at what kind of additional training could improve the performance of every team in the business. Better yet, use the data to shorten the time it takes to weed out job candidates who aren’t a fit. Hiring can be one of the most expensive processes in a business, and customer service becomes much more of a profit centre when it makes finding the right talent easier.
In the short term, the notion of customer service becoming a profit centre will be something of a surprise to the rest of the business. Over time, however, it may become a major plank in your strategy for long-term financial success.