Customer service departments cost money to staff and operate, but the most successful companies have realized they can be a strong source of revenue, too. 

Instead of looking at them as the place where people go to complain about their purchases or an unsatisfactory experience, they recognize contact centres as the place that generates repeat business and strengthens loyal relationships.

The reps who work in contact centres have known this all along, of course. When they get an irate customer on the phone and assist them in fixing a product or getting a service fee refunded, their job is rarely done.

This is the moment a customer may realize they need an additional product or accessory to get the most from their initial purchase. In other cases they realize there was something they had forgotten to buy originally. If they’ve been a customer for a while, they may ask for a newer or premium version of what they’ve already bought.

Customer service reps are often the unsung heroes of the company at this point. They answer questions about those other products and services. The most proactive will suggest additional products or upsells before the customer ever thinks of them. They make the purchase process easy by directing them to a sales rep or an online store. 

When you think about what a customer might be thinking or feeling at this juncture, it’s not hard to understand why they might be predisposed to spending more money with the company.

Though they might have started out upset, the agent or service rep has gotten them back on track. They’re feeling relieved, perhaps even grateful.

The agent or rep, meanwhile, comes across as particularly credible and authoritative, because they’ve demonstrated they can troubleshoot products or deal with complex processes at the company. 

Any product suggestions or recommendations they make seem more like friendly advice than a traditional sales pitch. 

With all that in mind, it’s no wonder organizations are beginning to see their customer service department as a profit centre, and are compensating the staff who work there accordingly.

Before you begin offering service reps commission, though, make sure you have done everything possible to make sure they’ll be successful:

1. Don’t make reps learn everything in the moment

The traditional sales team would never go into a meeting with a customer without doing their homework first. They learn about their customer’s biggest pain points, their budget and any additional stakeholders who might be part of a purchasing decision.

Customer service departments shouldn’t be treated as a silo, where the only data they see is related to the issue a customer is complaining about. They should be able to see purchase histories, previous engagements with sales and how they’ve responded to marketing offers in the past.

Arming service reps with the same data means they will be cross-selling and upselling only the products and services that will be relevant to the customer. That makes achieving commission a lot more viable.

2. Build an alliance with marketing and sales

In most organizations it’s taken a lot of effort to get sales reps and their counterparts in marketing communicating and collaborating on a regular basis. However, leaving out the customer service department could derail any hope you have of growing the business.

Customer service reps are often really good at learning everything there is to know about the company’s current products, services and pricing. To really sell and earn commission, though, they need to know what’s coming next.

If the sales team is about to begin offering a new product that will complement what customers already own, for instance, the service team should be equally aware that they have more to talk about, too.

The same is true in marketing: a new bundle, promotion or discount will perform much better when the service team knows they can bring it up as they’re finishing off an interaction with customers. 

These details are often overlooked, but technology can help ease the communication process by putting information in a central place.

3. Track sales performance as well as service metrics

Many service metrics have been in place for a long time, and with good reason. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Scores, Customer Effort Scores (CES), Net Promoter Scores (NPS) — these are all good ways to assess whether customers are likely to churn or not. 

Once service reps are also actively selling to customers, though, you’ll need to pay closer attention and figure out how to monitor and manage the work they do. This could mean giving them a specific target or quota, for instance, which you would want to track within a CRM the way you would with a traditional sales rep. You could also look at a more specific metric, like the number of customers who place an order through e-commerce following a service interaction. 

As more organizations use automation like a chatbot, it could make sense to focus customer service reps on closing more complex upsells and cross-sells. You can always leave the more straightforward sales to self-service tools. 

For some companies, there may be a clear way to correlate customer loyalty and increased value of a customer based on how service reps nurture them towards an additional sale.

Don’t forget that what happens during a service interaction will become one of the most memorable experiences a customer has with an organization. If they resolve their problems and are feeling happy, they might be willing to encourage their family and friends to become customers too. Think about how reps could contribute to referral programs, which is another highly effective way to grow your business. 

Good service is ultimately about solving customer’s problems. With the right incentives, though, the reps who work in that department could play a huge role in helping you hit your sales target, too.