Customer Service as a Channel to Sell

“If you want to know how to sell more, then you better know why customers buy.” – Steve Ferrante

The very foundation of customer service is an understanding of customers. A business must sell more and in order to do so – it is imperative that it knows the reasons that customers would buy. Given the ever-increasing competition, companies can no longer wait to reach the stage where customers ask for a marketing / sales person to visit. Smart companies use customer service as a channel to sell – this becomes a key aspect of their development strategy and customer-driven business template. We know that people are more likely to buy a product or service, when friends, associates, and others who they trust recommend the company’s offerings. This in turn makes existing customers highly potent and effective part of the company’s ‘sales force’. However, the ability to transform customers to a ‘sales person’ is not an easy task and must start by using customer service as a channel to sell – to get a head start on competitors.

Using customer service as a channel to sell requires consistent effort and a lot of groundwork. It begins by first listening to and thoroughly understanding customer, which would enable the company to provide them with answers to their problems even before they ask. By focusing on top class customer service, instead of trying to make a sale, a company can create a customer base that is dedicated, passionate, engaged, and willing to come back with repeat business. Many of such customers become highly effective brand ambassadors too. In order to use customer service as a channel to sell, the focus must remain on providing customers with highly efficient service. Without doing so, attempts to cross-sell and upsell during customer service interactions could prove extremely detrimental for a company. A survey revealed that at least 40% people expressed their annoyance at efforts to sell to them when all they wanted was an answer to a query or solution to a pressing problem.

It is becoming urgent for companies to use also customer service as a channel to sell given the fact that there is a sharp rise in the number of online transactions and the first connection with the service team may be the only opportunity for a company to form a personal connection with the customer. Upselling or cross selling accurately therefore, at this stage has become critical. When speaking directly to a customer, the possibility of understanding them and anticipating their needs is far greater and the customer service staff could add more value to the interaction by listening attentively and offering choices that they would not have thought of.

Of course, the first task of a customer service representative is to solve the problem and respond effectively to queries in a bid to keep customers happy. Every customer interaction is not and should not be used as an opportunity to make a sale. With the customer’s happiness and success as a focus, with time, a company can use customer service as a channel to sell, thereby systematically but rapidly growing the business. It is critical for a company and its service representative to however, completely know and understand their customers. An unhappy customer would turn to an angry one if the service staff tried to sell, when all they require is a solution to the problem. Happy customers make better ‘candidates’ for selling post the support interaction.  Ensure that the customer connecting with your company is in a happy and positive frame of mind before trying to use customer service as a channel to sell – it is never good to have even a single angry customer on your hands.

The attempt each time for every customer should be to help with and meet any of their unmet and unfilled needs. When you are able to do this most of the time, you would create more value for them with each interaction and then using customer service as a channel to sell would produce better results in the form of conversions and repeat business. A company’s customer service representative must understand that they hold an extremely responsible position and one with power. The kind of service they deliver not only serves to retain customers but also encourages them to increase their faith in the company and over time become loyal and effective brand ambassadors, which in turn would help your company to gain more customers and have more opportunities for sales and revenue. By adding value to every service interaction, your company would soon using customer service as a channel to sell – even though indirectly.

Some companies have become immensely popular with their customers, with a very large percentage of customers being repeat ones. The reason is that they have uncovered the potential of using customer service as a channel to sell by adding value to the product through top class service. The customer service staff must understand that in their role, their job is not only respond to queries, but also act as agents for the company’s growth and success. In fact, both the sales and service teams are indivisible parts of the customer service gamut. By ensuring that both these teams understand their role to improve customer experiences each time, a company would have a customer base that moves from ‘satisfied’ to willing brand advocates. Both teams must perform both roles in order for the company to minimize the time lapse between service and an actual sale. The sales staff must be able to continue top class service such that customers can see uniformity and continuity in service.

While making every effort to understand customers, a company must simultaneously ensure that service personnel recognize the importance and value of using customer service as a channel to sell. The personnel must receive appropriate and regular training and be exposed to opportunities where they first add value to customers, which in turn would enhance customer satisfaction levels. They must learn to recognize potential issues and proactively offer tangible and may be even revenue enhancing solutions to their customers. With such value added customer service, they would be able to make suggestions to customers on what to buy and even get them to commit to buying.

A company that is truly focused on their customers and their needs, would use every interaction as an opportunity to build trust and raise the level of confidence customers may have with regard to it as a business partner. Even complaints and customer ire would be treated as opportunities to learn and improve, thereby showing the customer the company’s sincerity and dedication. Managing upset and irritated customers with care and empathy would strengthen their faith in the company, make them loyal, and forge stronger bonds than the ones that existed before the problem. Such customers would not be offended if the company were to use customer service as a channel to sell and in fact, would be willing to let others know of the great offers from the company.

The more service oriented a company becomes and can effectively portray it, the higher its chances of selling even in purely customer service focused interactions.  When done right, using customer service as a channel to sell, this practice can be a win-win situation for both the company and its customers. Companies would gain a head start on its competition and customers would be preview to the yet to be launched products in the market and get a highly competitive price for them. The lines that exist between the sales and customer service teams need to be removed soon – the potential for a company to sell and grow must rest with the success of its customer service initiatives.

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