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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
February 2007 - Volume 25 / Number 9
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Achieving Successful Sales In The Call Center

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

As call centers have experienced increased pressures from managers to reduce costs and regulations have forced them to constrict calling activities, the demand for revamping processes has grown. As a result, many centers have focused on sales to deliver better customer experiences and help drive organizational revenues to offset the cost of the center.

Best Practices’ Global Benchmarking Council (GBC) conducts focus group meetings once a year on customer service and call centers. A recent roundtable discussion focused on making sales happen in the call center. Key areas of discussion for this group included the most critical areas of service to sales, the view from the customer service representative’s (CSR) perspective, how to manage change, accountability for CSRs and how to recognize issues.

Areas that were identified as being most critical in service to sales environments included technology, errors, upselling, introducing change and presenting inadequate information to the customer.
Roundtable participants agreed that technology plays a key role in the call center. Specifically, the needs of the customer must be correctly matched to the proper technology to drive optimal call center success. Providing only IVR as a self-service channel will frustrate customers that prefer to do all their business online.

Another critical area is that of proper call routing. When a customer is placed on the line with an individual who is not capable of providing the correct information or assistance, both the customer and the agent can become frustrated, degrading the experience for the customer, even if the issue is eventually resolved.

CSRs also expressed that certain elements of their jobs were critical areas, including upselling a service warranty in order to drive profits, lack of adequate information available to the customer on a product that impacts the customer’s willingness to buy the product and changing the size of the center.

The CSRs involved in the focus group articulated their feelings that convincing agents that enhancing the size of the center is the best thing to do for the company is another critical area of consideration in a service to sales environment. If change is not managed properly, employees will resist that change, denying the organization the benefits that it was originally hoping to enjoy.
Generating sales for any organization can be a challenge. When it is to happen in a call center that has traditionally focused on service, the challenges can seem insurmountable. This does not have to be reality, however. Call centers can generate significant sales and profits, but it does not come easily or immediately.

Equipping Agents For Sales Roles Can Ensure Transition Success
As more traditional call centers have moved from service-oriented to sales-oriented operations, management focus has shifted from primarily customer service to also driving sales. To gain a better understanding of the challenges that call centers face in such an environment, Best Practices, LLC conducted a Global Benchmarking Council (GBC) Meeting that included a roundtable discussion on making sales happen in the call center.

While we previously reviewed critical areas of service to sales that were identified by this panel, it is also important to understand the process from the customer service representative’s (CSR) perspective as well as how to properly manage change in the call center.

Many representatives in the call center that has moved from a service-to-sales environment are not sales professionals and are therefore learning how to conduct the duties of their new positions in completely different ways.

To ease this transformation, experienced CSRs suggest that the individual ask permission of the customer before beginning the conversation to put everyone at ease; the agent should take the time to ask the important questions to determine the customer’s needs; learn what the customer has to gain from purchasing the product or service; and find out why the customer said “no.”  
These experienced CSRs also have advice for the call center manager who is managing this change. First, the manager must be able to convince the agent of the product or service so that they can win the customer. Second, it is important to recognize that incentive plans never satisfy 100 percent of the population and alternative methods of motivation should be considered. Finally, supervisors have to reinforce the new objective of the company and let the agent know that “they are either on the bus, or they are not.”

In order to promote complete success in the service-to-sales call center, representatives must understand that they are representing the company. When an issue or problem arises with a customer, that customer wants someone to apologize and then relay how the problem will be fixed. Every CSR has a certain level of empowerment, and when he or she speaks the customer’s language, it will reach further in the effort to retain that customer.

When CSRs are provided the necessary tools to perform their jobs effectively, they will be more equipped to plant the seeds or features of a product or service that the customer will likely have an interest in purchasing, thus driving sales revenues for the organization.

Making the transition from a service-to-sales call center can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding when it is handled properly. When call center managers pay close attention to what their CSRs need in order to be successful in their new positions, they also promote success for the call center overall. CIS

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

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