Adding Sales to a Service Culture
by Susan Hash
Many centers now have some sort of sales component in place—whether it's add–on sales for special promotions or full–on solutions–based selling. While companies have gotten smarter about the technology and tools to support sales, many centers are still not successfully handling the cultural transition from service to sales.

Why? There are two key obstacles: A culture change requires management time and effort, which are often in short supply in contact centers; and many centers have an ill–defined strategy. When introducing sales into the service environment, managers often start by focusing on the incentives, even though they don't have a strategy for what they want to accomplish. The following are a few tips to help you determine your center's goals for moving from service to sales.

Define the products and/or services that agents will sell.
Whether you're starting from scratch or you're trying to improve a sales process that's already in place, begin by carefully defining which products and/or services you want agents to sell. Sounds simple, right? Yet so many centers skip this critical step in their rush to start turning a profit. Another common mistake is expecting agents to sell all of the company's products, which often is not realistic, especially if your company carries an extensive product line. Think about what you want your center to be—a product channel or an entry point? Do your agents handle a high volume of basic requests or are they able to spend time building relationships?

Define the sales process.
Once you've outlined a strategy, it's easier to figure out how the sales process will work. For instance, if your center's role is to be an information source, many of your calls will be routine inquiries, such as: what is my balance or did my check clear? Those inquiries can be handled quickly, and then agents can be prompted with a likely product to offer to that customer. If, on the other hand, agents handle more complex transactions, they will have time to get to know more about the caller, understand his or her needs and then make more legitimate product cross–sells or upsells. Be sure to always consider the ultimate goal. It doesn't make sense for an agent to spend 15 minutes talking to a customer if his talk–time goal is two minutes and that is how he is rewarded.

Define the appropriate skill set.
Defining what you want agents to do will help you to determine the appropriate mix of customer service and sales skills for your center. It ranges from a pure customer service role, in which any type of sales that occur is considered a nice add–on, to a hard sales approach where sales is the primary focus. For most inbound centers, the service comes first, and agents are trained to look for genuine opportunities to offer appropriate products.

Define service–oriented sales goals.
Sales quotas often are the source of performance problems in call centers. A common mistake that managers make is setting arbitrary quotas for sales (e.g., "agents must sell X number of Product A"). These types of goals drive the wrong types of behavior for a service–centric center. Agents typically start pushing those products on customers regardless of need or desire. They end up wasting time on calls dealing with objections from customers who don't want the products. The result: close ratios drop, average handle time increases and customer satisfaction nosedives.

Inside View — Extra Space Storage
by Susan Hash
At a time when many organizations were outsourcing some or all of their call center functions, Extra Space Storage was finalizing its plans to bring the center back in house and revise its call–routing strategy. Opening a new call center while changing the nature of the operation at the same time presented a few challenges for management. In the end, a phased–in approach, extensive communications, integrated cloud computing suite, and a focus on thorough training resulted in lower abandon rates and cost per call, while sales conversion rates have nearly doubled.
Read the full story here.


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