Once the customer service function used to be a drain on company resource. If only a product could be sold and then the customer forgotten then all that money sunk into call centres and answering customer enquiries could be saved.
But this attitude soon changed when executives realized that maintaining contact with customers could be useful. Customers who have bought one product and are then engaging via the call centre can be sold more expensive products or unrelated products.
Upselling and cross-selling became buzzwords in the industry – they were soon used as the justification for investment in call centres. Call centres were hailed as profit centres rather than a drain on resources, but for those of us who see the industry from the inside every day we know this it is not simple to cross-sell – it needs judgement and intelligence.
Agents with a good knowledge of the product and empathy with clients can be very good at detecting when a caller has no interest in being sold anything and when a caller might be receptive to a new product – this is classic sales, but I read some interesting research recently in the Harvard Business Review that explores the issue in more depth.
In the HBR research indiscriminate cross-selling – always attempting to cross-sell products to customers without applying any intelligence to the process – actually costs revenue. This is because some customers cost a lot more than others to service – sell them more and more products and you might be costing the company more in support costs than you are making in revenue.
It’s an interesting idea that selling more might end up costing you more, but is actually logical and demonstrates that companies need to trust the sales instinct of the individual agent more than ever
Photo by Dyanna Hyde licensed under Creative Commons