In recent times, contact centers have undergone a metamorphosis from being mere voice-service centers to leveraging multiple channels to increase interaction with customers. Technological advances have made it possible for companies to directly engage with customers via mobile and traditional phone for personal voice contact, and e-mail, live chats and web-based discussion forums by leveraging the Internet. Today’s discerning customer has high expectations, and capitalizing on all possible methods to optimize customer interactions forms a stepping stone towards ensuring a satisfied customer.
Increased communication with the customer leads to a more meaningful transaction where the service agent is able to get a deeper insight into the needs of the customer. It also offers an interesting business opportunity for the service executive to suggest better services or products that can enhance the customer’s experience. Therefore, sales and service need to be integrated. This is where the art of up-selling and cross-selling comes into play at the contact center.
Up-selling entails selling a better quality or version of the product than the customer had originally been planning to purchase. Cross-selling is the technique of encouraging customers to buy additional products that can complement or be integrated into the original product. Both the approaches are proven strategies that can add significantly to the bottom line of an enterprise.
Reaching out to the customers requires meticulous planning and effort. The contact center is one such focal point where interactions with customers occur in large numbers. Leveraging the contact center to drive revenue through cross-selling and up-selling pitches in interactions is therefore a smart strategy.
A call center that receives a large number of calls has many direct opportunities to make additional sales. The personalized interactions between the customer and the company’s call center representative offer a platform for potential selling opportunities. If cross-selling and up-selling is integrated into the call handling process, it can generate more successful sales than some of the elaborate marketing campaigns of the organization. Some experts suggest that it can cost four times more to make a sale to a new customer than to an existing one.
Call centers eat into the profit margins of companies, since operational costs of running a service call center can be quite high. If these centers can generate sales, they can reverse the direction of fund-flow, and hence give a higher return on investment (ROI).
Every successful sale via a call center increases the overall efficiency of the call center. Employees trained in customer service can be up-skilled to act as meta-salespersons; hence, the company can reduce the cost of keeping special sales executives. Cross-selling and up-selling can be integrated into every channel used for customer service, be it a voice call, live chat, discussion forum or response to a query via e-mail, thereby maximizing the utilization of all the available channels.
Gauging the customer’s interests and requirements aligns with the customer-centric focus of the call center. If the service executive can understand the customer’s actual needs, and can thus suggest a cross-sell or an up-sell based on those needs, there is a better chance to garner the attention of the customer. When portrayed as an expert suggestion that addresses the customer’s needs well with an intention to improve his/her experience, it will be perceived as the brand’s commitment to provide personalized service to the customer, rather than a mere profit-seeking tactic. Such a value-based up-sell/cross-sell, in fact, helps to build a relationship of trust with the customer. As a result, there are increased chances of happy customers coming back in the future.
Target sales calls are expensive and are often received by people unwilling to listen. This can translate into unwanted cost of wasted calls for the company. A happy customer on a call will lend an ear to the offers by the executive. Chances of successful sales are therefore higher, since you already have a customer who is willing to listen. Hence, overall efforts and costs of calls are reduced considerably.
A successful sale of an upgraded product or complementary products could mean that the customer looks for even more additional products or services in the future. For example, he/she may want to upgrade/replace one of the ‘support’ products at a later stage.
There is no doubt that cross-selling and up-selling via the customer service center enables companies to successfully market their products and services to existing customers and hence increases profits. At the same time, it is important for companies to ensure that the upgrade or additional product adds value to the customer. A long-standing relationship with a customer can be negatively impacted if the additional product he/she purchased is of little use in the long run, and thus the company may lose credibility. If the sale is based on customer-value creation and not driven purely by sales targets alone, it can go a long way in garnering respect from the customer.
Training the service staff to be patient and listen to the customer’s needs, solve his/her queries first and then gently suggest an upgrade/additional product without being pushy is the key to successful cross-selling and up-selling, in addition to top-quality customer service.