In the call center industry, the buzz is all about turning service centers into sales centers. In reality, shouldn’t they be both? The school of thought I subscribe to is that sales are an elevated form of service.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Recently, I called my local telecom company for a problem with my high-speed Internet service. In the course of the call, I not only got assurance that my DSL would be fixed within days (and it was), but I also signed up for another service and increased my cellular minutes.
I hadn’t realized by how much I was consistently going over my mobile minutes until the CSR pointed it out. But of course, I had noticed my bill increases over the last few months. Not only did the service rep take care of my original problem, she also anticipated my needs before I did and helped to save me money in the long run by selling me a different cellular plan with increased minutes.
OK, so I am in the business and I can recognize a cross-sell when I see one. Regardless, this was great service! And it was all made possible by getting the two disciplines€”sales and service€”to collaborate, aided by technology.
Based on my experience with helping financial, telecom and other organizations transform their traditional centers into powerful sales and service operations that are producing real value, I have seen success with three technology prescriptions when working toward making service and sales efforts more collaborative.
Prescription 1: Put the right person in the right seat.
By better understanding an agent’s personality makeup, management has a more valid tool when assigning, and hiring, for specific jobs. Doesn’t it make sense to have your more compassionate problem-solvers focused on taking service calls and assigning your more assertive agents to selling? What about cross-training those who adapt easily to change?
With the use of a technology that profiles agents based purely on psychometrics, management can receive an unbiased view of traits and behaviors that fit certain jobs best, as well as create more balanced teams that have complementary strengths and weaknesses.
In the case of one of our consumer goods customers that generates more than $4 million per day in revenue from its call center, agents are divided into two separate teams based on their profiles: inbound service and outbound sales. However, agents are cross-trained to handle both types of situations, for example, allowing sales agents to help with overflow inbound service calls and allowing service-focused agents to take sales orders without requiring them to hand off the customer.
Prescription 2: Implement real-time coaching for the agent and the coach.
Companies spend countless hours and dollars in helping their agents get to the next level, and then when the agents become supervisors, more often than not, they’re left without much preparation for the job ahead.
Because coaches are inundated with information, and are often pulled from fire to fire, time, actionable insight and remedies are what they need most to coach effectively. A technology that gives coaches the ability to see and respond to overall performance and even specific agent behaviors in real time can be invaluable.
This is especially crucial in improving agent performance when a company is cross-training agents in both sales and service roles as it alerts coaches to a problem such as missing cross-sell offers. A coach could correct this issue quickly to avoid further impact to goals. Vice versa, it also can help identify best-practice behavior that should be captured for company training and for recognition of the agents for their good work as they perform it.
An increased focus on fostering a good coaching environment should also include:
Big picture and drill-down information on agent and team performance, along with a set of prescriptions for improvement
Content to help a supervisor effectively develop and mentor agents
Insight into agent characteristics to help coaching sessions be more effective
More coaching through the automation of some rule-based coaching processes
- Big picture and drill-down information on agent and team performance, along with a set of prescriptions for improvement
Prescription 3: Institutionalize best practices through technology.
Often best practices are shared only informally, or are too dependent on individuals to ensure their adoption. Technology used correctly can help to institutionalize best practices so that they are implemented uniformly and can evolve over time with the business.
As part of a service-to-sales transformation implemented at a large financial services client of ours, training interventions were modeled on replicating what the highest performing agents did. As a result of this overall initiative, the client saw double-digit improvements in its balance transfer and rewards enrollment goals. Because they’re based on hard performance data, these best practices are not only outcome-based, but also they can progress as the realities of business change and affect performance.
Institutionalizing best practices also has been a key element in the success of the consumer goods customer mentioned above. This particular customer built its call center from the ground up a short while ago. Because this center was designed to consolidate services under one roof for thousands of retail and wholesale outlets, the company now gathers data across a much broader range of interactions, from which they establish best practices to use center-wide, institutionalize with technology and improve sales and service for all their customers.
The bottom line is that when sales and service teams work together, everyone wins: the customers, the employees and the company. The key is to utilize technology and strategy together to make it happen.