From Cost Center To Revenue Generator: Why Customer Support Is Stepping Up

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Years ago, author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar famously declared, “Everyone is in sales.” He was right of course, but now decades later, thanks to data, new technologies, and new attitudes and innovation around customer support, the lines are officially blurring.

There was a time when the sales department did all the heavy lifting on a customer sale. Customer support was little more than a post-sales cost center to answer questions, field complaints and resolve product issues so that salespeople could focus on the important business of selling. Access from anywhere and digital transformation has made that model obsolete for the most part, particularly for B2C companies. Today, customer support is a rich and active revenue generator – but not everyone has recognized the new role of customer service in driving value creation for both customers and businesses. It’s an expensive oversight.

A recent Accenture report found that organizations that view their customer service as a value center as opposed to a cost center, achieve 3.5 times the revenue growth. That’s because service interactions reveal a goldmine of valuable customer information, preferences, and sentiment. With the right tools in place, organizations can make them actionable.

There’s also the human factor. As consumers, we tend to be more trusting of support than sales. And people always remember when they’re surprised – either positively or negatively – which typically comes from customer support. Great service literally pays off, especially when the product is a commodity and easily available from competitors.

Culture and Technology Barriers

But if customer support carries such influence, why isn’t everyone actively leveraging it? It’s partly mindset and habit, and partly technology hindrances. Not all organizations see the bigger picture. Some are solely focused on reducing support costs rather than empowering their service agents. Culturally, support has always been separated from sales in some companies, so that’s where it’s stayed. Others don’t know how to scale or monetize the value and insights their service agents are collecting.

Turning a support query into a sale requires insight, context, automation and purchasing history with offers of the next best action, delivered by a helpful, consultative support agent. A unified view of the customer, regardless of how the customer has contacted your support operation (e.g. chat, text, contact center or website, etc), is the clear path to navigating across the blurred lines. To find this single course of truth of the customer, means that your customer service platform needs to be fully and seamlessly integrated with your sales systems – which unfortunately most aren’t.

That’s because the role of technology has fundamentally changed while some companies have not adapted their technology as the lines between sales and service have blurred around them. For example, a customer support query saying ‘the item I want is out of stock’ tells you the customer has a high intent to buy so it’s important to have a holistic view of them, such as their buying patterns, what’s in their shopping cart etc. This way, a service agent can respond with ‘those shoes are out of stock, but we have a similar pair and here’s a coupon’. In contrast, without that insight, customer support just answers the question, giving an estimated availability date, and the organization loses the opportunity for a sales conversion.

An Opportunity For Customer Service Leaders

Customer support agents now play a vital role in revenue generation, customer loyalty and customer lifetime value. It’s now so much more than just answering questions, complaints or fielding calls. It’s also an opportunity for customer service leaders to help their teams navigate this new reality. For example, providing proper training to understand how the role of customer support has progressed, ensuring support agents have the right technology in place to gain a real-time unified view of individual customers, as well as empowering agents to provide sales incentives, such as coupons, savings and good will gestures thanking customers for their patience.

As the lines continue to blur, it’s clear they are here to stay. This woven interplay between support and sales is now the future of selling and reflects the modern customer journey. It’s financially prudent for organizations to do the same.

1 COMMENT

  1. Zig was right. By building relationships, and proactively addressing issues, customer support should, indeed, be viewed as an integral enterprise profit center rather than just a passive, reactive cost of doing business: https://customerthink.com/for-employees-and-customers-should-the-goal-be-higher-engagement-or-higher-experience-value/ And, yes, making this progressive change requires a strong culture and integrated, stakeholder-centric operations.

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