More customers are taking the buying process into their own hands.
With access to limitless data and inexpensive options, customers can quickly act without help from a sales professional. This reality has intensified the challenge of selling.
Without the ability to interact with customers, sales professionals lack the information and insight needed to position a solution. As a result, sales organizations are learning that they need to marshal more of their resources to drive sales outcomes. Many find it surprising that one of the most powerful resources in sales today is not found in the sales team — it is found in the service team.
Service professionals have a unique advantage: the customer comes to them. Information learned on a service call uncovers customer details that would otherwise be elusive to sales professionals. Service calls reveal the customer’s tone and emotions. This breadth of information creates a detailed picture that primes the sale. However, leveraging the sales potential of a service function requires a careful approach. Here, we discuss the three components of that approach.
Evolving the Service Mindset
Service professionals do not see themselves as sales professionals. They see themselves as a resource for the customer. They see themselves as a professional who can help solve a problem. Moreover, they often consider it unseemly to push a sale during the customer service call. Overcoming the service professional’s reluctance to sell means developing a new mindset.
The key to this mindset is the idea that addressing the customer’s needs often requires an expanded offering. In this scenario, the service professional is discovering unexpected value for the customer in the form of an additional product or service that can meet their broader needs. With this mindset, the sale becomes more organic and relationship-driven. This aspect of the transaction is important given that fair value assessments of more than 6,000 companies show that “customer relationship valuations as a percent of total enterprise value” have doubled in recent years, according to Harvard Business Review.
The bottom line: mindset matters. Service professionals can adopt this new mindset with three routines:
Self-awareness is about recognizing one’s own emotional tendencies and how they impact the customer. Self-awareness changes the service professional’s mindset by keeping them focused on how well they are meeting the customer’s needs. As a result, professionals ask more and better questions, which illuminate otherwise overlooked aspects of the customer’s needs, revealing the path to an expanded solution.
Engage in Active Listening
When someone engages in active listening, they are focused on the other person’s words. They are making a concerted effort to understand the other person and respond in a meaningful way. Active listening reveals details behind the customer’s needs.
When we rely on too little information, we are succumbing to the anchoring bias. In doing so, the professional may falsely assume that the customer is not interested in a broader solution. Uprooting anchors means having an open mindset in which all solutions, even new ones, are on the table when attempting to solve the customer’s challenge.
Engaging the Customer
The long-term success of a business requires the service professional to deliver on the customer’s expectations. The challenge: those expectations are higher than they have ever been. Businesses are quickly learning that excellent customer service has become a competitive advantage. The benefits to those who can deliver on these heightened expectations are considerable. Research from Bain and Company shows that “a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit.” Meeting the customer’s expectations means committing to five practices:
1. Own the Issue
Research from McKinsey shows that first-call resolution rates are approximately 40%. As a result, customers often feel that they have been shuffled from one person to another. Effective service professionals take responsibility and own the issue. Doing so minimizes the effort required from the customer.
2. Personalize the Experience
Customers are often pushed through a matrix of yes/no questions to arrive at a prepared response that falls short of a solution. A personalized experience recognizes the customer’s need, challenge, or question. Therefore, professionals need to adapt to the customer’s pace. The key is to take the time to listen and read the customer’s tone and empathize with them.
3. Be Authentic
Authenticity is about being natural, even if doing so does not come naturally. It’s about having a genuine interest in the customer and curiosity for learning about them and solving their problems.
4. Understand, then Solve
The customer’s words do more than clarify the issue. They also reveal ways in which the service professional can go further in the resolution. Understanding the customer helps reveal underlying issues. Once the customer has been understood, the service professional must solve the problem with clear language that outlines the next steps. Language must be concise and linear.
5. Be Curious to Exceed Expectations
In the rush for a solution, customers rarely volunteer more information than is necessary to reach a resolution. Therefore, the service professional reveals broader needs. They can reveal underlying needs by focusing on cues and clues. A cue is a detail found in the customer’s words. A clue is a detail found within the customer’s account information.
Enhance Value for the Customer
Finding unseen value for the customer presents the possibility for a mutually beneficial outcome. The customer benefits from a solution that addresses the root issue. Simultaneously, the service professional grows revenue. The service professional has a unique advantage in driving this outcome. They can link the additional product or service to the customer’s stated need. This approach is different than an outbound approach. A service call means that the customer has taken the first step. Therefore, the service professional can position the sale as an extension to the customer’s request for a solution.
When taking the conversation to this next level, service professionals must set out to accomplish three goals:
1. Pique Curiosity
The service professional must be able to spark the customer’s interest. They must make them willing to stay engaged in the conversation. This engagement is necessary for the professional to be able to address the wider scope of needs.
2. Position with Organization
If a customer doesn’t understand the offer, they will end the conversation. Restarting is near impossible. Therefore, knowing how to position is critical. The professional should position the headlines first. Once the next steps are clear, they should check with the customer before proceeding to the next stage.
3. Resolve Objections
The service professional must engage in a dialogue to understand and resolve the customer’s resistance. First, the professional must acknowledge the customer’s concern. Next, the professional must ask broad, open-ended questions. Finally, the professional should ask additional follow-up questions to get feedback on how to proceed.
The service professional will have an increasingly impactful role in selling organizations. Their access to customers puts them in a prime position to balance service with sales.
Learn more about how Richardson can help you deliver unexpected value from your customer service team.