Consumers have never had a greater choice of products and services to choose from. This, in turn, means that providing exceptional customer service has become a greater challenge. Putting the customer first is imperative and dissuading customers to switch from one provider to another is no longer about price or product, but how you make them feel and if your reputation holds well in the eyes of previous clients.

So if you are meeting the needs of your customers across all channels, where and when they are, communicating with personalization, then you should be aware that digital channels are not only for responding and solving issues that customers face, but also an opportunity to sell a better version of what is available to them currently or extras that meet the demands of their lifestyle.

To reinforce this idea, we have collaborated with customer service expert, Paolo Fabrizio, to show how your company can start selling with customer service.

1 – Turn Support into a Business Driver

Customer service can cross traditional boundaries (provide assistance) by collecting and capitalizing on customer feedback. Analytics and reports can enable agents to upsell and pass on the information to sales.

[c_comment comment=”That’s the great leap forward that brands need to take. As consumers are using an increasing number of channels to ask for support, smart brands have already invested in omni-channels platforms achieving two strategic results:

1. Enabling agents to handle conversations through one single dashboard, regardless of the channel

2. Getting valuable customer’s insights through reporting and analytics sections. This feedback is gold because they help improve organization (e.g. staffing based on peak moments as per channels and help understand what the customer likes or dislikes).

Briefly speaking, what customers wish to have as a new product/service that today they’re not getting yet. Just like in any kind of relationship, it’s vital to know it promptly.” author=”Paolo Fabrizio” position=”Digital and Social Customer Service Expert – Customer Service Culture”]

Customer service representatives should communicate with customers frequently and analyze their activities using a product or service to identify opportunities to upsell and cross-sell new products and features at the right time.

Choosing the correct moment to offer an upsell or cross-sell can make a difference between coming across as a pushy or helpful. For example, if your customer has successfully enjoyed using your product for a few months, you will be the best person to mention another product they can use with it — or alongside it — to get better results.

[c_comment comment=”As my very first manager used to say in 1996: “timing is essential.” he was so right! As today we’re living and breathing digital conversations, this has become paramount. Support agents know very well whether the customer is very (dis)satisfied after an interaction. And such sentiments are traceable using tags within most digital platforms in their reporting areas.

If Customer Service shares such feedback with Marketing and Sales, they can target those customers who have just had a great experience to prepare up/cross-selling offers tailored to their specific needs. Of course, that’s beneficial for the Customer Lifetime Value, therefore for the whole company rapidly enjoying great returns.” author=”Paolo Fabrizio” position=”Digital and Social Customer Service Expert – Customer Service Culture”]

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2 – Make it easy for customers to contact you

The period of time from when customers obtain post-sales support has been reduced by digital technology, generating new possibilities to create revenue through customer service. The majority of the revenue from the customer relationship occurs post-sale and once that happens you need to give them reasons to stay. Providing efficient and productive customer service to solve their problems is key. You have to emphasize the importance of success in the resolution of an issue.

Digital channels allow to have a more continuous conversation and develop knowledge of customers. In the past, companies developed channel-specific support models that compete for mastery. However, in the eyes of the customer, it’s a single organization and the result is diminished customer experience. Instead, an omni-channel customer service approach is required that blends both digital channels and traditional channels.

In this path, the different support touchpoints are designed to complement each other, allowing users to switch between channels without the need to repeat information. Furthermore, multiple channels can be used simultaneously (for example, browsing a physical store while ordering the goods for home delivery from a mobile device).

Brands are tested every time a customer engages with them through digital channels. It’s crucial to taking care of every single conversation to earn a customer’s trust.

[c_comment comment=”As I usually say during my keynote speeches every conversation is a business opportunity. In fact, especially with digital channels, there are three main aspects to care: firstly response time – customers use apps and social media because they expect a response in a few minutes/hours or even immediately in the case of live chat. Are you able to consistently offer speedy responses? Secondly resolution – are your agents able to listen, understand and fix issues? Are they empowered to go beyond the extra mile?

Last but not least, digital customer service skills – are your agents able to detect customer’s sentiment from the very first contact and adapt their tone of voice accordingly? Only combining these three aspects you can harness every single digital conversation. ” author=”Paolo Fabrizio” position=”Digital and Social Customer Service Expert – Customer Service Culture”]

If the agent offers a service that fixes the customer problem, then that’s both a sale for the business and a happy customer with their problem resolved.

[c_comment comment=”That’s absolutely true. When a problem arises the customer evaluates support quality, thus enhancing a brand’s reliability. That’s the very moment of truth because brands have a unique opportunity, consolidating customer’s trust by managing and solving their problem in a timely and transparent way.

By doing so they also get another great benefit: customers won’t consider you anymore as just a provider but as a partner. That’s the best assist for your Marketing colleagues to fine tune-up & cross-selling activities.” author=”Paolo Fabrizio” position=”Digital and Social Customer Service Expert – Customer Service Culture”]

3 – Train agents on Sales activities

Agents need to be skillfully trained as experts on the products or services you offer. They need to be creative and should be able to come up with workable solutions for any problems thrown their way.

[c_comment comment=”That’s the core of the latest ebook I’ve written with my colleague Maurizio Mesenzani. It’s titled ‘Digital Customer Service Personas©’ and we have shown the skill set framework we have used with many brands to help with hiring & training digital customer service assistants.

While agents are usually experts regarding the company’s products and services, they have a skill gap when it comes to providing support through digital channels (social media, live chat, messaging apps) where the tone of voice and dynamics are very different compared to phone or email.

So that’s where an ad hoc training becomes essential in order to avoid pitfalls that lead to bad digital customer experiences.” author=”Paolo Fabrizio” position=”Digital and Social Customer Service Expert – Customer Service Culture”]

They need to have a “sales” culture and know they can go beyond simple assistance. Honesty can foster loyalty from customers in the long run if their issues are resolved appropriately.

[c_comment comment=”During the hiring process of Digital Customer Service Assistants to be, one of the traits we look for is business acumen. If a candidate can couple customer service and sales experiences he/she may be a good fit. The reason why? When dealing with digital channels you don’t just have to respond, you have to sell the solution you’re providing. That helps customers really tell and appreciate how your service is different and better.

This attitude to go beyond a simple answer is paramount when dealing with customers on public channels, such as social media and online reviews (e.g. Trustpilot, GoogleMyBusiness) because you also speak to an audience of spectators.” author=”Paolo Fabrizio” position=”Digital and Social Customer Service Expert – Customer Service Culture”]

Enabling agents to bring some personality to the role is critical because it allows advisors to change the way that they handle each conversation. Make sure that agents’ suggestions fit the customer’s exact need rather than waffle about a non-essential product.

[c_comment comment=”We know that contact center agents had always stick to scripts. When providing Digital Customer Service, due to the essence of these channels, you need to unleash your assistants’ personalities to nurture profitable conversations.

Of course, guidelines need to be set, shared and applied however customers want to deal with real persons representing a human brand: TIP: avoid writing ‘canned responses’ (same responses given to different customers) and want to have even and that.” author=”Paolo Fabrizio” position=”Digital and Social Customer Service Expert – Customer Service Culture”]

Think about incentives to encourage them to adopt a sales approach (recognition of the best “seller” each month, bonus…). Plus they need to be empowered to seek sales opportunities should result in gains and accessibility for customers – a real win-win situation.

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4 – Proactively assist customers

A trend in customer service is being proactive (anticipating when a customer has a need) instead of reactive (waiting for a customer to contact us). Organizations need to understand the entire customer journey and not just optimize contact points individually. Building unified and pro-active cross-channel services will deliver differentiated customer experiences that drive loyalty and repeat sales.

This strategy can be adapted to sales: for example, a Telco offering a customer a different mobile data plan when they are about to reach their monthly limit.

[c_comment comment=”The north star is prevention. Every time we know that our customers may have an issue or just a partial waste of time we have to avoid it. By doing so we also have the opportunity to inform our customers about what we have done for them and what even better we may do.

This is the link where customer service and marketing build together new ‘up-servicing’ solutions: to give you an example Microsoft launched a program to offer new customers a free-customer solution call in which an expert helps the customer to learn and take advantage of full potential of the software they’ve purchased. That’s an amazing way to do that. ” author=”Paolo Fabrizio” position=”Digital and Social Customer Service Expert – Customer Service Culture”]

To do so, live-chat is also an excellent way to proactively assist customers: you can prompt them to start the conversation when they need it while browsing your website.

[c_comment comment=”There are many good practices of brands providing proactive support using live chat. Especially in the eCommerce industries, an agent asking the customers ‘do you need help?’ and providing the right answer at the right time converts a visit on the website into a sale. That’s also a great example of selling with customer service. Live chat is a powerful proactive customer service tool, but it should never be intrusive because the digital customer loves proactivity but hates being pushed.” author=”Paolo Fabrizio” position=”Digital and Social Customer Service Expert – Customer Service Culture”]

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5 – Leverage available data about your customers

Companies have lots of data that can be used to personalize the experience and identify sales opportunities: conversation history, data in the CRM. To truly improve performance, advanced analytics tools should not only increase efficiency and reduce costs but also proactively unlock new revenue.

For example, companies using advanced analytics can analyze the text of previous successful sales and they can proactively tailor particular aspects of a pitch based on the customer’s behavioral profile—for example, if a customer is identified as potentially regretting a purchase they made, the script can highlight a hassle-free return or cancellation policy.

Developing a connected ecosystem enables us to make this information available to agents while they interact with customers. For example, accessing CRM data to know their previous purchases

[c_comment comment=”Best in class omni-channel platforms can be integrated into major CRMs (e.g. Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Oracle). That makes digital customer service assistants’ lives much easier because they can get in the same platform all customer’s details already contained within the CRM, such as personal details, purchase history, conversations history, etc. Such a rich, single view of the customer, combined with a digital skill training program they can consistently deliver great customer experiences.” author=”Paolo Fabrizio” position=”Digital and Social Customer Service Expert – Customer Service Culture”]

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Conclusion

A successful digital transformation is a way a company can address rising complexity, provide excellent customer experience, and manage operations costs with significant ease.

Companies often talk about identifying customer pain points, and contact centers are a clear opportunity, yet most customers view them with trepidation. The best organizations recognize this as a chance to proactively differentiate themselves from the competition but they can also achieve longevity. By implementing these new tools with features that enhance the journey, companies can more accurately predict what’s coming-allowing them to literally control their own future.

To discover more about Paolo, his first and second books, plus key expert insights. Visit his website, follow him on Twitter and on LinkedIn too.