We often say your customer service agents are your number one asset. This is true for obvious reasons when it comes to customer satisfaction, as your agents are often the first and possibly the only human representative of your company that a customer interacts with.
But the statement holds true from a sales perspective as well. Using your agents for upselling and cross-selling is a huge revenue driving opportunity—but it comes with a caveat: service must be the priority.
When done properly, agent upselling can boost your bottom line while providing additional value to your customers. When executed poorly, however, agent upselling can be clumsy at best and cause you to lose customers at worst.
So how can call centers use customer service reps as effective sales agents? What are the biggest challenges for agent upselling? To answer these questions, start by addressing these three things.
What are the Biggest Challenges for Agent Upselling?
Gaining a full and clear understanding of customer needs
Selling the solution to a problem rather than just selling a product is a core principle of sales. A McKinsey study of 23,000 sales reps found that the top-performing sellers were those who excelled at understanding their customers’ needs and delivering a relevant value proposition rather than simply focussing on the transaction.
To upsell effectively, agents must first have a clear understanding of their customer and the challenges they face.
Half of this can be addressed with an omnichannel call center solution that integrates with your customer database, giving agents near-instant access to the full scope of known customer information. By breaking down silos, agents can use data on the customer’s past purchases, call history, and preferred channels to inform their upselling tactics.
The other half of the equation is addressed by asking the right questions to fill in any missing data gaps that will help push the sale forward.
A recent Gartner study found that customer feedback can increase upselling and cross-selling success rates by 15% to 20%. Empowering your agents to ask for more information leads to deeper customer profiles and more personalized conversations that are more likely to result in a sale.
Training agents to identify appropriate opportunities to sell
Agent upselling does not come with a one-size-fits-all toolkit. Rather, it requires an element of personal judgement to identify when it’s the right opportunity to sell and when it’s better to focus solely on support. By combining training and technology, you can help agents master this subtle art.
First, let’s talk about technology
By analyzing the caller’s sentiment, monitoring for trigger keywords and phrases, and combining that intel with data from past encounters, you can get an accurate idea of how open a customer might be to receiving an upsell or cross-sell pitch.
Next, zero in on training
Your contact center software’s call recording archive is a gold mine of training material for identifying ideal sales scenarios (and, on the flip side, those that are most likely to fail). Use call and screen recordings and chat transcripts to pinpoint the customer issues that are most likely to lead to new purchases so those interactions can be immediately flagged as an upselling opportunity.
Leading with service
It’s important to remember that your agents are customer service representatives first. Selling in a service interaction should come only after you’ve ensured the initial issue that prompted the contact is resolved and the customer is satisfied with the resolution.
This in and of itself presents a great opening for a sales conversation.
Agents can and should use context they’ve gained during the encounter to inform their offer. For example: “You mentioned you had a problem with X. Did you know we offer Y?” This not only demonstrates that the agent has been actively listening, but increases the element of personalization by speaking to the customer’s specific pain points.
Customized scripts are just one of the many call center tools that can increase an agent’s effectiveness in leading with service. Dynamic scripts can be populated using a combination of historic data and information the agent gathers in real time for a conversation that feels organic but is more likely to lead to a sale. With ‘if this, then that’ conditional logic, agents can ask the next best question or make an offer depending on the customer’s input.
Ultimately, when leveraging agents in a sales capacity, the focus should be on the benefit to the customer—first, making sure the need they called about has met, and second, identifying additional opportunities to improve their life or solve a problem via your products or services.