Transforming Service Agents Into Sales Stars
It has been argued that multitasking hinders the quality of agents' service. But with increasing pressures to grow revenue, Tilia Inc. chose to take a chance one year ago and integrate sales into its service-oriented call center.
Tilia, which manufactures and distributes FoodSaver kitchen appliances, aimed to increase revenue from existing customers. "We determined the most effective quick-win would be to maximize a current point of contact and upsell/cross-sell," says Kathleen Diamonon, managing partner of the Turning Point Group, which created the sales training program Tilia used for its agents.
To reach its goal Tilia had to initiate a business process change within its customer service center--outsourced to a third-party vendor. The vendor had been providing premium customer service, but reps perceived sales as a negative. Through a mystery-shopping evaluation of each customer interaction, Tilia sought to determine the most favorable time during the interaction to create a revenue opportunity. Using the evaluation information, Tilia created a scorecard based on the best practices of call interactions that promoted Tilia products, and developed scenarios that would lead the customer service reps (CSRs) to offer additional services. Still, agents favored service over sales: All calls were recorded and scored, resulting in 95 percent on customer service and only 20 percent on promoting products.
So Tilia, Turning Point Group, and the customer service vendor created a comprehensive program to boost sales, involving three primary elements. The first was solution-selling training tailored to the CSRs' current customer service call and quality measurements, and built on the ABS concept: Ask open-ended questions, focus on Benefits, and offer Solutions. Reps were encouraged to ask questions about such topics as how customers used the products and what features they liked most, and were also prepared with questions that would lead to accessory offerings.
Second, Tilia implemented a three-month incentive program encompassing both individual and team goals. The individual incentive was based on a point program tracking the number of machines and accessories sold, while the team incentive was based on the team achieving sales goals. "We used double points to push certain items as well," Diamonon says. The point-based program allowed for incentives to match marketing promotions ranging from new items to close-out products.
Last, Tilia and Turning Point Group created a customized managers' training program to coach reps on revenue opportunities. The program included participation in the CSRs' training, followed up two weeks later with a specific checklist based on the skills learned in the training session. "The managers listened to a call, individually scored the rep, and then discussed what went well, what needed to be improved, and what are the next steps with the rep for that type of call," Diamonon says.
Additionally, talk time increased by 21 seconds per call during the first quarter of implementation, as compared to the 2003 year total. Tilia believes much of this is due to solution selling, but cites other contributing factors, including new-hire classes and an increase in new products and marketing campaigns in 2003.
Overall the program generated 23 percent in revenue within the first quarter of implementation, exceeding Tilia's initial goal of 20 percent, in addition to boosting morale within the customer service center. And although Tilia was unable to release exact figures, average revenue-per-order increased by about 21 percent from 2002 to 2003, with quality unaffected by the solution selling efforts. As a result, Tilia has broadened the program, providing the service organization with revenue objectives where they had previously not existed.
"More customers were solicited with special offers this year than last, and they were more receptive to it. Those calling with questions, problems, or repair issues were significantly more receptive to special offers than last year," Diamonon says.
By integrating sales into its service-oriented call center, Tilia:
increased average revenue-per-order by 21 percent from 2002 to 2003;
generated 23 percent in revenue within the first quarter of implementation, exceeding goal;
provided revenue objectives where they had not existed;
encouraged better reception from customers to special offers.