• August 18, 2004
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Exceptional Service Spurs Exceptional Sales

Cross-selling was once considered taboo by consumers for companies interested in exploring more selling opportunities. However, according to a recent survey by The Forum Corporation, that stigma has been removed. Consumers are open to buying more products and services, but only if the customer service representative (CSR) first resolves the customer's concern. "Forum's Cross-Selling Research Survey" polled 1,624 respondents in April and May from a random sample of populations, including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The results reveal that 88 percent of customers value representatives that recommend products or services that may better satisfy their needs, and 73 percent are interested in learning about new company products and services that are being promoted. For Tom Atkinson, director of research for Forum, the numbers were higher than he expected, considering the common notion that most consumers are not fond of cross-selling. "They view it as annoying, but we found that if it is done well, if the rep is well-trained and is customer-focused, then people are actually open to buying," Atkinson says. "About one third of them actually buy something." Survey findings also reveal that consumers are more prone to purchase products or services when the representative displays customer-centric behavior by concentrating on the customer's needs, instead of promoting a product. An opportunity does exist for companies to boost their revenue via cross-selling, Atkinson says, however, "the big but here is that customers are only willing to buy if they are first served well." CSRs must resolve the customers' problem before moving on to offers for additional products or services. "One of the big things is that people push products and try to sell from a script, so they haven't even solved the customer's problem, and they continue to sell after the customer has already said that they are not interested," Atkinson says. "The other thing is that sometimes they'll offer products that are not even useful to the customer, but they offer it because their script tells them that they have to or their company wants them to." The survey highlights three behaviors that representatives do not execute, but which customers would like them to: speaking clearly and slowly, respecting the customer's right to say no, and providing customers with advice. "It's important that the customer service representatives speak in a clear and understandable manner so the customer can follow them, and also not rushing through the call," Atkinson says. "Service reps often feel pressure to get off the phone quickly, but customers feel like their needs are not being attended to when that happens." Atkinson also says that service representatives are often in a good position to suggest helpful advice, citing a cell phone as an example: "They might know your usage of the actual product and be able to offer you a better plan." The overall message, he says, is to effectively serve the customer before pursuing additional chances to sell: "Cross-selling is an opportunity for companies if they do it well, which means training their reps to be customer-focused." Related articles:
The Next CRM Evolution Focusing on the how of sales versus the who and what of it. Customers Feel a Decline in Quality of Service Delivering Top Line Customer Service
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