• March 2, 2005
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

From Service Center to Sales Center

In response to mounting pressure from company executives looking for ways to grow revenue, more and more contact center managers are refocusing their CSRs as sales specialists. To ensure a smooth evolution, however, agents must be appropriately trained to fully capitalize on cross- and upselling opportunities. But according to a study by research and consulting firm Best Practices, best-in-class call centers migrating their agents into selling roles are putting sales skills on the backburner and concentrating more on developing interpersonal traits. The report, "Transforming Contact Centers Into High-Performing Sales Channels: Building Service That Sustains Sales," is based on a benchmark survey of 57 companies, including AT&T, Bank of America, Eastman Kodak, and Wachovia. It states that 94 percent of the benchmark companies deemed skills like active listening and trust building as essential in transforming service agents to sales generators. Virtually all respondents--99 percent--declared that probing, relationship building, product knowledge, and service orientation, not sales skills, are the foundation of their service-sales curricula. "It really is understanding how to meet the service relationship, develop trust, meet the requests, and then to expand the relationship," says Chris Bogan, CEO of Best Practices. "The way relationships are typically expanded is by seeing opportunities where additional products and services that your company offers will help fulfill the clients' requirements. That process of listening, serving, and knowing about products is not predominately a selling skill interaction. It's much more of a listening, recommendation, and product knowledge game." Report findings also indicate that best-in-class call centers adapt an integrated strategy to ensure call center performance success, while homing in on training initiatives. "To make that transition from 100 percent service orientation to a sales orientation that stresses relationship growth through cross-selling and upselling, there's a big cultural change that needs to occur by training, communication, and expanding and sometimes changing the source of where you hire talent from," Bogan says. The study also indicates that best-in-class call centers homogenize their cross-selling tactics to boost productivity. "If every sales representative, every service representative, in the call center were to do it differently it's chaotic. Standardization helps you as a manager provide better coaching," Bogan says. "When you have a standardized cross-selling process...[it] allows for faster experience and best practices sharing." Bogan cautions against rushing the necessary cultural changes that need to occur to make the shift from service to sales. "Many service people think sales is a bad thing and they resist, so unless you want to turn over everyone in the call center, managing the cultural transition requires greater skill, thoughtfulness, planning, and execution than many of the call centers estimated." Related articles:
You've Got Questions, We've Got Answers 6 Ways to Maximize Contact Center Profitability Supply Chain Managers Share Best Practices
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