Traditionally, organizations have viewed customer service as a cost center, rather than a profit center. In fact, many C-level executives deem service centers a “necessary evil.” In an attempt to reduce costs, they cut down on the number of staff working in their call centers. Few consider them an investment capable of driving revenue and generating profit. Increasingly, however, there is a push to do just that.
Over the past two decades, forward-thinking companies have begun investing heavily in customer service, focusing on the positive impact it can have on the bottom line. Sixty percent of companies surveyed in Aberdeen Group’s 2007 report “The Conflicted Call Center – Customer Experience vs. Transaction Hub” said their contact centers sell products, services, or support, as well as handling their primary responsibilities.
What is customer service anyway but an opportunity to improve customer loyalty and possibly even sell additional services, merchandise, or upgrades? One of the most important touch points between a company and its customers, the contact center is no longer merely an 800-number disgruntled consumers use to complain about faulty products or undelivered services. Today’s contact centers encompass a number of touch points, including email, chat, voice, and Web self-service.
Mike Faith, CEO of Headsets.com, went so far as to call a well-run customer service center “one of the best value-for-money sales tools ever invented.” When managed correctly, Faith says, sales rise, repeat business increases, average sales double, and profits increase. Today’s customer contact centers have moved beyond resolving presented issues, as call center representatives generate profit through cross-selling and up-selling by proactively recognizing unmet customer needs and providing solutions to them.
Today’s approach to customer service no longer means waiting for the customer to contact the company. A 2008 Aberdeen report, “Optimizing Your Workforce – Increasing Contact Center Agent Productivity” revealed that 34 percent of companies have progressed to using outbound proactive customer service, while another 36 percent expects to implement it.
Providing a stellar customer service experience begins with a shift in perspective. Management must change its mindset and reposition the customer contact center as a strategically significant function. This change of perspective begins with hiring the right people. All too often, companies make the mistake of considering customer service jobs as entry level positions. They would be far better served by seeking out people who possess sales and customer engagement experience. Such individuals are far better equipped to spot opportunities to convert each and every customer contact into an opportunity to increase sales.