Transforming Your Customer Service Organization – Support as Sales

In Best Practices, Project Management, Tips & Tricks, Transforming Your Customer Service Organization Series by Andy YangLeave a Comment

This is the fifth article in a multi-part series on Transforming Your Customer Service. The entire series can be found here.

A customer’s most common interactions after the sale are with Customer Service.  In today’s subscription economy, every customer touchpoint impacts the customer’s satisfaction level and likelihood to renew; customer service plays an increasingly important role in whether a customer churns or is a customer for life.

Companies that differentiate on the customer experience can take full advantage of these touchpoints with customers.  While your customer service agents need to address customer support issues, there is plenty of benefit in training your customer service agents on account management techniques that deliver value to the customer relationship.  An opportunity is truly lost when a customer service agent may be unaware of a product or service you offer that solves a customer’s problem.

A couple of quick examples highlight how your support organization can turn into a profit center.  

  • Many companies offer a freemium (or low cost) option.  In servicing these customers, the customer service agent can be well versed on the upsell path, ask the right qualifying questions, and inform the customer on the options available to them.  
  • With the subscription economy, it’s all about renewals. Giving your customer agents the awareness of where the customer is in the renewal cycle can help provide the necessary statistics on whether this customer will churn.  If you see a customer is struggling and it’s one month to renewal, that can set-off alarms that this customer needs a bit of extra help.
  • Upgrades are also a significant part of the new subscription economy – offering easy upgrade paths are an easy way to give more advantage to the customer, seamlessly and often with just a touch of the “upgrade” button.  It can be as simple as more storage or additional users or upgrading to a more advanced edition that unlocks more features.  When your customer service agents understand the solution offerings, the qualifying questions, and the talk track, they can often close a sale during the interaction and offer the customer more value immediately. 

How Can Salesforce Help
Salesforce can be used to help transform customer service into an integrated part of the account management team.  We include just a few concrete examples of how some of our customers have integrated customer service and account management into an overall positive customer experience:

  • One customer of ours has tens of thousands of customers and millions of users.  Many of these users are on a free or low-cost plan.  Customer service agents are trained on the upgrade paths and the signals that show a user is a good candidate for upgrading to the paid version (or to a higher plan).  Customer service agents can create leads directly into the system that can be passed to an account manager for follow up, or even create a qualified opportunity and close it if they can during the call.
  • Another customer uses data from customer service interactions to measure the likelihood of churn.  Case data, escalations, and even NPS survey results they collect after each interaction are an important part of the churn statistics they use to target which customers are in danger of attrition.  In combination with usage data, purchase history, and other stats, this information provides a powerful customer profile that can be used to identify problems early and take the necessary actions quickly to make the customer more successful.
  • Having these potential churn data points in the customer service agent’s hands at the moment they are servicing the customer creates a valuable opportunity to turn things around.  Suppose the customer agent sees in their Service Console that this is a customer likely to churn because their usage data shows low adoption. In that case, the customer agent can address their issue at hand and suggest ways to improve their situation – perhaps a knowledge article or whitepaper that provides best practices advice on improving traction internally can set them on the right path.

By putting these process flows into Salesforce, customer service agents have the tools and infrastructure to quickly service or even upsell a customer but at the same time, give valuable, concrete data on how support is adding to the bottom line.

Customer Service and Account Management
Customer service agents have natural advantages when it comes to account management.  They are often the experts on the product and have massive credibility with the customer from the outset.  Often you are more likely to act on a recommendation from a customer service agent than from a commissioned salesperson.  

Of course, you can take it too far.  Customers can quickly smell that they are being upsold, and if not aligned with the customer’s best interest, it can create the opposite effect you want.  Still, it is a huge missed opportunity if your customer service agents aren’t trained and have the tools to help customers at their most vulnerable points.  Plus, many customer service agents love these types of interactions – rather than solving the X-4233 error message for the 50th time, being able to solution with the customer to help them succeed increases job satisfaction.

When customer service is fully integrated with the account management process, you create a powerful overall customer experience that drives the full value of what your company can offer.  The best way to start is to think about those key interaction points in your service organization that turned into “gold.”  When did your customer service agent turn an account around?  When did they educate the customer on an upgrade path that resulted in a large sale and an extremely happy customer?  Find those moments and see if they can be turned into a process. Evaluate whether the process will generate ROI  — is the “juice worth the squeeze.”  If so, figure out the qualification process (when is this appropriate), the talk scripts needed, and the required infrastructure to support smooth, scalable process steps.  As you are able to measure these interactions, you are well on your way to turning your customer service organization from a cost center into an integral part of your customer success machine.

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