The customer service function has long been dubbed a “cost center.” With so many opportunities to help increase sales, that should be no more.
Companies are increasingly building business plans that include a sales function within the service arena. The best part: Many realize success. Some service departments have helped their companies boost revenue by 35%, according to a McKinsey & Company study.
How? McKinsey has identified some common factors in the profitable customer service departments. They include:
When service pros know what’s going on in other areas of their companies, they can help find opportunities to deliver more efficient service and drive sales. The best companies focus on what’s happening in a few key departments that affect customers most, rather than try to keep up on everything.
For instance, reps at one travel firm often didn’t know about promotions customers mentioned because Marketing had so many going on. So they sat in on promotion launch meetings where they gathered relevant information to help customers buy more of the right solutions.
Profitable service departments know their long-time customers and those who are new. Then they tailor service so both keep coming back.
Example: One telecom company set up a special number and email address for new customers. Then reps who specialized in new customers would be fast to respond and ready to help. That way, they could introduce services customers didn’t realize they might need.
Many organizations assign long-time customers an individual rep, or they’ll have a team that handles the major accounts.
The most profitable customer service operations also make it possible and a priority for managers to spend a little more time each day training and motivating, researchers found.
The ideal: Managers spend 70% of the day coaching, researchers said. Since that might be a stretch, researchers suggest that leaders shoot for 50%.
Here’s how one company did it: Managers moved meetings out of high-demand hours. In addition, they performed their administrative tasks (such as responding to email, social media and voice mail) at the beginning and end of the day. That way, they were available to help and encourage reps when they needed it most.
Researchers didn’t find that the most profitable companies had to spend a lot of money to make money. Instead, they used the technology they had in place to keep service consistent. That consistency made it easy for customers come back — and buy more.
The key: Teams want to master their current technologies, maximizing every capability. It usually has a higher ROI than expensive new systems, researchers said.
If customers say that phone automation, email, websites and social media functions are easy for customers to navigate, stick with them. And if reps have a handle on the current systems, and they’re efficient, keep them.
Even better, do what reps at a financial company did: Ask the vendor for regular tutorials so everyone can learn about features they aren’t using. You might uncover something you could use to make service more efficient – and profitable.