Too often, small business owners consider customer service to be a necessary but expensive part of their organization. Using the strategies in this post, convert your customer service team into a revenue-generating profit center.
The typical structure in a small business’s sales process might look something like this:
Pre-Sale: Sales team runs the show. Sales representatives mine prospects, write proposals, hold meetings with potential clients and generally maintain relationships with potential customers.
These potential customers know that the primary objective of the sales team is to sell the product.
Post-Sale: Each client is assigned a customer service representative or is handled by a customer success team. From this point forward, this is how the client learns about how to better use the product, receives updates on the product, gets offers on enhancements and add-ons, and more.
But there is a problem with this model. No matter how skilled and professional your sales team, they still face the salesman stereotype of being seen as self-serving or trying to take advantage of potential customers.
A great way to avoid this pitfall is to get your customer service team involved in the process. Have your customer service team work with the sales team to fine-tune messaging. Where appropriate, they can also be a part of the sales process. Customer service reps tend to be more focused on presenting solutions, so they can come off as more trustworthy to skeptical clients, thereby building build trust.
So what exactly can your customer service team do to help your business maximize revenue? Let’s look at five different tactics you can start implementing today:
1. Qualifying Leads
One great way to leverage your customer service team into generating more revenue is to use them to help qualify your leads. This can be done when incoming leads approach your business through your phone, email, or web chat channels. Train your customer service reps to warm up leads before transferring to your sales team.
Have your customer service team gather detailed customer information, while at the same time helping customers to genuinely find the best solution to their problem. Once your team gets going on this strategy, you might consider creating customer service-centered guides for moving customers along in your sales funnel.
You can also use virtual receptionists to help out in this capacity. Far from just answering phones and taking messages, virtual receptionists can proactively reach out to and maintain relationships with existing and potential customers.
2. Upsell and Market New Products to Existing Customers
Another way to generate massive amounts of revenue using your customer service team is to optimize the way you market to your existing customers.
Depending on which expert you ask, it is between four and ten times cheaper to hold onto an existing customer than it is to acquire a new customer. And according to an Adobe study, existing customers who have made two purchases are about nine times more likely to purchase from an online store than first-timers.
What does this mean for you?
It means that you need to maintain contact with your existing customers. Make sure that your customer service team keeps up positive and close relationships. Let them know about upcoming product features, best practices, and of course, premium offerings that might generate additional revenue for your business.
You can also use easy and effective tactics like weekly email newsletters to stay relevant and keep customers informed of your activities. If you choose to create weekly email newsletters, make sure they are focusing on the customer. Too often, email newsletters come off sounding like bragging, or internal memos designed for the business itself, rather than providing valuable information for those receiving the email.
3. Develop New Products Using Customer Input
Those close customer relationships you work so hard to cultivate can also help you to improve your product offerings. Based on customer feedback, you can develop new product features and gauge customer interest in any potential future offerings.
This kind of real world interaction can be as valuable as detailed customer surveys, and convert into sales at the same time. But be sure to quantify any findings here. Anecdotal stories are only useful to a certain degree.
Once you have collected this valuable info and built your new product offering, it is important that you market your new feature/product smartly. Be sure to let your customers know what’s new, and how it can help them achieve their goals.
4. Encourage Customers to Post Reviews and Recommendations on Social Media
This is a more indirect strategy, but it can lead to real life sales. According to studies, 74 percent of customers cite word of mouth recommendations as a key influence on their purchasing decisions. If they have a trusted customer service contact in your business, not only will customers pass on information about your company to their network, but your employees will become trusted members of that network. This can greatly help when establishing partnerships with other businesses.
5. Tie Customer Service to Profits and Revenue
With any of these strategies, you need to inform your work with the appropriate metrics. Help everyone in your business understand how much economic value each customer contributes. Try to position customer service as a feature of your product, instead of thinking of it as something you have to do. A company-wide culture shift like this can often help you to provide better customer service and in turn, help you to achieve greater revenue and profits.
Conclusion: Be One of the Few
While other business owners focus more on customer acquisition than retention, you can be one of the few who takes full advantage of your customer service team. Don’t let one of the most important parts of your business sit idle when the topic of revenue generation comes up. Take the time to fully implement some of these strategies, and you will not only provide better service, but you will also create long-term stability for your business. It’s a win-win.
Parker Davis is the CEO of Answer 1, a leader in the virtual receptionist and technology enabled answering services industry. He believes that the application of data analytics, investment in technology, and fostering a positive company culture together create highly efficient and scalable growth companies. In 2016, Answer 1 will achieve record revenues while also being awarded the Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award. Parker is also the Managing Partner of Annison Capital Partners, LLC, a private investment partnership.