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How can we get our agents to focus on building customer profitability?

In this tip, learn techniques for getting call center agents to focus on building customer profitability and improving the customer experience when up-selling.

We've recently asked our call center reps to start cross-selling and up-selling. They have become so focused on hitting their marks that we feel customer service may be at risk. How can we turn things around and get our call center agents to instead focus on the customer experience and building customer profitability?
This is an excellent question because hidden within it is the heart of the problem, and therefore the probability for the solution: The mention of these call center agents becoming focused on hitting their marks, presumably for cross-selling and up-selling. If there's one thing that we can do it's making sure that we're measuring and rewarding the right things. So, if what we're doing is measuring and rewarding great customer service, handling problems on the first call, making sure that customers go away from a query or complaint more satisfied than they came, then we are probably going to build customer satisfaction and customer equity. On the other hand, what is suggested here is the possibility that these customer service reps are just being told to handle the calls, and while they're there, they're asked to up-sell and cross-sell, in fact -- so emphatically asked to do that -- that they're given a goal to meet. It's not surprising that if the goal and the requirement is going to be the basis of any kind of reward -- this week's pay, next month's raise, the addition of any kind of recognition -- then it isn't surprising that those reps would be trying to figure out how to spend their time doing what's best for themselves, because the company has put what's best for the call center reps at odds with what's best for the customer. In this situation, the rewards system is at odds with this simple fact: What's best for the customer is what's best for the company. Ideally, the company is actually rewarding employees to do something that is better for the employees at the expense of what's better for the company.

Now, the way this can be fixed is obvious – we have to start talking call center reps into doing what's right for customers, and in that process to use cross-sell and up-sell opportunities not as a way to just push more stuff, but instead to help the customer improve their lives in some way. So, if we try to sell more stuff, then we're probably going to end up competing on price and having the various entities in our company, that is, the customers, employees and executives, all working against each other. If instead we're trying to help improve our customer's lives then we'll end up selling more stuff. If the goal is to help make sure the customer is very satisfied and that they are getting their problems solved and that we are finding the next right product for them, whether it's a cross-sell or an up-sell -- if we are doing that with a genuine concern for the best interest of the customer, then we'll also be improving the value of the company for shareholders.

This was last published in December 2008

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