Tag Archives: Customer relationship management

Can You Successfully Sell to Customers That Ask for Help?

In short, the answer is “YES”. But so many companies do a bad job that it must seem, to them, like an impossible task. Here are some insights distilled from my own experience and observations as I prepared for my recent presentation at TSW in California.

  1. Be the consumer – for a moment, put yourself in the customer’s place. Ask yourself if YOU would find your pitch, timing, and approach to promoting a product or service during a customer service or technical support call attractive? If you’re honest you’ll probably answer “no”. We’ll explore the reasons for this a bit further down.
  2. Make the connection – the customer’s experience at the point of contact is entirely in the hands of the agent. This applies to every one-to-one communication channel and may also apply in social media channels. No connection means virtually no hope of a sale.
  3. Decide why you’re doing this – I mean corporately. The personal reasons can follow. For the company, making an offer to customers that have received help can be both a great opportunity or a huge risk. If your reason is something like “because we need to” or “because we can”, you can be pretty sure you will either not sell much or will irritate customers. Neither of these help your cause.

These points are not in any order of priority. But there is a point to this post. The low-cost support mantra adopted by many technology companies is an admirable financial aim and can be executed extremely effectively without dissatisfying customers. However, whether choosing self-help technology, community forums or any other method to minimise the cost of support, you may also close the door on furthering the customer relationship. All methods to reduce cost should be examined and engaged where they make financial sense. They can even improve customer satisfaction where the source aligns with customer preferences. But as alternatives to company employee interaction are implemented, remember that these cannot build a relationship with the customer.

Personal interactions are precious because the customer is speaking with the company. The production line approach to handling calls, emails and chat sessions is very efficient but diminishes the opportunity to do something else with that precious engagement. One of my former bosses said “people buy from people”. This applies in both consumer and enterprise environments. I recently read that the truth of this is that “people buy from people they think like them”. In the support environment, “like” equals “helps and engages” so success is not just a resolved transaction, it’s also the foundation to taking another step or two.

During a call or chat session the customer shares a lot of information with the agent. Not just the facts and figures, but also their level of knowledge, emotional state, preferences and even aspirations. This is important information.

Successful help isn’t just about achieving resolution but is also about determining what will benefit the consumer. And this may go beyond solving the immediate problem to include the offer of an extended warranty if the customer is nearing the end of their current one. Or the offer of a technical assistance subscription if their knowledge is basic and they are likely to need (costly) help in the future. Or it might be an additional product that fits with the customer’s aims or answers a need.

My point is that dumbly making an offer (any offer) at the end of a support call makes the customer feel abused, and abused customers do not come back readily. Making the right offer at the right time in the right circumstance will achieve both a sale and a happy customer. The income created offsets any additional costs and, further, improves the likelihood that the customer will buy from you again, creating a future revenue opportunity.

Do you have any related insights or experiences you can share?