How important is customer service to your business? Is it more important than sales? That’s a tough question to answer. Because your company relies on sales to stay in business, you might be tempted to say that sales are more important than customer service.
But as successful brands like Zappos have proven and multiple studies have shown, delivering great customer service leads to increased sales and more loyal customers. Likewise, delivering a bad customer service experience leads to decreased sales and causes customer trust to plummet.
Upselling is a tried-and-true tactic that involves selling an existing customer more than they originally came for. The upselling tactic is used all over the business world, sometimes with great success, and sometimes with bad results.
From RedBox’s friendly notification that for $.50 more you can take home an additional movie to a waiter in a restaurant asking if anyone has room for dessert before bringing the check, companies everywhere rely on the classic upsell to increase their bottom line.
But that’s not always a good decision. Upselling can make for a bad customer service experience if you don’t manage it properly. Here’s why.
Upselling makes for a bad customer service experience when…
Upselling can be the boon or bane of your business – it all depends on how you and your team approach it. Below are three ways ineffective upselling can create a bad customer service experience.
…The customer just needed help
There’s no doubt about it – customer service interactions can be a great time to offer additional services or products to customers. Shep Hyken, a respected speaker and customer service expert, supplies an example of such a scenario:
“…If a customer is at an Ace Hardware store buying a can of paint, it is perfectly logical, and many times appreciated by the customer, to ask if he or she needs brushes or other items to complete a paint project.”
But when customers call or visit a business with a genuine problem and are met with a sales pitch instead of working solutions, it will be remembered as a bad customer service experience, even if you are able to eventually fix the problem they called with.
Here’s an example of an upsell that was intrusive because the rep pitched the sale before helping the customer:
Customer – I’ve had my steam cleaner for 2 years. The light turns on when I plug it in, but the water jet won’t turn on. Can you help me with this?
Representative – Sure, we can get that figured out. Which model of steam cleaner do you own – the Generic 123 or Generic Pro? I ask because the water jet on the 123 model is designed to be replaced every 2 years or so, but the Generic Pro model is made with higher quality materials that are guaranteed to never need replacing. I always recommend that 123 model owners switch to the Pro – if you’re using your steam cleaner more than once a year, it’s the only way to go.
Customer – No, I don’t want to buy another, more expensive steam cleaner from you – I just want the one I have to work properly! I paid good money for it less than 2 years ago. I’ll just look for a replacement jet on Amazon.
When a customer considers their problem solved and feels they’ve established some trust with the representative, they’ll be much more receptive to your sales pitch.
…Customer service staff is asked to sell
Asking your customer service staff to begin upselling without training them properly is a recipe for disaster. It will result in stressed-out customer service agents, frustrated customers, and little to no increase in sales.
There’s a reason sales is a department in and of itself – selling effectively requires serious, continually developed skills and adequate training.
Asking your customer service staff to upsell to the people they’re supposed to be helping without training them to do so puts them in a bad situation when they interact with customers and sets them up to deliver a bad customer service experience.
It’s the equivalent of a restaurant asking a hostess to seat the guests and also man the grill (which he or she isn’t trained to use) to cook their order. The patrons would leave dissatisfied because a hostess (trained in customer service and interaction) who is pulling double duty as an inexperienced cook can’t possibly deliver a great dining experience.
…It takes precedence over customer service
Be careful with upselling and where it falls on your priority list. If it takes precedence over customer service, you’re sure to create a bad customer service experience. At their core, sales and customer service seem to be at odds with each other: Sales is about your company. Customer service is about your customers. But there is a way to balance the two and create a positive customer experience.
To make sure your customer service takes precedence over sales, don’t teach your customer service reps to pitch product features and sell solutions. Instead, teach them to listen well and ask the right questions. If your reps take the time to learn about the customer, know what problems they’re trying to solve, and only “pitch” products or services that they truly feel would benefit them, you’re on your way to providing a great customer service experience.
The less you focus on upselling and the more you focus on supporting your customer through a purchase or problem, the more likely they are to trust you and become loyal customers.