Good Customer Service Is Sales

But Not If You Try to Screw It Up

December 14, 2008

Good customer service is sales. This is a great philosophy for business, and probably a truism.

However, there are two ways to approach this. One is correct, and the other is absolutely incorrect.

Good Customer Service Is Sales

If you approach this putting customer service first, you get great results. Not only should you have happy customers that will spend more money with you, but you will probably have happy, satisfied employees that can see their value to your organization.

When you support your customers, solve their problems, and answer their questions, they are more inclined to remember you in the future for their ongoing needs, and are more likely to purchase from you. Also, if they know, from experience (not because you told them in a misguided marketing campaign) that you will help them, they are more inclined to believe your staff when the answer to their question, or the solution to their problem is "buy this product or service."

Sales Is NOT Good Customer Service

If you take this approach, you will run into problems. If your customers feel like every time they call you with a problem, you're just going to try to sell them something, they are more likely to just look for some other provider the next time they need help.

In addition, this is likely to cause frustration with your customer support employees. They don't want to get yelled at by angry customers, and if they are not helping customers, they are just going to make the customers angry.

When a customer calls your support center, you need to provide customer service first. Help the customer. Make them happy. Solve their problem. As long as this is actually your primary goal, and your staff are actually able to solve problems, you will generate a base of happy, loyal customers that want to buy from you and to continue to work with you in the future.

The Bad Customer Service Example

I voiced some of my frustration with Qwest with a couple of former Qwest employees I know. I learned a couple of interesting things.

When one of these former employees started, the corporate policy was "we don't live in silos." When they received a support or serviced call, they were to solve the problem if they could, or transfer it to the correct department if they couldn't. If it had been transferred to them incorrectly to begin with, they were to log the call, log the issue, report the solution, and indicate which department it should have been transferred to in the first place.

This resulted in customers getting questions answered and problems solved quickly, as well as internal communication on how to solve the problems - and who should have been the team working on it. This, in turn, should have resulted in even more efficient solutions to customer issues in the future, a sense of teamwork, and a sense of accomplishment internally, and ongoing improvements in customer satisfaction externally. This increase in customer satisfaction should, in turn, result in customers spending less time looking for other options when they have new telecommunications needs, but instead, just calling Qwest, giving Qwest a leg up with their existing customers to further penetrate accounts and bring in greater revenues.

Then the policy changed. It changed to "good customer service is sales." However, instead of being a continuation of the good work they had laid the groundwork for with the "we don't live in silos" policy, what it really was was "sales is good customer service." The service reps were given quotas and account penetration deliverables, and any metrics based on solving problems and helping customers seemed to go away.

With the chances of a customer getting help when they need it decreasing, because this resulted in te customer service representatives getting lower marks on performance, the customer got more frustrated. This results in a higher frustration rate in the employees as well. The only viable outcome of this policy is decreased customer satisfaction, resulting in decreased customer base and therefore decreased revenue and revenue opportunities. In addition, the increased frustration in employees will lead to an increase in te attrition rate, probably starting with the best customer service reps. This then becomes a downward spiral that will be hard to rectify.

The Solution?

The solution, of course, is to fix the root problem. Namely, get to "good customer service is sales." start providing good customer service, and employee satisfaction should increase, customer satisfaction should increase, and not only should the remaining customers be more likely to stay with Qwest, but they will also be more likely to purchase additional services from Qwest, and be less likely to question the price.