How do you recommend handling customer service employees who focus primarily on up-sales without regard to providing better customer service?

by Abraham Venismach
Authenticity needs to be ingrained in all employees. It isn’t about building the sale; it is about building the relationship, so that you end up with a customer long term. Educating customers is more important than selling customers. When you educate sometimes that means you find out they don’t need what you have right now. But when you demonstrate their needs are more important than getting sales, and then you own that person. They will come back and trust you.

John DiJuliusAn international consultant & best selling author of two books he works with companies like The Ritz-Carlton, Lexus, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Nestle, Marriott Hotel, PwC, Cheesecake Factory, Progressive Insurance, Harley Davidson, State Farm, Chick-fil-A & many more.

First, I’d investigate why the focus is on up-selling. My guess is that these employees are being rewarded to up-sell. If that is the case, I’d revise the culture and direction of the organization to focus on building trust and loyalty with each customer. Only after those have been established should we begin to broach deepening our relationship with our customers.

Asking a customer to spend more money with us should be the natural extension of a deeper and trusting relationship. Once the relationship has matured to that point, an offer of value can be made and it will feel natural to both parties. Absent that mature relationship, customers will simply feel like they are getting a slimy sales job.

Steven CarletonPresident, CustomerMatters | Former Head of Customer Experience @eBay | CustomerJourney Speaker | Passionate about CX

What gets measured, gets rewarded–meaning, it gets all the attention. If up-sales are valued far more than service quality, you will get the focus that is valued. Sometimes commissions on up-sales should be paid out only after the customer remains a customer for a certain period of time–like a year. Does better customer service really matter to customer service employees? Find out how they view the two goals and whether these goals are set up to be conflicting or mutually important. We all know the stats on the value of customer retention versus customer acquisition.

Chip BellSenior Partner at The Chip Bell Group | Author | Keynote Speaker | Innovative Service | Customer Loyalty

I look at the company’s performance rewards system first. What does the company reward – up sales or great customer service? Some employees choose to focus on where they can gain the most rewards. It’s not always about what the employees focus on, but what the company entices them to focus on by what behavior is most rewarded – in this case – up sales or great customer service.

Errol AllenCustomer Service Focused Operations Expert, Consultant, Speaker & Author

Again, Jasmin, start with why. Do customer service employees receive a bonus for up-sales? If so, they’ll tend to hard sales methods. According to them (and their managers), delivering better customer service takes more time and -in their view- time = money. A focus on hard sales is based on a short term revenue/profit. It’s an “inside out”, non customer centric strategy: it’s a way to let customers buy the products/services YOU want them to buy. What we know is this:
Service = sales
Service = marketing.
A customer centric, “outside in” strategy will offer products and services that the customer (really) NEEDS:
There differences?

Inside out
A customer walks into a hardware store.
Salesman: “Good morning, sir. How can I help you?”
Customer: “I need a drill.”
Salesman takes the customer to the drill section and starts to explain the differences between the drills and -ofcourse- will pay more attention to the premium brand drills and their capabilities. Possibly the customer will buy the most recommended (expensive) drill.

Outside in
A customer walks into a hardware store.
Salesman: “Good morning, sir. How can I help you?”
Customer: “I need a drill.”
Salesman: “What do you need a drill for, sir?”
Customer: “I need to hang a painting on the wall.”
Salesman; “I bet it is a wonderful painting. Do you know what the measurements of the painting are?
Customer: “O, it is beautiful, my daughter made it. It’s 20 inches x 10 inches.”
Salesman: “And what kind of wall would you like to hang it on?”
Customer: “A plaster wall.”
Salesman: “I don’t think you need a drill, sir. I would recomend you to use these powerstrips, so you don’t need a drill or damage the wall. The strips can handle up to 2 kilos and are removable.”
Customer: “Wow! Are they expensive?”
Salesman: “Just US$ 4.50, sir. And if you aren’t satisfied with the strips, you can bring them back and I’ll refund you the US$ 4.50.”

What do you think, Jasmin, which customer will be the most happy one?

Marco P. Houthuijzen Customer Care Manager, Sales Manager, Senior Customer Success Manager, Growth Hacker

Let’s assume the company expects employees to provide better service (not a given, this could be the source of the problem). There is no “I” in team, but there is a “me”. First, you need to check your company incentives. What gets measured gets done, and according to Quality Guru Deming, 94% of all quality problems are management related. If your incentives are causing employees to up-sell rather than take care of the customer, then you only have yourself to blame. Change the incentives, not the employees. If your incentives are not the problem, talk to the employee and try and figure out why he is going against company policy. This, again, may be something easily fixable, a simple lack of communication. As a last resort, if the problem is not communication, or incentives, or something else the employee mentioned; then the problem is with the employee, and only then would I recommend firing the employee. This will also show the other employees that the company is serious about providing better customer service. “Shape up or ship out,” as the old slogan goes.

Dr. Moshe DavidowService2Profit-Improving Your Business Performance | Customer Centricity, Service Quality+Internal, Complaint Handling Adjunct Lecturer at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology Editor at Journal of Creating Value Lecturer in Marketing and Services

This is about leadership and incentives, not the front line. My first action is always to engage the leadership in understanding the loss of customers and reasons, and subtract customer losses from customer gains. This puts a fine point on the importance of rescuing customers in distress who take business with them when their needs are not handled. If leaders would focus the call center on revenue rescue, not as an opportunity to just upsell – they would change the metrics and give people the time and training to add value first.

Jeanne BlissCustomer Experience Pioneer. Chief Customer Officer. Keynote Speaker. Executive Advisor. Author. Co-founder CXPA.org

The most effective approach is to convincingly connect the dots between service and sales. Position it so that it is not an ‘either/or’ proposition, but instead two sides of the same coin. It is hard to upsell if you have mediocre service. It is equally hard to provide good service if you aren’t prepared to occasionally upsell a customer to a more appropriate product or service.

Shaun BeldingCEO The Belding Group, Best-Selling Author, Customer service expert, Acclaimed customer service keynote speaker, LinkedIn group owner “Customer Service Champions” 100K+ Members, Co-Host of the CX Success Summit

The first thing I would do is go and better understand what is happening and why problems are occurring. Often there is a difference between what we assume is happening and reality.

Adrian SwinscoeCustomer Engagement, Experience and Service Consultant/Coach | Speaker | Author | Blogger & Forbes contributor

If customer service issues are not being handled well across the board, you should look in three areas: culture and hiring, resources and empowerment, and frontline training. Great reactive service can only be provided by a customer-centric team composed of the right team members. Assuming your culture is strong and your team is customer focused, then you need to make sure you have given them the resources and empowerment to be able to resolve customer experience problems in real time. Finally, your team must be trained to handle difficult situations and to use the resources and empowerment you provide them to resolve issues as positively and quickly as possible.

Adam ToporekCustomer Service Expert, Keynote Speaker, and Master Trainer | Rock your socks off presentations that are engaging, dynamic, and immediately actionable!

To sum it up… 

It depends on were the company puts their priority.  From your question, it seems that the it’s really not customer service, but sales. Sounds like the company has a different understanding of what customer service is. I was just reading Shaun’s featured post in his LinkedIn group asking to define “Customer Service in one word”  he got over 8500 comments! (here’s the link: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/customerservicechampions So it’s not surprising that a “Customer Service Department” is really a sales force.

So what do to about it? 

The experts are telling us to find out what is driving this. How do they value customer service vs sales? Are they losing good customers and good employees because of this policy? If they are then it’s time to make the change. How to make the change? Well, that’s what the CX Success Summit is all about! You’ve come to the right place! 

~ Abraham

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