Are your staff doing your customers a disservice?

No one wants to be pushy or smarmy. No one wants to irritate or alienate customers. However, nearly everyone likes to help others.

So why do customer service reps — who probably have the most frequent contact with your customers — find it challenging to suggest additional products?

They don’t want to do anything the customer might not like. However, what they don’t realize is that by not suggesting items that would be useful to the customer’s situation, they are actually doing the customer a disservice.

For example, years ago I was an avid skier. I excitedly bought a new pair of ski boots for an upcoming trip to Vail. After carefully working with a sales rep to choose the right ones for me, I asked if he could point me toward the glove counter. He escorted me to the accessories area, placing my new boots on the counter as he said to the clerk there, “Joe, this is Rebecca. She’s looking for a great pair of gloves,” then he left.

Joe said, “That’s a really nice brand of boots you have there. I’m wondering how you’re planning to protect them.”

“Protect them? You mean like a lock?”

“No, I mean protect them from their getting chewed up when you walk across the gravelly parking lot. If you walk more than a short ways, the gravel begins to chew up the bottoms, which means over time your bindings will not hold as well. And if you walk on the ice and snow, snow boots don’t have any traction so it’s easy to slip and fall.”

“I’ve fallen in the parking lot with other boots. It is hard to not slip. And I want to protect my investment. What do you have in mind?”

“We have a product called Cat Tracks. They slip onto the bottoms of the boots to not only protect them from the rough pavement, but they have plastic spikes on the bottom to grip the ice and snow, making it harder to slip. Plus — look at this — they easily fold up to fit in your pocket or day pack when you’re on the slopes.”

“How much are they?”

“Only $16 a pair.”

“Less than 10% of my boot purchase. I’ll take a pair.”

If Joe had just said, “Would you like some Cat Tracks for your new boots?” I might have said, “no,” embarrassed that I didn’t know what they are. But by asking a relevant question, it allowed us to have a dialog that resulted in a sale. In fact, if he hadn’t suggested the Cat Tracks and I found out about them later and that no one had suggested them to protect my investment — and my tail bone — I would have been angry. But by his taking the time to educate me, the company won a loyal customer.

Are your CRSs not cross selling as much as you’d like? If not, find out why. Even when incented, some still won’t because of the aforementioned reasons. If you can help them see that by not asking probing, relevant questions then suggesting suitable products, they are not fully helping their customers. And they really do like to help. When you can help them see that they are actually helping create a better solution by suggesting another (or more of) a product, they’ll make the suggestions more frequently. Resulting in more sales, of course.

(BTW, Joe helped me pick out a great pair of gloves, too.)