Transitioning your customer contact center from service to sales? Deal with attitude first

By Bob Davis

“I am not going to do it, and they can’t make me do it!”

This may sound like a five-year-old whining about eating the spinach on her plate. In fact it came from an adult customer service agent when she heard that her organization was moving from customer service to sales.

Hers is not the only customer contact center moving from service to sales. Research indicates that 70 percent of all customer contact centers worldwide are adding sales capabilities to their customer service queues. They are attempting to turn these cost centers into profit centers. It only makes sense to do so. In this economy companies need to maximize every resource.

For more than 30 years, my company—Robert C. Davis and Associates (RCDA)—has been helping customer contact centers around the world transition from service to sales. We understand the millions of dollars this process can add to our client company’s bottom line.

However, the process is not for the faint of heart. It takes commitment from the top to stay the course and to invest the resources required to see the organization through the challenges of this culture change in the customer contact center.

Many things need to happen to move a customer contact center from service to sales, including:

  • A logical transition in the call flow
  • A way to make an emotional connection with the customer
  • Metrics that make sense
  • Incentive plans that work
  • Coaching that reinforces the new way of doing business
  • And much more.

But before you take care of these issues, it is essential to address one thing that is foundational to transitioning from service to sales—agent attitude.

Attitude is an essential but often overlooked element in this cultural transformation. Our experience tells us that unless your agents have the right attitude about selling, your service to sales efforts will produce meager results at best—or may even fail completely.

Everyone knows the power of positive attitude. People talk about it so much that it has become a cliché. But has your organization ever had a training program on how to have a positive attitude? How can you help your agents have a positive attitude about selling?

Chances are, they need help. In a survey of recent college graduates, only six percent would even consider a job in sales. Most customer service representatives will tell you that they chose a customer service job because they don’t want to do sales.

But the game has changed. Customer service must include selling, and helping agents have the right attitude is a vital first step in the service-to-sales transition.

Few agents have ever been exposed to the idea that they control their own attitudes. As Abraham Lincoln said, “ We are as happy as we make up our minds to be.” The first step in helping agents have a positive attitude about selling to introduce them to this fact.

The second step is to actually teach agents how to control their attitudes. At RCDA, we have been teaching agents how to control their attitudes for more than 30 years. During that time we have discovered some practical principles that work wonders when it comes to controlling attitude. They include sales direction talks, goal visualization and projecting enthusiasm.

The third step—as with any agent training—is to reinforce the learning. Coaching by the first-line supervisors is, of course, the secret sauce of a service-to-sales transformation. A customer contact center that is not focused on sales can get away with having first-line supervisors do everything from payroll to reports, leaving minimal time for coaching. But a successful sales operation requires at least 50 percent of the supervisors’ time be spent coaching. Attitude control skills, once taught, need continuous reinforcement in the service-to-sales process.

Over the years RCDA has coined the phrase The Quality Conversation. I define it as a meaningful and mutually rewarding dialog that occurs when a person takes and clearly conveys a genuine interest in another individual’s wants, interests and needs. It goes beyond building rapport to make an emotional connection and establish real trust.

Without a doubt, having Quality Conversations with customers is essential in transitioning from customer service to sales. But attitude is critical in one’s ability to hold a Quality Conversation.

In short, agents need to have:

  • A great attitude about themselves
  • A genuine interest in the customer
  • A positive attitude about selling and how it benefits the company, the customers and themselves.

When agents understand that they can control their attitudes, and that sales is a critically important part of their jobs, they will make their own transformation.  Instead of saying, “I am not going to do it, and they can’t make me do it,” they’ll say, “I really love the extra value I am bringing to my company, my customers and myself!”

Bob Davis is the president of Robert C. Davis and Associates (www.robertcdavis.net), a consulting firm in Alpharetta, Georgia, specializing in improving sales, customer service and retention results in customer contact centers across North America.