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Best Practices for Retailing Contact Centers – The First Challenge for Phone-Based Sales 

Best Practices for Retailing Contact Centers – The First Challenge for Phone-Based Sales

Best Practices for Retailing Contact Centers – The First Challenge for Phone-Based Sales

By Donna Fluss

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Retailing is a very competitive business whether selling in stores (brick and mortar), on line or in contact centers. Customers can purchase the same products, whether jeans, PCs, electronics, etc. from many retailers. It is good service that sells. The success of a retail contact center depends on how it hires, trains and motivates its agents. Here are a few best practices to help retailers increase revenue, customer satisfaction and loyalty in addition to developing motivated sales associates.

Creating Instant Rapport

The first challenge for retailing contact center sales agents is to create rapport with customers so that they feel comfortable buying. It takes great skill to establish a warm, friendly and welcoming buying environment in less than a minute, with a prospect you’re meeting for the first time. It’s even more difficult to accomplish this task over the phone, as it’s impossible to watch the other person’s body language. Successful retailing phone representatives, also known as sales associates, are able to establish an instantaneous rapport with clients. Great phone-based sales associates can actually be even more effective than in-store sales clerks, because phone agents see the customer’s account history and buying patterns through computer telephony integration (CTI). Of course, phone-based sales associates cannot let on that they have the customer’s history, unless the customer gives them this information. This is a tough balancing act for any sales associate. But with a thorough understanding of the product line, the customer’s age, purchasing pattern, geographic location and what is “hot” that season, an associate should be able to sell to even the most uncertain of customers. The most effective method for acquiring these skills is through role playing and practice.

Up-Selling and Cross-Selling

Once a sales associate establishes rapport with a customer, he/she is in a position to influence the caller’s buying patterns. It’s very helpful if the sales system reflects everything that the customer has purchased both on the phone and in-store, if the organization has brick and mortar locations. While it’s great to satisfy customers’ stated needs and close an order, it’s even better to sell customers more than they were planning on buying. The best sales people know their “stock”. If selling clothes, they know what will look good on different types of people. If selling PCs, they know what add-ons go with each unit. And, if selling health products, they know which products make natural package deals. Generally, it’s easier for phone-based sales associates, because they often have systems that show all of the products and which are generally bought together.

All great sales people do their jobs diligently – the more they work the more natural they seem to be. For example, knowing when to offer a complementary product or an upgrade is a skill that comes with time and practice. Customers do not like pushy sales people and may abandon a call if pushed too hard. Phone-based sales associates who are informative and helpful but not overly aggressive or obviously trying to increase their commission are more likely to get larger sales. Again, the trick for success is training and practice. Sure, there are a few people who are naturals at sales, but most of us need training.

Motivating Your Staff

No one wants to buy from someone who doesn’t care or seem interested in your call or worse, a sales associate who has a negative attitude about the company and its products. Passion sells, knowledge sells, caring sells, and patience sells. Retailing contact centers have to be productive and cost effective, but they must find the right balance between productivity, effectiveness and enhancing the customer experience. Retailers that want successful contact centers must strive for warm and friendly environments with motivated agents. To achieve this goal, you must treat your agents the way you want them to treat your customers. This is a fundamental requirement that is too often overlooked. It’s hard to be a contact center agent, rushing from one transaction to the next. Yes, it is important for agents to be available to take the next caller, but it’s just as important to handle the current customer with respect and empathy.

Building a genuinely cordial contact center staffed with motivated sales associates starts at the top. It requires management and supervisory staff who understand human nature and know how to motivate sales associates with positive feedback and encouragement in a warm and friendly environment that encourages participation and creativity. (It also helps when management understands contact center technology, best practices and how to interact effectively with customers.) Contact center management must concentrate on cultivating what its staff does well, not just fixing everything that goes wrong. One way to do this is to motivate sales associates with financial incentives for outstanding performance and sales success. This means that both the retailer and the sales associate win when a customer buys.

It is important for retailers to have good products to sell, but it takes great sales people to be successful. There is so much competition today that retailers must really work to differentiate themselves. One way to do this is through your contact center. Investing in your staff – training them, building warm and welcoming contact center environments and paying incentives – will attract and retain better sales associates and increase your company’s bottom line.

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