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Maritz Research: Good Customer Service in the Call Center Leads to Successful Cross-Selling

March 10, 2008

Cross-selling products to satisfied customers can be a lucrative strategy for companies in many different industries. In the banking vertical, however, this strategy could be employed more often. That’s the conclusion reached by Maritz Research, which surveyed credit card and bank customers about their experiences with call centers.

The poll revealed that only 31 percent of respondents were presented with information about additional products or services when they contacted their financial institution’s call center. Yet, when such offers were made, 73 percent said they listened to the product pitch.
If those numbers are a reflection of the industry as a whole, clearly financial institutions are missing some important sales opportunities.
Of course, how likely customers are to listen to a cross-sell pitch depends in large part on how satisfied with a given institution’s customer service. Maritz said that customers who are “highly satisfied” with the call center response are about 50 percent more likely to listen to cross-sale pitches than those who are dissatisfied with the quality of customer service. (Unhappy customers are twice as likely to decline cross-sale offers.)
The lesson here is one all customer-facing organizations already know: it pays to provide excellent customer service.
“Because the representative’s performance is far and away the key driver of whether a customer will even listen to a sales offer during their call, banks need to train their call center employees to not only ensure the customer is satisfied, but also on how and when to ‘sell’ to this captive audience,” said Thad Peterson, financial services division vice president at Maritz, in a statement.
Peterson added: “Call center representatives earn the right to make a sales offer when they have provided good service. Banks need to leverage this opportunity as much as possible by ensuring the offer is relevant, attractive and clearly described to the customer. The result will be a significant increase in product sales and incremental revenue.”
Granted, the percentage of people who are satisfied with their call center experiences is not that high—Maritz put it at 55 percent, based on the poll. Banks are somewhat better at satisfying customers than credit card companies (61 percent of customers satisfied versus 49 percent, respectively)—but even banks could make improvements.
Maritz put an entertaining spin on its look at what makes a good call center agent: it asked poll respondents to choose among a list of celebrities which ones they’d most like to have be the call center agent who answers their call. Oprah Winfrey and Kelly Ripa were picked most often (23 percent and 19 percent, respectively). Bill Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Gates also garnered noteworthy percentages (10 percent, 9 percent, 9 percent).
Maritz said this shows that customers think empowered, confident and relatable personalities make good call center agents. The least favorite celebrities were Britney Spears, Whitney Houston and Rosie O’Donnell.
“The celebrities topping the list have a few personality traits in common banks and credit card companies can learn from when it comes to training employees who regularly interact with customers,” said Peterson. “Customers want call center employees at financial services companies to be easy to relate to and empathetic. They want to speak with someone who genuinely cares about their problems and is enthusiastic about finding a solution. Banks need to work harder to recruit, motivate and train their call center employees accordingly.”
So what’s the overall lesson here for financial institutions? Provide good customer service, don’t be shy about cross-selling to satisfied customers, and while you’re at it see if there’s money in the budget to hire Oprah Winfrey as one of your call center agents.

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Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for ContactCenterSolutions, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for ContactCenterSolutions here.