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How to create a sales culture in a customer service team

Posted by Ingrid Maynard on 16 May 2018
How to create a sales culture in a customer service team

With so much changing in this environment, and with so many agent attrition, making this shift can seem a nigh impossible task.  The key is to begin a journey with your team.

Here are 5 things a Contact Centre Manager can do to shift the culture:

  1. Change the context
    Accept that some people won't accept the shift: psychologically, the shift may be too great and you may lose some team members.  This shift to sales over just service must start at the recruitment stage and be reinforced with onboarding programs that support a customer outcome driven approach. 
    Understand that the role of the agent is increasingly challenging: multiple channels of communication with customers, technology pressures and metrics.  Add to that, customer feedback via social media.  Show your team you understand this and your goal is to support them.
    Customers are more demanding and expect individual attention: when customers pick up the phone, they're looking for more than a script led conversation.  As such, you want to make this easier for your team to do this well.
  2. Shift the focus to outcomes
    Good service is about delivering customer expectations.  Unless an agent has the skills, willingness and ability to uncover this quickly during a conversation, they simply won't survive the evolution of the contact centre evolution.  As their manager, it's up to you to provide them with the tools to use and the support throughout their transition.
    Link good service to commercial outcomes; good customer service all about professionalism.  Some agents still believe their role is just to be pleasant and direct calls.  Once they have the ability to uncover needs and expectations, delivering to those is far more straightforward.  Help them to understand that the way they achieve this is in itself a commercial outcome for the business and that mutual value is always the goal.
  3. Provide a framework
    Staging a customer interaction helps agents to break down their focus and stay connected to the customer.  Based on current calls, identify 3-5 key stages that make sense for most calls.
    Benchmark what good looks like for each stage basing behaviours on your top performers.  Listen for the things that tell you a good outcome has happened at each stage.  The purpose of doing this is to clearly identify the behaviours that can be clearly observed or heard that if done at that stage, will be the indicator of what good looks like.  By mapping what is already working and sharing this with the others as best practice there is a higher likelihood of a staged approach being accepted and adopted as it's coming from the team, rather than being done to the team. 
    Provide a clear outline of what good looks like at each stage to each team member: eg. Customer was greeted using our greeting; Customer was asked questions to identify the nature of the customer's call
    Share this with the team to enable all team members to be on the same page.  In doing so, they have a clear pathway.
  4. Train the team to deliver what good looks like
    Team workshops that teach them what, why and how to implement these behaviours will help lift performance and provide a shared experience.  Expecting a shift in approach simply by providing the team with an outline or checklist of what good looks like won't work. 
    A workshop(s) gives the team time to practice key skills for each stage away from the work environment where immediate feedback can be provided, observation of others and sharing of learning will provide a new platform.  The challenge is time away.  Get creative and work with what's possible.
    Use recorded calls in a workshop setting to help the team listen to one another and begin to recognise best practice behaviour, when best practice isn't happening and what needs to happen to improve a call.  This helps their auditory acuity and shifts the focus to team improvement.
  5. Shift your focus from managing to coaching
    As a leader, you need to manage.  But change requires a behavioural shift.
    Encourage the team to coach one another by having the team check calls against what good looks like for each stage and provide positive reinforcement to one another for delivering that, and improvement tips when required.
    Catch your team in the moment doing things well for reinforcement
    Use call recordings to identify trends, and address with group training.

Remember that behavioural and cultural shifts take time.  The change is gradual.  Be patient, be positive and share the team's progress with them.

Tips from John Buchanan, Beyond 19, Coaching Practicing Lead:

  1.  A high performance sales culture will drive results but not at the expense of the customer
  2. The sales culture will use the 5 steps above to understand what are the key values, principles, actions and behaviours that lead to results
  3. The high performance sales team will all be responsible for and accountable to ensuring the standards identified to achieve success are measured and reviewed constantly so that today's benchmarks can be improved for tomorrow.

If you found this article interesting you might find our 7 part series on key behaviours that drive high-performance contact centre sales people interesting.  Read more here:


Author: Ingrid Maynard
About: For more than 20 years Ingrid has worked with sales leaders and teams to improve sales performance. After 8 years with The Body Shop Australia and International in sales training and market development, Ingrid has spent the last 12 years founding and running companies in the sales performance space. These companies provided solutions across sales performance improvement solutions and sales coaching for Australian and International clients across a range of industry verticals: Automotive, Banking & Finance, HR, IT&T, Marketing & Design, Recruitment, Retail and Transport & Logistics. Ingrid has worked with clients to achieve significant and measurable improvements in profitable sales growth. She works closely with sales leaders and teams to refocus their approach to selling; aligning sales behaviours with strategic objectives for lasting results.
Connect via: LinkedIn
Tags: Call Centre High Performance Sales Sales Behaviours Initiatives Sales Framework Sales Growth Cadence Mindset Sales Leadership

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