Customer Support can contribute to your sales if you “persuade” them. By putting them in a position to be friendly, helpful and responsive, you can watch your customer satisfaction and your bottom line improve.

Here are the seven ways to make that happen:

1. Make it easy for a customer to contact Support

“The presence of a live chat feature alone was an aid for customers while they were purchasing. It alleviated the worry of not having access to Support should the need arise. Olark increased our conversion rate by 4.5% within a 95% degree of confidence.”

– Tzvi Balbin, Founder, Userlicious (Read the full article)

This is perhaps the easiest fix, and the first step in your persuasion. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many companies bury their contact information. This is something to avoid. If customers can’t reach your Support team, then your Support team never has a chance to respond to customers.

Have a friend or, better yet, a less-technical family member review your site and see if they can figure out how to contact you. If they can’t, look for ways to make it more obvious — put your Support phone number on every page, move your ‘contact’ link out of the footer, or add live chat to your site.

If a customer can get answers with minimal effort, they’re less likely to walk away from a purchase.

2. Make it easy for customers to contact Support in the right place

“Ez Texting put an Olark chat widget on the [sign up form] and . . . they managed to increase signups by 31%. The chat widget was strategically placed so that if a user has any doubts before making a successful signup, he could ask it on the live chat widget.”

– Paras Chopra, Founder, Wingify (Read the full article)

When you’re evaluating where your contact information is listed on your site, make a list of the places where a customer has to make a commitment or might have a sales objection. This is where the rubber meets the road and sales are won or lost.

Here’s a simple tip: customers actively want to talk to your staff during checkout, so put a call to action directly in the main flow to contact you.

Apple does a great job of asking for chats pervasively through their online experience. For example, every Apple MacBook product listing has a prominent call to chat and even Apple’s checkout page maintains clear calls-to-action for contacting Support.

Making it easier to contact customer support allows them to be in the right place at the right time to overcome sales objections and ensure a customer can purchase with confidence.

3. Empower your Support team to answer sales objections

Often times, customer support doesn’t want to do sales and feels it is outside of their scope of work, making the previous point a challenge. The truth is that a majority of “sales” questions are actually pretty straightforward and fall into these two categories:

  • Fulfillment questions – These are questions about shipping, returns, and payment options – technical issues related to completing a purchase and receiving the product.
  • Product questions – These are questions (read: doubts) about the product or service the customer is buying.

Support will naturally have fast answers to these types of questions, making this an easy win for Support in the sales process.

You can take this one step further and ask your Customer Support team to create a sales journal, either individually or as a team. This will help them with answers to questions beyond fulfillment and product.

A sample ‘journal’ entry could include:

  • The specific sales questions and objections
  • How often they arise
  • At what stage, or on what page, do they arise
  • Summary of successful (and unsuccessful) answers

(Ultimately, you’ll want to take what you’ve learned from these most common sales questions and optimize the FAQ section on your site, which will make life a little easier for both your Support and Sales teams.)

4. Empower your Support team to answer billing questions

“Our customer service team not only sells by phone, chat and email, but completes the full cycle including billing using Zuora inside Salesforce so they can fully service the client without going to sales, billing, etc.”

– Jonathon Moody, VP Operations, Versature

Make sure your Customer Support team can solve a billing problem when one arises. If you can’t close a transaction because of some functional problem you’ve lost a customer.

Support teams will handle a lot of customers with billing/payment requests, such as, “How do I update my credit card information?” or “This person has left the company and now I need to change where our invoices are being shipped.”

Quite often, instead of being able to help the customer, Support has to transfer the customer to Billing, or worse yet, they don’t have a billing person/department so they have to ask an engineer who is already working on 20 other things for help. Both scenarios usually end in frustration for the customer.

Empower your Customer Support team to fix billing problems. Customers are less likely to churn if they can quickly and easily update their credit card information. This is an easy step to ensure that Support can retain your customers and reduce churn.

Also, remind your team to annotate the customer record so if a salesperson or someone else comes back to check on the account in the onboarding phase, they can see any issues that may have arisen.

5. Give Support the power to customize a conversation

“With Bizible, Boris knows exact marketing source, location and device used by the leads that come to his site through live chat [to see] how qualified each lead was and where it came from. They increased the chat to closed customer conversion rate to 30% [ from 5%].”

– Boris Tsibelman, CTO, WeSell.com (Read the full article)

Customers hate it when Support agents don’t know anything about them, but the bar has been set so low on the Internet that your Support team could amaze your customers by knowing even a little about them before a conversation starts.

There are two ways to do that:

  1. Link your CRM – “Oh the Salesforce license is too much.” Who cares? The customer wants it! They want your Customer Support team to know what is going on with them. If you think about it, it seems kind of crazy to hide information from your staff whose job it is to solve customer problems. If you want Customer Support to sell more, they will need access to the CRM to find customer history and add notes.
  2. Link all of your platforms – These days, most platforms that track customer interactions and data will integrate. If you use Desk.com for your help desk, make sure Desk.com data goes into Salesforce. This is a simple thing to do.

6. Make it easy to hand off a hot lead

“Don’t expect the Support team to be dropping three-pointers from the Support queue, but expect them to pass the ball. Identify simple things that are indicators of a larger deal. Have a hand off point is great.”

– Nate Gilmore, VP Marketing, Shipwire

Sometimes persuading Customer Support to sell means identifying when someone is ready to buy. Maybe your purchasing process is quite complex and requires a dedicated sales rep, beyond what Support can accomplish. Or, maybe Support is inundated with actual Support requests and doesn’t have the bandwidth to help the customer complete a purchase.

Whatever the reason, it’s important that your Customer Support and Sales team are constantly talking. So many times I’ve seen companies try to manage sales hand offs in an ad hoc way. Support scrambles to find a salesperson with spare time to take an interested customer. Meanwhile, the customer is left spinning their wheels waiting, frustrated and annoyed.

There should be a clear and defined process to pass a hot lead from the Support queue directly to the Sales team, and an integrated platform to track all of these interactions. Combining tools like Salesforce, Bizible and live chat is a great start.

Many Sales teams create a special team to handle inbound sales inquiries. These are customers who reach out to you to start the sales conversations. They are the hottest leads you’ll ever get because they’ve already qualified themselves.

Customer Support should be able to transfer these customers directly to this inbound team. If you don’t have one yet, consider measuring how many inbound inquires Customer Support is getting every day and whether this may justify creating an Inbound Sales position in your company.

7. Automate the opening

As we’ve mentioned above, Support doesn’t want to approach a customer and say, “Sooooo, what are we shopping for today?” They just want to be helpful and friendly.

That’s fine! No need to rip people out of their comfort zone. You can use the miracle of modern marketing technology to automate the sales opener.

For example, if you’re using some type of marketing automation software like Pardot, Marketo or HubSpot, you can automatically send an email whenever a prospective customer has viewed a white paper, video, or a particular product listing.

This automated prompt gives the interested customer a chance to voice their sales objections, and lets your Support team allay those concerns in a reactive way.

You can apply this same trick to live chat. Automate openers on pages where a sales objection might exist. For example, on our company’s pricing page, we decided to try an experiment: we put a sales opener on that page that says, “Hey, I’m here to help you explain what Olark is. What business goal are you looking for Olark to solve?” It doubled the number of conversations on that page which lifted our sales between 5 and 7 percent.

Yes, this is partially us being tricky marketers in the 21st century, but it also enables the customer service team to sell.