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Sales v Service v Retention - a unified theory - John Stavrakis - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog

Sales v Service v Retention - a unified theory

For as long as I can remember, the discussion (or should I say the battle) around Sales versus Service in a contact centre context has been one of defining boundaries. These boundaries have been about setting a clear distinction between the functions, and those that participate in those functions have very strong, dare I say it, vested opinions about the distinction.  And this argument is not a local one alone, as global discussion appears to be centralized around similar themes.


In more recent times, as business acknowledges the importance of strategic retention functions in the contact centre arena, the division of the contact centre floor has widened even further.
So maybe we all need to take a deep breath, step back and possibly look at simplifying the discussion.
Let's start with a definition of the functions:


SALES:  is the act of selling a product or service in return for money.  It is an act of completion of a commercial activity aligned to a businesses growth aspirations.


CUSTOMER SERVICE OR SERVICE: is the provision of service to customers before, during and after purchase.  Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.


CUSTOMER RETENTION OR RETENTION:  is the activity that a selling organization undertakes in order to reduce customer defections. Successful customer retention starts with the first contact an organisation has with a customer (the sales) and continues throughout the entire lifetime of a relationship. A company’s ability to attract and retain new customers, is not only related to its product or services, but strongly related to the way it services its existing customers (or more importantly the philosophy it undertakes) and the reputation it creates within and across the marketplace.  Customer retention is more than giving the customer what they expect, it’s about exceeding their expectations so that they become loyal advocates for your brand. Creating customer loyalty puts customer value rather than maximizing profits and shareholder value at the center of business strategy (even though that will be an outcome). The key differentiator in a competitive environment is more often than not the delivery of a consistently high standard of customer service.


So, if the above definitions are true and something you agree with, then I would argue that the functions currently at odds with each other are more similar than some like to admit.  I would further argue that as the marketplace environment has changed, with the exception of technological improvements, the contact centre floor has remained stale and largely unchanged.  Even further, I would argue in today's environment, the traditional concept of 'service' is and should be considered redundant and to remain competitive, we need to evolve to a new and improved contact centre structure, one focused on SALES and RETENTION.


If Sales provides commercial activity aligned to growth and Retention is the 'highest standard of customer service and is the activity that a selling organization undertakes in order to reduce customer defection', what place does traditional service functions have in contact centers today?


This does not mean we don't provide service, on the contrary, we focus on providing the 'highest standard of customer service' (which is focusing on a retention strategy) aligned to profitable growth.  We should use technology, where appropriate, to provide service offerings, those considered value add to the customer and unnecessary traffic for the contact centre, but focus all our energy on providing 'profitable' growth to business.
I appreciate that this may be considered extreme, but think of the ideological shift that will translate on the contact centre floor (referring back to the definitions noted earlier) - The next time you ask your new, focused Retention Team, who are now responsible for the 'highest standard of customer service' to cross sell or up sell, will they respond with "I'm a service person, not sales?"

Publish Date: August 29, 2012 11:06 AM

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