Companies are taking every opportunity to use their customer touch points to upsell more goods to their existing customer bases. As a strategy, this makes perfect sense: You have a limited amount of resources, and building additional sales with existing customers is much easier and less resource-intensive than finding a new customer.
But try using some common sense when coming up with these types of programs. Not every situation is the best time to try to sell something to an existing customer. The biggest offenders of violating the rules of common sense are large communication companies. Always eager to add to their bottom line, they issue orders to their legions of customer service reps that defy logic. They will try to sell you anything, anytime, during any situation, no matter what.
Is this really a good idea? Imagine if you bought an MP3 player from a store, found out it didn’t work, then went back to the store to return it. How would you feel if the store employee was more interested in selling you a pair of headphones for your device than he was resolving your problem? Odds are, you would probably return the device and never bother coming back to that establishment.
Was the employee interfacing with a customer? Yes. Was it a customer touch point? Yes. Was it a good time to be trying to upsell someone? Absolutely not. Trying to upsell an angry or disappointed customer is the quickest way to lose that customer permanently.
Somewhere along the way, someone in a corporate office thought it would be a good idea to try to turn all the customer service agents into sales reps. In some situations, that’s not a bad idea. But in many cases, it’s a recipe for disaster.
The large communication companies just aren’t figuring this out. Call up with any sort of problem, and at some point during the conversation — usually while reps are pretending to wait on their computers to return some information — they hit you up with a pitch for additional services. You are calling to resolve a problem with their services and they are trying to sell you more services? Wouldn’t a better strategy be to make sure the customer is happy with the existing service first, iron out any problems, then worry about the upsell — and probably not even on the same call, because you don’t want to spoil the satisfaction that comes with crossing a problem off someone’s to-do list.
My favorite personal experience with a certain giant cable company came after a storm, when I called the customer service number to try to report that a fallen tree had taken out the cable line for the entire neighborhood. The customer service person on the phone used the opportunity to try to upsell me to a cable-based phone with all its reliability. Apparently, it never occurred to him that had I actually had their cable-based phone, I wouldn’t be talking to him at that moment, because the severed cable line was lying in my yard. My issue was that the cable service I was paying for was currently unavailable and needed fixing, but his focus was more on making a sale.
When it comes to upselling, there’s only one group of people that you should target: happy customers. They are the ones that are most likely to buy. If that pool of people isn’t very big, then you need to focus on making your existing customers happy with what they have, then move on to the next step. Trying to upsell customers who are calling to complain about your product or service is the quickest way to lose them all.
Todd Shryock is the managing editor of Smart Business Magazine. Reach him at
. But don’t try to upsell him on anything, because he doesn’t like that.