The Top 3 Customer Service and Selling Skills for Service Brand Success
After 20 years in restaurant franchising, I found myself leading marketing for a national home services brand. I always tried to be a student of improving customer experience, focusing on core skills that seemed universal for any business. Moving from restaurants to healthcare taught me that my assumption was true – but only to a point.
A great customer experience is always important, but when the transaction is essentially taking an order (restaurants) versus handling a more complex service inquiry, new and different skills are needed.
Bottom line: Creating business in a service brand requires both great customer service and selling skills.
Based on the data from analyzing phone calls from dozens of national franchised brands at ServiceScore, we’ve compiled the top three customer service and selling skills. Together, these build the winning approach for multi-unit franchisees of foodservice brands to drive a faster runway to success with service brands by leveraging their organization’s core competencies in customer service and layering in key selling skills.
The foundation: 3 key customer service skills
1. Smile. Having a smile on your face is the foundation for delivering great customer service whether that’s in person or on a phone call. You might not realize how important it is when the interaction is on a phone, but studies have shown that callers can hear the smile come through. When you smile, your tone actually becomes more positive and friendly. You can try this for yourself by smiling and saying something really negative aloud to yourself. You’ll probably notice that regardless of what you say, your tone is more upbeat and friendly when you say it with a smile.
2. Upselling. In the restaurant industry, there’s always great opportunity to add to the experience – and add revenue to the check – from selling a combo meal to suggesting a new appetizer to bringing over the dessert menu. You don’t think of this being as important when selling a home service, but sharing some relevant added services can add a lot of value for the customer as well as the business. Suggesting added services such as installation of a product, premium services, or upgraded materials are all ways of bringing more value – while also educating a customer on the options and advantages of the service itself.
3. Thank you. Ending the order or inquiry on a positive note leaves a lasting impression for the customer and reinforces their decision to choose your brand. Saying “Thank you” ends the interaction with an expression of gratitude for the caller supporting your business. Thanking the customer with specificity brings even more power to the interaction. For example, thanking them for trying out the service for the first time or saying that you appreciate the opportunity to provide them an estimate makes this even more authentic – and more memorable to the customer.
Next level: 3 smart sales skills
1) Building rapport to identify needs. One of the biggest differences between a restaurant and a service brand is that a new customer probably hasn’t used the service before. They might be calling about an urgent plumbing issue or automotive breakdown or needing personal services that they’ve had to explore for the first time. Part of the customer service process is for the team member to learn about the caller’s needs and build confidence that the caller has reached a provider who can help. Asking them about their issue or situation – with active listening and follow-up questions – helps shape the service offered and builds trust and rapport between the caller and the team member, which translates into comfort and confidence with the brand and prompts the caller to engage in the process and progress to the next steps.
2) Sharing what’s different. With many customers learning about your services from the team member during this initial interaction, it’s critical to not assume they already know why your brand is the best one to choose versus those of your competitors. After learning the caller’s needs, it’s important to take a moment to share a few things that make your service unique compared with the competition. In the absence of this information, the decision is likely to be made on price alone. Sharing unique facets of what your brand offers is another step in educating the customer and building rapport, while also adding value. One great way to do this is to share the unique training, background, and credentials of the person who will be providing the service. Another is to mention screening, insurance, and background verification of your service providers – especially if that person is to be trusted entering the customer’s home or servicing their vehicle.
3) Ask for next step. This is the biggest difference between a restaurant and a service brand. When you’re selling a service – even if you’ve done well building rapport and sharing unique value – the potential customer needs to understand the next step… and be specifically asked for that to happen. Some asks are as simple as sharing how to place an order, or gathering their contact information for a follow-up. Other asks involve sharing how an in-home estimate works, or setting up a time to visit the caller’s business or home to take measurements and provide a fully detailed proposal. Any way you do it, having a smooth way to bring the call to a positive conclusion involves educating the caller on how to successfully move forward together – and then closing the sale by asking for the business.
Combining comfort and competency in customer service with these savvy selling skills is the winning path for successful multi-unit owners to grow their portfolios – and their team member opportunities – with service brands.
Jayson Pearl is President of ServiceScore, a company that helps franchised brands get the results they want from phone calls. By reviewing and scoring actual inquiry calls, ServiceScore delivers actionable reports along with strategic insights to help improve conversion rates, customer service, and marketing ROI. Call him at 414-436-0040.
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