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"Fries with that" and advocacy

The myth of poor cross and up-selling

The popular reputation of up-selling and cross-selling is that it drives poor customer outcomes and that customers resent the process. The ubiquitous “would you like fries with that” is seen as an intrusion and is often mocked because it is so common and hackneyed. It is ironic, however that this question sells a lot of fries which is why it is done so regularly and so resolutely. The big question is how it should be performed for maximum effect? We have demonstrable examples that well structured cross selling, even on service interactions (often called sales through service or STS) produces positive customer outcomes and advocacy. Of course that isn't always the case. Inappropriate and target driven cross selling is not only unpopular but has even been a concern among regulators. In this paper we’ll explore what makes cross selling appropriate with positive outcomes for all, using a case study to show what is possible. We’ll explore that case, the techniques used and results achieved. We will demonstrate that the more customer needs are understood and met, the more the customer values the interaction. This includes the surprising finding that exploring needs, even where no sale occurs, increases loyalty.

A cluster of discouraging factors

In this case, an overseas Telco, the service function was outsourced with a contract heavily biased towards speed (AHT) balanced by a few customer KPI's, including net promoter scoring (NPS). Staff were discouraged in three ways from attempting sales with customers: they had handle time targets that encouraged short calls, the sales incentives were minimal averaging a few euros a month and they believed sales attempts would cause negative sentiment impacting another scorecard measure.

So we devised a three pronged strategy to combat the inherent barriers to cross selling:

  1. Use facts and data to truly see if "selling was bad"

  2. Find out where selling is good, and create really tight practices to do so

  3. Shape the operational management towards sales in service

1. Proving Loyalty increased with Sales through Service

We analysed over 58,000 times where customer was offered a product in the call centers (known as NBA – next best activity) and the resultant outcome, particularly for "touch point NPS" (TNPS) or how the customer felt after the interaction. What we found was surprising and helped leadership to change staff thinking. Customer sentiment and satisfaction with the company increased after purchase on a service call. This is not surprising you will say, "that's just the honeymoon effect". However, on closer inspection, we found that satisfaction rose even when customers did not take up the offer. The yellow bar above shows that offering something that wasn’t accepted was slightly positive to satisfaction. This meant we could kill off the prevailing bias of the centers, that "offers are bad and damage our NPS". In fact, our call listening showed that customers appreciated the care and attention if it was appropriate to their needs.

2. Matching products and services to needs

The next problem was identifying when agents should try to sell. We used a joint team of call observers and our call type classification and analysis tools to determine the target transactions. This sampling also identified whether an offer was made and its’ appropriateness. After this analysis we had a great list of probable call interactions where better personalised promotion looked likely to be effective. Next we facilitated front line agent workshops to design three key process areas; How to identify the need, the right product to offer and the right process to follow. This design “sprint” took only 3 weeks including getting the sign off from marketing on the final recommendations.

Identifying needs

We found the agents needed a much more specific “needs probing” framework to be effective. We used our call observation data to narrow which conversations were likely to be “need rich” and then work shopped the best questions to ask relative to that transaction type. This approach looked at "Sales through Service" as a system and then helped the agents understand needs or the lack of them far quicker.

Matching offers: ​Identifying the offer to make, required a little diplomacy and agent discretion. We found it important not to restrict agents to a single product proposed by marketing. Giving them discretion was empowering. The process workshops also found ways to embed the products into the solution for the call, whilst servicing the customer’s needs. The agents loved this approach and uptake of the process was much higher. Giving the agents “controlled decision making rights” was an important step to make them feel empowered to listen carefully to customers and perform a crucial product matching process.

The right process to close: sales as a service Matching the product was one thing, however agents also needed to know how you make the offer and handle objections. The design workshop team created the triggers, offer statements and objection handling matrices. This was language that helped agents understand how to position benefits that matched customer needs. Service staff need more help with this than sales teams who get that detail in training. In the pilot of these processes it was clear that service agents grew in confidence when they realised that their products were going to help their customers. So they started to see selling as a service.

3. Shaping operational management to Sales though Service

It’s one thing to have good practices on paper, but quite another to make that happen across a large operation. We needed to create a sales buzz on the floor and make success and results visible. This was the most challenging, the most effort and the most fun part of the programme. It involved everything from “branding” the program using T shirts and balloons, mixed with a tally board of wins and commissions being made visible. We also made sure that the team leaders knew how to coach to these new behaviours. The pictures below, show some of the “buzz” starting to happen.

The monetary rewards, funnily enough, didn’t have to change much, because agents were selling more often the old commission structure started to perform. Front-line service agents went from earning less than 1% salary as commission to the better ones earning 30-50% additional. So this cemented the triple bottom line – customers received better offers and products, the company earned revenue and the agents increased their pay packets.

The Outcome

The results in a sixty seat pilot were dramatic. The number of opportunities offered to customers increased by a factor of 6 and the acceptances (sales) rose by a factor of over 10. It was a roaring success, agents were happier with better commissions and the company delighted. NPS also rose for the pilot team, further illustrating the appropriate sale to loyalty correlation. Handle time increased 9% initially but started trending back to baseline as the change was bedded in. The company was so pleased with the result that they implemented across all inbound service teams. Three months after implementation cross sell revenues have raised increased month on month accelerating revenue by millions annually for the minor cost of implementing the programme.


Successful implementation of a Sales through Service (STS) strategy can generate revenue and increase loyalty (NPS) from your customers. It takes insights on call drivers, excellent process design and pulling all the right implementation levers. We hope this paper has convinced you that. Despite the bad press of sales processes in recent weeks, that well implemented needs based cross selling really can be effective. As always we would be delighted to provide more depth on this or any of our other programmes. Please get in touch if you think you would like more information by emailing or calling +61 3 9499 3550. More details are at

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