Customers Need Advice To Navigate Their Options

Customer representatives need to provide advice, expertise to help customers navigate the complex world of buying and many options.

Complexity and Overwhelming Consumer Options Have Changed Contact Staff’s Relationship With Customers

Customers are feeling overwhelmed by the decisions required to purchase products they used to be able to buy without thinking or understanding.

The customer service winners will win by becoming THE places to get help making those purchasing decisions, The best educators will win, all things being equal.

If you look backwards a decade or two, you’ll find that there has been an explosion of options for consumers, whether we’re talking about choice of cereals and bread, cars, computers — really, everything.

At the same time products and services have become so complex that less and less people can understand the technologies, or details underlying their purchases.

The upshot is that both in the present and future, customers don’t and won’t accept salesmanship, and will look to the value of the advice they receive as a major factor in their purchases.

Oh, and one more thing. Customers will rely on the value of theĀ advice AND how that advice creates trust or mistrust.

The Old Contact/Selling Role

The old role for customer service staff revolves around the transactional process of selling, and leading the customer to part with his money in a way most advantageous to the company. Upselling is important, for example, whether it meets the needs of the client. Product understanding needn’t be as broad or as deep, since one only needed to know the products one sold.

The old role, if we are to generalize a bit also centers around the idea of any good salesperson can sell anything.

The New Consultative Role

The new role is based on a consultative role. Some refer to this as consultative selling, but it’s a bit broader than that. The new role is based on:

  • Identifying features and functions customers need and want.
  • Matching those features to best products available regardless of whether those best products are more or less profitable, and even include products not offered by the company.
  • Establishing trust and credibility based on the above, and adopting a and adopting a ZERO BS policy, where employees don’t fake their knowledge and expertise.
  • A company willingness to lose a sale if it’s determined that the welfare of the customer is best served by referring them elsewhere.
  • A corporate commitment to training contact staff not only on their own products but the products of competitors, AND staffing well enough so that staff can spend enough quality time to educate and inform customers about their universe of choices.

The New Role Not Only For Tech Product Companies

It would seem obvious that products that are very technologically based are a perfect fit for this new role — computers, audio components, TV’s, etc, but in fact other industries need to recognize the unmined competitive advantages that can come from adopting more educational role.

Imagine grocery shopping in an environment where you can ask someone, prior to immediate purchase, the difference between the taste of several different kinds of hot peppers? Or having someone to help you choose amongst the hundreds of different cereals.

Major chains don’t do any of that, and in fact, most of the time, their floor staff are just doing their jobsĀ in a narrow way, with little idea of what they are selling.

Interestingly enough, smaller chains within the food niche (think health food, or bulk products) do a far better job of advising their customers, and knowing their products (think Bulk Barn). And they profit from it even if their prices are not always the lowest.

That’s one example of a sector where the new role has been almost completely ignored. Grocery stores currently sell groceries, when they should be selling food PLUS the ability to help consumers make smart choices.

That’s going to be the future.


One of the neat things about the new role is that it’s much easier to implement in small businesses than in huge corporations, because there are less staff to educate and prepare for the role. Another benefit is that you place employees in roles that can be far more satisfying (and demanding) than the traditional role, where the most complex tasks are sticking things on shelves and directing people to the right aisle.

Regardless of business niche, this will be the future. Customers NEED and want help in navigating the complexities that they don’t have the time to understand themselves. The best “salespeople” will be trusted advisors.

Author: Robert Bacal

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