Last year, I had a bad customer service experience. It was a months-long struggle to receive a refund on a very beautiful and very broken chandelier. Approximately 3 months into this saga, and many, many minutes into a frustrating, high-effort conversation with no resolution in sight, I attempted to end the conversation. The customer service agent, however, wanted to let me know about a new promotion that was coming up. I listened in disbelief to him for a few moments, then I silently disconnected from the call.

That might sound rude, but I was fed up. If the interaction had been a low-effort experience, I would have been willing to hear him out. I love a good promotion. But the fact is that he hadn’t earned the right to try to sell me on much of anything. I had baggage from the duration of my issue and number of calls I had placed, and he hadn’t addressed any of it. He hadn’t conveyed that he would champion my cause to the refund team, and I didn’t have faith that my issue would be resolved. And he wasn’t flexing to my communication style – I had sent him all the signals that I wanted him to get to the point and he was trying to chit-chat about our similar Philadelphia area codes.

Lowering customer effort through the teaching and reinforcement of these 9 competencies leads to customer interactions that are 94% more likely to repurchase and 88% more likely to increase spend. Said differently – low-effort interactions drive customer loyalty behaviors and grease the wheels for a sales conversation.

Let’s break this graphic down.

At the base of the pyramid, you can see how the low effort skills framework creates a solid foundation of “always-on” skills like flexing communication styles, being an advocate for your customer, actively listening, and using positive language. These critical skills establish and help maintain rapport with your customer. Not using these skills (as we saw in my disastrous example) can immediately close the door to future wallet share.

Once rapport has been established, service reps can also focus not only on what they are hearing through active listening, but surfacing additional information through purposeful small talk , which will help a rep understand their customer better and increase issue resolution. We also train reps to not avoid the baggage that 92% of your customers are bringing to their interactions – address it so that both parties can move forward in the conversation in a positive manner. In other words, when the rep helping me with my chandelier did not acknowledge my comment about this being my 9th call to gain a refund, my perception was that he didn’t empathize with the situation at all.

Most service organizations that have a service to sales component believe that if a rep solves the current issue, they’re ready to pivot to a sales conversation. But what happens when the customer must call again in a week or two because of the downstream issues associated with the current issue, which the rep could have predicted?

“Couldn’t you have told me this last time I called? This is so frustrating. By the way, I was considering that contract/product/upgrade you showed me last time I called… but forget it – you are too high-effort to deal with.”

To avoid this classic mistake, we teach reps how to recognize opportunities to forward resolve , and how to position that opportunity in a natural way, especially since the rep is asking the customer to stay on the phone a bit longer (a skill that can be equally utilized to move the conversation in a sales direction).

The bottom line is, when implementing a service to sales strategy, you still have to solve the customer’s issue first. The way that you solve it matters. If you make the customer feel that the interaction has been effortless, your customer is 94% more likely to listen to that promotion and open the website to buy something on a whim. In a high-effort interaction, the customer might just hang up.

Challenger, Inc.

Challenger is the global leader in training, technology, and consulting to win today’s complex sale. Our sales transformation and training programs are supported by ongoing research and backed by our best-selling books, The Challenger Sale, The Challenger Customer, and The Effortless Experience.