Electrical Business

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How to develop tomorrow’s customer service representatives (CSRs)

May 23, 2019 | By Earl van As

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May 23, 2019 – Analyzing and understanding the dynamic relationships between a business, its employees and its customers is a foundational element for any successful enterprise. For electrical distributors, certainly creating open lines of communication and a pleasant ‘customer journey’ are key to remaining profitable.

These tasks primarily fall on your customer service representatives (CSRs). In light of ongoing industry changes, including digital transformations, retaining valuable employees in these positions has become more important than ever.

High employee turnover can cost a business time, productivity and revenues. This is the case across the human resources (HR) spectrum, but particularly true with CSRs in sales departments who are product experts.

According to The HR Digest, employee turnover can cost businesses tens of thousands of dollars. Distributors are facing hurdles when it comes to managing internal roles—and the supply chain as a whole has witnessed a significant increase in staff shortages in recent years.


As CSRs remain the primary touchpoint for customers, understanding the valuable relationships they develop is a major competitive advantage, but retaining such employees—who contribute a great deal to the customer experience and are direct revenue-generators—continues to be a great challenge facing distributors today.

A changing industry
Employee retention often hinges on one simple factor: job satisfaction. While this may seem obvious, maintaining such satisfaction for CSRs in distribution can be very challenging.

For one thing, improving the employee experience is often overlooked when leveraging new technology to improve the customer experience. For another, the role of CSRs is changing.

A changing role
For distributors, CSRs are important assets in maintaining a loyal customer base. They must represent the company as industry experts. Those who have been employed at the same company for 10, 20 or 30 years, certainly, have become product experts—and this is why they are so valuable.

As customers seek products, the CSR’s value shines when a problem arises. If a large customer is looking to purchase a particular electrical product that is currently out of stock, by way of example, the CSR’s in-depth understanding of functionality and availability can enable them to make alternative recommendations, which could even turn out to be better-suited for the customer’s needs. There is also an opportunity to upsell.

Skilled CSRs are essential to drive product sales, business growth and innovation. And when it comes to solving customer challenges, they are responsible for ensuring a positive experience.

Nurturing talent with technology
The role of a CSR has been drastically affected by digital transformation, however, and companies need to plan their strategies accordingly. As automation continues to shift the focus of business operations, CSRs must be considered before implementation.

Implementing digital solutions across the supply chain can create a valuable support system to allow CSRs to focus on what they do best, i.e. connect with customers. Their knowledge in this respect not only delivers a significant return on investment (ROI), but also helps fulfil their needs as employees. Their customer relationships and problem-solving capabilities are at the core of their roles.

So, as distributors embrace digital transformation, it is important to ensure such solutions not only streamline day-to-day tasks for employees, but also support the key elements of their skill set. The more they enjoy their tasks, the more rewarded they will feel in their role and, thus, the greater the employee retention for the company. The team needs to feel valued for its skills.

Meanwhile, lower-value tasks, such as administration, can be digitized to better allow CSRs to focus on value-added tasks, such as upselling. By automating sales order entry, for example, a company can free up CSRs’ time to better maintain attentive contact with customers.

Tools for success
The CSR of the future should be enabled to entirely facilitate the customer journey and drive business growth through the use of both inherent skills and technology. When given the right tools that can deliver valuable insights, they can better cater their services to their customers.

Today’s distributors should even consider restructuring their team and adjusting their job descriptions accordingly. In doing so, they can foster more supportive, dynamic and efficient internal operations.

Your team is one of your most valuable assets, particularly in warding off competitive threats. By giving your employees the digital tools for success in their day-to-day work, while shifting their focus away from administrative tasks, you are more likely to retain them—and steer their focus toward greater sales opportunities.

Earl van As is vice-president (VP) of marketing and product management for Vancouver-based ecmarket, developer of Conexiom sales order and invoice automation and supplier relationship management technology for manufacturers and distributors. He can be contacted via email at evanas@conexiom.com. For more information, visit www.conexiom.com.

This article originally appeared in the special Distribution & Supply section of the May 2019 issue of Electrical Business magazine.

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