What Your Customers Don’t Know CAN Hurt Them

The case of the upsell that co$t more than money.

Customer Success Representatives are tasked with helping Clients navigate company policies and services to their benefit. They are also tasked with upselling, and increasing ‘stickiness’ and longevity of customers. What happens when those two goals are at odds?

Example: A customer needs 500 units of a frequently ordered product, which sells at $5/unit. They will need another 500 units next month, and they have been ordering this exact order for more than 6 months. The CS Associate has seen this repeat order behavior, and calls the customer to offer that orders of 1000+ units get a 10% bulk discount! 10% off is a great savings, especially for a product that they use so consistently in large quantities. The Client agrees to order in 1000 unit increments, cancels their current order, and requests an order of 1000 units instead.

Two weeks later, the Client has not received the 500 units which are urgently needed. The order for 1000 units has a delivery date still listed two weeks out, and they have no more product on the shelves.

According to company policy, orders less than 1000 units get pulled from inventory FIRST, but orders of 1000 units or more are consider bulk, and get individual manufacturing orders. Lead time on inventory orders is 3 weeks or less, manufacturing orders can be up to 8 weeks. The CS Agent did not communicate about the change in lead time, though it was stated on the confirmation paperwork. The CS Agent ALSO did not ask questions about the Client’s storage capacity for the product, expected Days On Hand/until they were depleted, or ask how they had arrived at the original order setup.

Client needs the units, manufacturing order is already placed and will be delivered within two weeks, if the Client receives the 500 units emergency shipped from inventory ASAP they will not have storage space for the 1000 unit order in two weeks.

Further discussion with unhappy client uncovered that the 500 unit order had been arrived at by the initial salesperson, in order to balance the competing needs of space, time, and cost. Despite the $250 savings on a 1000 unit order, it did not outweigh the Client’s inability to store more product, AND the flexibility of rapid shipping from stock.


~ CS Agent should not have been upselling before they fully understood the Client’s needs and business.

~ Clients should have fairly clear understanding of company policies, and educating and familiarizing Clients with those is both Sales AND CS’s job.

~ Structured use of CRM Systems is the BEST way to ensure that time, energy, and Client goodwill are not wasted in this manner. Detailed and specific information about Client management choices should be logged, reportable (careful of non-reporting fields, like Quote Notes!), and consistent in their manner of input.

~ Empowerment of CS Agents to discuss flexibility for Client ordering needs for some types of ongoing order discounts is perhaps a good idea, but established company policies for effective forecasting and usage of ongoing/recurring POs is better than creating exceptions for multiple customers. Special treatment causes special problems.

~ Brianne Tengwall


“It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words ‘DON’T PANIC’ in large, friendly letters on the cover.” (Adams, Douglas (1979). The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Pocket Books. p. 3. ISBN 0-671-46149-4.)