Proactive customer service drives customer loyalty – Interview with Stew Bloom of Aspect

Today’s interview is with Stew Bloom, CEO of Aspect, who help enterprise contact centres deliver their customer experiences across every channel through their software platform. Stew joins me today to talk about proactive customer service and why proactive customer service drives customer loyalty.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Social leadership and why the C-Suite has to go social – Interview with Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt – and is number 124 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Highlights of my interview with Stew:

  • Aspect recently authored a white paper called: Four Reasons Why Proactive Customer Care Means Customer Loyalty.
  • In the white paper, Aspect articulate four reasons why proactive care drives customer loyalty:
    • Customers Repay Anticipatory Service with Greater Loyalty and Long-Term Value
    • Increased Customer Retention Costs Less than Winning New Customers
    • Contact Center Efficiency Improves with Reduced Call Volume and Automated Outreach
    • Agent Job Satisfaction and Retention Increase, and Turnover Costs Decline
  • In short, proactive customer service benefits a business that pursues this strategy through increased satisfaction/delight and increased loyalty, whilst also allowing firms to increase employee satisfaction and reduce employee churn.
  • Aspect see that the need for this type of approach is being driven by the rise in the mobile-first demand from customers.
  • Proactive care is on the vanguard of customer service/experience strategy.
  • The first firms that have started to adopt and address this type of strategy tactically are those that deal with large volumes of calls/requests for help on billing issues, particularly when it comes to utilities, telecoms, credit cards, student loans etc.
  • Examples:
    • Anglian Water in the UK are sending over 200,000 texts (SMS) messages and emails to their customers every year to notify them of outages and problems in their area based on their post codes. This helps them dramatically reduce inbound customer calls and this one initiative is saving them in the region of between £100K and £200k in fundamental call centre costs every year. This is also translating to better NPS scores, satisfaction scores and, in some cases, better compliance scores.
    • In the case of Apple, if a customer was to schedule a technical support session through their support portal but was then to cancel the appointment. They reach out to their customer, and knowing what they know about them, they offer them alternative time slots or support by email or other channels, as is appropriate, in order to keep that conversation alive and to offer their customers the help that they know they need.
    • BMW – through their telematics infrastructure often knows more about their new cars and how they are performing than their owners do. Through that, they are able to identify potential problems before they happen. When they do spot a potential problem, they notify the owner and the local dealer and, often, the dealer will then call the owner and say ‘We spotted a potential problem with your car. When can we get you and your car in here so that we can fix the problem’.
    • American Express proactively notifies it’s customers when a transaction takes place on the card when the ‘customer is not present’ to make sure that they are aware of it and to verify that it was their transaction.
    • Many pharmacy retailers are also now notifying their customers when their prescriptions are ready to pick up but will also ask them if they would like it delivered.
    • It is also common for Doctor surgeries to send text messages or emails to their customers to confirm appointments as this helps them manage utilisation.
  • These examples are just the beginning of the potential of proactive customer service to increase engagement, manage utilisation, costs and improve satisfaction, loyalty and retention.
  • How to get started?
    • Don’t start with the technology or the business process, start with the customer experience that you want to deliver and then work back from there into the business process and technology required to deliver that customer experience.
    • You also must have a strategy to deliver a differentiated customer experience.
    • You also need sponsorship and executive enrollment to facilitate all of the changes across the different lines of business that you will need to deliver on your strategy.
  • So, make sure you are driven by the customer experience that you want to deliver but also build the business case with associated RoI to gather the support internally that you need to execute a proactive customer service strategy.
  • This type of strategy is going to become more and more prevalent with the rise and potential of the ‘Internet of Things’, with all of their sensors, data gathering and communication potential.
  • Check out Aspect’s website (www.aspect.com) for more information and lots of case studies about companies they have worked with on their proactive customer service strategies.

About Stew (taken from his Aspect bio)

Stew BloomStew’s dedication to reinventing the customer experience via the convergence of information and technology drives Aspect’s corporate purpose of building customer-company relationships.

Before joining Aspect in August of 2012, Stew served as CEO of Escalate Retail prior to its acquisition by RedPrairie Corp. Previous to Escalate, he held positions including CEO for GERS Retail Systems, vice president, Americas Technology Services for Capgemini, and senior vice president for strategy consultancy Mainspring, prior to its IPO and subsequent acquisition by IBM. Stew was formerly a partner with Ernst & Young Management Consulting and a leader of its Center for Technology Enablement, following E&Y’s acquisition of DSSI, where he was co-founder. At E&Y he served market leading enterprises in technology strategy.

In addition to Aspect, he serves on the Board of Directors for Infor, was the former Executive Chairman of Symon Communications (now RMG Networks), and Leopard Communications (now Ogilvy) and is a member of the Business Advisory Council for the College of Business Administration at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where he co-chairs the Career Development committee.

Don’t forget to say Hi to Aspect on Twitter @AspectSoftware.

7 comments On Proactive customer service drives customer loyalty – Interview with Stew Bloom of Aspect

  • Adrian,

    Imagine the reduction in customer effort if companies took a more proactive approach. I like your “how to get started” tips; I think this is where companies struggle. Start with the experience that you want to deliver… and, of course, that’s grounded in understanding the customer.

    Annette 🙂

    • Annette,
      Indeed, imagine the reduction in customer effort but also imagine the reduction in costs and company effort too. Proactive service a real win-win.

      Adrian

  • That third to last bullet point:

    “So, make sure you are driven by the customer experience that you want to deliver but also build the business case with associated RoI to gather the support internally that you need to execute a proactive customer service strategy.”

    Encapsulates the big picture perfectly. The upper level management need to be the ones keeping their eyes on that sort of thing. I see it too often in all sorts of areas of life, where people lose track of the goal, the function, what they want out of “whatever-it-is”.

    Business — good product, happy customers, and profitability. All tied together.

  • Pingback: Nearly 60% of customers will go elsewhere following a bad delivery experience | Adrian Swinscoe ()

  • Adrian, I particularly like the story about Apple. So many organisations would see cancelled customer service appointments as a good thing as it avoids cost.

    • Yes, it’s a great story and example. Just shows how dogged they are when it comes to focusing on and maintaining a relationship.

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