Where to find proactive customer service opportunities

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Or Transform Your Customer Experience By Making Your Customer Service Proactive – Part 2

Previously in Why Relying Only On Reactive Customer Service Is No Longer Good Enough , the first in a series of three articles on proactive customer service, we looked at establishing the business case for proactive customer service.

In this, the second article in the series, we’ll explore where the opportunities lie and will provide some examples of companies that are experiencing great results via their proactive strategies.

Locating The Opportunities

Analysis of leading companies show that they realise that relying just on reactive customer service is no longer sufficient in order to compete, differentiate and drive their businesses forward. Increasingly they are now implementing proactive customer service strategies which is allowing them to lower costs, drive additional revenue, improve satisfaction and NPS scores, increase customer engagement and, also, boost customer loyalty and retention.

Identifying where opportunities to be proactive lie, Kate Leggett of Forrester in a recent post on trends in customer service in 2015 suggested that:

“In 2015, we expect organizations to explore proactive engagement ……delivered at the right time in a customer’s pre-purchase journey to help answer customer questions.”

Personally, I don’t think Kate and Forrester go far enough and there are opportunities to deliver value to the business and the customer not just in the pre-purchase phase but across the whole customer life-cycle (pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase).

Here are some examples from firms leading the way:

1. Pre-Purchase: Proactive service can begin before a prospect is a customer.

  • Proactivity is allowing Budget to reduce call volume, costs and drive revenue. US Consumer and commercial truck rental firm, Budget Truck Rental, is using IntelliResponse’s intelligent virtual agent web self-service tool to provide instant answers to questions from prospective customers. Following implementation of Intelliresponse’s technology, Budget was able to achieve a 28% reduction in inbound call centre calls from those prospective customers and $875,000 of cost savings and online revenue gains in the first 7 months of operation.
  • Similarly, using the same technology and approach, Copa Airlines achieved a 40% reduction in call and chat volume freeing up their live agents’ time to focus on helping customers that have urgent inquiries and that require live agent support.

2. Purchase: Proactive service improves the customer experience of existing customers.

  • AT&T is utilising SundaySky’s SmartVideo technology to proactively minimise ‘bill shock’, for their new and returning customers. ‘Bill shock’ occurs when the customer is shocked when they receive their first bill as they do not understand all the different elements of the bill. This results in a significant number of inbound calls. Utilising SundaySky’s technology, each new and returning customer receives, along with their bill, a link to a personalised video that uses their actual bill and their specific data and explains all of the different elements of the bill. Implementing this strategy has allowed AT&T to realise a material reduction in inbound calls, a significant increase in the uptake of value enhancing services, like paperless billing, and an increase in their NPS scores.
  • Debenhams, a UK retailer, is taking a different approach and uses comprehensive buying guides on it’s website to dramatically reduce the rate of returns and exchanges saving them costs, freeing up resources and improving customer satisfaction.

3. Post-Purchase: Proactive service maintains and improves the ongoing relationship.

  • Virgin Mobile is proactively communicating with it’s customers to minimise appointment failure. Virgin Media in the UK has around 2500 engineers providing free-of-charge servicing for their broadband customers. However, through the operation of their business, they know that on average 10% of all their service appointments fail, largely because their customers forget about the appointments. This has huge utilisation and cost implications for Virgin Media. Therefore, Virgin Media utilises Contact Engine’s  technology to proactively communicate with their customers via various channels (text, email, web etc) in the run up to appointments to make sure that customers don’t forget about the appointment. This is driving a dramatic reduction in the 10% of failed appointments, saving Virgin Media millions of pounds per year in utilisation and engineer costs and, at the same time, is driving increased customer satisfaction and higher NPS scores.
  • Anglian Water, one of the UK’s largest water companies, utilises Aspect’s proactive messaging technology to improve operational efficiency. The firm proactively notifies 80% of their customers whose phone numbers they have on file regarding water outages relevant to their location. This has allowed them to save hundreds of thousands of pounds in call centre costs every year and has improved their overall customer experience, which is supported by the positive feedback they receive.

I hope that that these examples provide inspiration and food for thought of the scale of the opportunity that proactive customer service can offer.

However, it’s all very well and good having the ideas but it’s the implementation and execution of the ideas where the real work begins.

Therefore, in the final article in this series, I will suggest a process that firms can go through that will help them identify, develop and implement ideas for proactive customer service initiatives and improvements.

 

 

This post was originally posted on my Forbes.com column.

Photo Credit: Kaysse via Compfight cc

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