Consultant Corner: Proactive Contact as a Game-Changer

573dca82000022ef47384fbf.Proactive-Outbound-picture_C[1]Contact center professionals work feverishly to optimize the experience when customers reach out to the center with an inquiry or to conduct a transaction. But the reality in today’s world is few customers are calling—or emailing or chatting—because they want to. More likely they are only doing so because they have to. In many cases, something has gone wrong, a status has changed, a deadline is arriving or has past, or some other “event” has triggered the contact. And these are often surprises nobody likes.

Given that reality, centers should redouble efforts to avoid that inbound contact for the benefit of customers as well as the company. Self-service is of course a key line of defense. But the customer must be aware, invited or encouraged to use self-service. They have to know that they need help and that they can help themselves. So the first line of defense is automated, proactive contact: identifying the event, informing the customer, and taking action or triggering action from the center or customer, as appropriate.

Many of us have grown accustomed to receiving email updates on the status of online orders—confirmation that it was placed, shipped and delivered. That is one simple form of proactive contact that is enhanced when it delivers additional information and prompts action when things go awry, such as a backordered item or delayed shipment. The informed customer can cancel the order, select a different item or accept the option to wait.

But industries beyond retail can benefit from proactive contact, including financial services, utilities, healthcare, telecommunications and travel. Any environment with reservations or appointments, bills, payments, statements, threshold levels on services, or transactions can leverage proactive contact to secure customer relationships and improve service. Well-defined business rules keep an eye on target data that is increasingly abundant and diverse—data from contacts, purchase history, relationships, accounts, transactions, and now, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) for some businesses. These rules can drive “smart” and helpful automated, outbound contacts, and avoid irritating or unnecessary inbound contacts.

A thorough proactive contact program offers a variety of communication channels including calls, emails and text messages. It engages the customer to define the events and settings that will trigger contact, ensuring the right level of updates in the customer’s media of choice. And in the best case, the contact provides options for remediation of issues or easy access to self-service or assisted service when neededeven if it crosses channels, for example from a text to a call.

With today’s tools and data, it is possible to proactively and very intelligently contact customers. Automated, proactive touchpoints can benefit both the customer and company, tactically and strategically. Everybody wins.

Lori Bocklund

Lori Bocklund

Lori Bocklund is the founder and president of Strategic Contact. With over 28 years of experience in the contact center industry, she brings an extensive knowledge of technology, processes, and organizational structures to each client engagement to solve real business challenges. She's a widely published author and regular speaker at industry conferences. Lori is the 2015 recipient of the International Customer Management Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award.