Proactive Customer Contact Technologies: Getting Closer to Customer for Greater Business Benefits

ininIf you still wait for your customers to call you, your contact centre strategy is about to become outdated.

Simply waiting for calls to come in, or worse – making outbound sales calls scripted to suit the mass market – will not generate customer loyalty and sales in the years to come. Simply put – consumers have changed, their expectations have changed, and contact centre strategies have to change in line with this.

Top global companies are discovering that the key to effective interaction with the new breed of consumer is taking a comprehensive approach to proactive customer contact (PCC) – also known as ‘smart outbound’. In a 2010 survey of contact center professionals by Frost & Sullivan, 51% of respondents said their collections, sales and marketing volume would remain the same, but 65% said their PCC would increase. This represents a significant shift in the way businesses perceive the outbound contact centre – and potentially a change in the way they think their customers perceive outbound.

Effective PCC leverages customer and product information from across the enterprise to reach out to customers with personalized service messages and sales offers to cement and grow profitable relationships.

PCC initiatives can incorporate a broad variety of channels — telephone calls, email, text messages, and even postal mail. PCC does not include the traditional sales and marketing programmes for acquiring new customers, nor “up-sell and cross-sell” activities which are initiated on inbound customer calls, since these are inherently reactive and not proactive.

Through creative use of PCC applications, the business shows it understands its customers and cares about their preferences. It can initiate contact and supply information before the customer has to request the information. These proactive interactions improve the customer experience on a number of levels. Happy customers are loyal customers, and also have a tendency to share their good experience through powerful new social channels – all of which contributes to the company’s success. PCC can deliver benefits across all industry verticals. We are seeing companies using PCC strategies to good effect in collections, telemarking, insurance and the medical supplies industry, among others.

There are a number of technologies available today that can assist in a PCC strategy. Generally, they can be grouped into one of four categories:

1) Outbound Dialer: Any automated dialing application with various automation states, including but not limited to predictive, power, or preview dialing.

2) IVR: DTMF (dual-tone multi-frequency) or speech recognition-enabled application that supports outbound calling without agent intervention.

3) Alerting and Notification: Outbound email, SMS, phone, fax, or mixed media notifications and alerts sent at predefined times by schedule or based on other events occurring.

4) Survey and Feedback: Phone, SMS, or email survey applications used to gauge customer sentiment after a customer sales or service event.

These technologies can be used as a unified approach to PCC, or as single point applications to address the needs of the business.

Pioneers in the PCC fields are moving from the experimental stage where they use point solutions to more strategic and comprehensive proactive customer contact programs that incorporate multiple technologies and fuller application development. Along the way, they are learning that PCC can deliver both operational efficiencies and revenue growth.

Enterprises who have been slower to move to PCC should prepare by formulating a PCC roadmap for the organization, with a clear vision of desired goals and how they will be measured.

In line with this roadmap, they are then able to develop a strategy and tactics to achieve the vision.

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