The Rise of Proactive Customer Care
Proactive customer care (PCC) is an exciting concept that, when done properly, delivers benefits to both enterprises and their customers. Customers want to hear from preferred retailers, healthcare providers, airlines, delivery companies, etc., as long as they consider the communicated information beneficial. The challenge for businesses and other organizations is to create useful communications that their customers welcome, and to deliver these messages in each customer’s channel of choice – phone, email, SMS, fax and, in the future, video.
Dialing is Not Dead
In 2004, when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) implemented legislation to prevent companies from “blind dialing”, many pundits thought it was the end of the outbound dialing market. The new regulations served a valuable purpose in preventing companies from annoying customers and prospects with uninvited phone calls for products and services that were of little interest or value to them. At the same time, it created new opportunities for companies by forcing them to figure out how to communicate more effectively with customers who did want to hear from them. It took a couple of years, but a few innovative companies realized that they could enhance relationships with their customers by creating automated communications that their customers would be willing to sign up for. These communications were intended either to decrease operating costs by reducing the volume of inbound calls and emails, or to increase revenue by issuing targeted notifications via outbound self-service applications. All of these solutions started out as outbound interactive voice response (IVR) applications, but in the last two years innovative vendors have expanded their applications to utilize additional communications channels, such as email, SMS, fax and Twitter; and more channels are on the way.
What is Proactive Customer Care?
Proactive customer care is a business strategy that makes consumers’ lives better and easier by addressing issues before a problem or a need arises. Organizations that adopt a PCC strategy identify and address customer needs proactively by sending messages or other communications to customers and other interested parties at appropriate times. This concept is not new. Organizations have been making welcome calls for years. For as long as there have been credit cards, fraud departments have been calling out to customers to notify them of potential problems with their accounts. High-end department stores have been calling their big spenders to notify them of sales. Companies have performed these activities because they proved to be highly beneficial in building customer relationships and increasing revenue. But it also turns out that proactive customer care is a highly effective way of reducing operating costs while increasing customer allegiance and loyalty. Customers are grateful to learn when their airplane is delayed or they are due for a prescription refill, particularly if this information is shared in a manner that is convenient and not overly intrusive. Keeping customers informed can greatly reduce servicing costs and unexpected surges in call volume. Assuming that it costs $5 to $25 for a typical inbound customer service call or email, and less than $0.05 for a typical outbound interaction, it’s impossible to argue with the math.
PCC is not yet widely recognized as a distinct technology market, even though there is a group of dedicated outbound technology providers who have quietly been building this sector. These solutions are offered predominantly on a hosted/cloud basis, although many premise-based IVR and email providers are now entering this field. Additionally, many competitors have built products that address the needs of specific verticals, such as healthcare and transportation.
What’s Next for PCC?
Every organization – whether public, private, or not-for-profit – should jump on the PCC bandwagon. It’s easy to do, cost-effective, and will be welcomed by its intended audience. DMG expects to see this under-promoted and under-appreciated business strategy continue to quietly pick up momentum because it is a very successful method for improving customer or constituent relationships. What are you waiting for?
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Ask the Experts
A routine challenge we come across is efficiently managing our seating inventory for 3 facilities and across 2,500 IT resources. Typical challenges include finding out “at-a-glance” about available seats at any given point in time, ongoing management of seat assignments across current staff, new hires, exiting staff, various business units, finding out seat histories (everyone who was assigned a particular seat number), and generating reports related to all of these aspects. We currently undertake these activities manually on Excel spreadsheets, and with the help of very basic in-house developed software, but are searching for a more meaningful solution, and were wondering if you could recommend a technology-based solution.
Given the multiple and varied shifts of today’s complex 24/7 multi-site, multi-channel contact center environments, managing real estate and agent workstation utilization is a major challenge. This time-consuming and labor-intensive task is frequently handled manually by an individual within the contact center. (This also happens to be one of the many reasons why enterprises are increasingly exploring the viability of at-home agents.) Currently, the type of solution that you are looking for is available from stand-alone capacity management vendors and a workforce management/workforce optimization suite provider. The four suitable offerings are:
- Authority Software (www.authoritysoftware.com) offers a product called Central Authority that provides real-time capacity management. It allows users to set up a “forecast” of seat totals and desired percentages of occupancy, and then takes actual usage from the switch to interactively track this information.
- Lanner (www.lanner.com) offers an application that reads daily team members and agent shift pattern data directly from the workforce management system. It then generates seating plans for a day or a week at a time. It also specifies desk/floor layouts, identifies which desks are not available at certain times of the day or week, and allows service/desk type (specialized equipment available at certain desks only) to be specified.
- Seatmatch (www.seatmatch.com) utilizes the schedule output from a workforce management system to automatically assign seats to agents. Seatmatch optimizes space by utilizing hot seating/desk sharing, and minimizes the distance between agents and their team leader. It can also be used as a strategic planning tool to help quantify expansion or consolidation requirements, as well as to create daily seating plans for contact center staff.
- Aspect (www.aspect.com), a workforce optimization suite provider, has an optional module called Reserve, which is an add-on to their core workforce management solution. Reserve provides a centralized location for storing, viewing and managing agents’ seat assignments and for reporting on utilization statistics. Reserve automates the seat assignment process, and helps users strategically plan and manage seat utilization to meet long-term facility requirements and short-term intra-day seating needs for the contact center and the back office. Reserve also lets users define and assign key attributes to seats to ensure that agents can be assigned to the right area, and outfitted with appropriate equipment, software programs and any other configurable characteristics.
DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.