The following extract is an updated chapter from customer experience luminary, Adrian Swinscoe’s book How to Wow: 68 Effortless Ways to Make Every Customer Experience Amazing.
Analysis of leading companies shows that many realise that relying just on reactive customer service is no longer sufficient in order to compete, differentiate and drive their businesses forward.
The 2017 UKCCF Proactive Customer Service Survey, for instance, highlights that 87% of businesses think proactive service will save on inbound contacts to their organisations, “potentially equating to millions of pounds saved each year for large customer contact operations”.
Identifying where opportunities to be proactive lie, Kate Leggett, VP and principal analyst at Forrester wrote back in 2015 that we should “expect organisations to explore proactive engagement ……delivered at the right time in a customer’s pre-purchase journey to help answer customer questions”.
Whilst in the subsequent timeframe we’ve seen signs of this happening, I don’t think Kate and Forrester go far enough in highlighting that there are opportunities to deliver value to the business and the customer not just in the pre-purchase phase of the customer journey but across the whole customer lifecycle (pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase).
As we’ve established in previous chapters of this guide, brands that have been proactive at being proactive are now implementing customer service strategies that allow them to lower costs, drive additional revenue, improve satisfaction and NPS scores, increase customer engagement and, also, boost customer loyalty and retention.
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And to highlight this point, let’s take a look at some examples from firms that are leading the way and implementing their own proactive strategies at different stages of the customer lifecycle:
AT&T is using SmartVideo technology from SundaySky to minimise ‘bill shock’, for their new and returning customers. Bill shock occurs when the customer is confused when they receive their first bill and they do not understand all the different elements of the bill. This results in a significant number of inbound calls.
Now, instead, each new and returning customer receives, along with their bill, a link to a personalised video that explains all of the different elements of their specific charges. Implementing this strategy has allowed AT&T to significantly reduce its inbound calls as a result of ‘bill shock’, drive an increase in valuable services, like paperless billing and increase their NPS scores. Here’s an example of what that looks like, from a seemingly satisfied customer on YouTube:
Virgin Media has around 2,500 engineers in the UK 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, in the run-up to appointments they have started to proactively communicate with their customers across various channels, using technology from Contact Engine, 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.
Debenhams, a UK retailer, is taking a different approach by using comprehensive buying guides on its website to dramatically reduce the rate of returns and exchanges that they receive which saves them costs, frees up resources and improves overall customer satisfaction.
The guides help pre-empt what is a common concerns for shoppers online – deciphering whether a new item will work with their wardrobe.
Imagine being at home and you go to turn the tap on and nothing comes out, or there’s brown water and a terrible stench. The first thing you do is call your water supplier.
Anglian Water, one of the UK’s largest water companies, has recognised this fact, and is using technology to proactively notify their customers, this time from Aspect, 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 and in contact centre savings related to agent costs and telephone time.
BetterCloud is a US-based tech company that helps businesses manage software-as-a-service applications like Dropbox and Slack.
As previously highlighted by Shep Hyken, its approach to proactive support is heralded for the manner in which customer issues are flagged in advance of first contact and the capacity support staff have to pre-emptively contact the customer.
The BetterCloud website highlights just how stitched into the company’s DNA proactive service has become: “Think about how many issues never get addressed because of the time-consuming task of submitting a ticket. Instead, customers will attempt to diagnose and fix problems themselves, or even worse, spend hours looking for an alternative solution.
“With Proactive Support, we’re starting to put an end to that type of support experience. Every week, a higher percentage of our support interactions are proactive, rather than reactive. When customers experience issues, we’re reaching out to them BEFORE they can even submit a ticket. Customers may submit tickets at times, but we are doing everything we can to prevent that.”
Budget Truck Rental
One of the simplest examples but no less compelling is that of US truck rental firm, Budget Truck Rental, which added an intelligent virtual agent from Intelliresponse to its web self-service tool to provide instant answers to questions from prospective customers.
Following implementation, they have been reduce inbound call centre calls by 28% and achieve $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 has reduced its call and chat volume by 40%, which has freed up their live agents’ time to focus on helping customers that have urgent and more complex enquiries.