An Ounce of Prevention: How Proactive Support Can Cure Lagging Customer Care

While most organizations pursue proactive problem resolution in an effort to cut contact center costs, such initiatives also create opportunities to strengthen customer satisfaction and reinforce loyal relationships.
Customer Service

Brand health naturally relies upon customer satisfaction since perpetual loyalty sustains company success. However, frustration often hinders positive sentiment, as consumers who find themselves in need of support are often displeased with the nature of their situation. Issues that make their way into the contact center not only harm customer experience, but they also put reputation at risk, costing the company time and money as they work to quickly rectify the problem at hand.

But, in today's technology-driven world, brands now have the opportunity to breathe new life into their contact centers, for there are numerous tools and strategies in the market that enable predictive or proactive service. Such capabilities empower companies to recognize and prevent problems before they ever reach the contact center, ultimately cutting costs and preserving satisfaction along the way.

When 'Before' Beats 'After'

For most brands, customer service exists in two forms: reactive and proactive. Reactive service providers offer assistance after the fact, essentially allowing problems to boil to the surface before doing damage control. Such companies remain unaware until negative sentiment has reached fever pitch, leaving them with no choice but to scramble for the solution as they aim to minimize impact. Those that provide service proactively, however, reach out to consumers when potential issues are first detected so they may stop frustration in its tracks. They constantly monitor behavioral patterns and voice of the customer feedback in an effort to solve problems before they escalate.

While reactive support may be unavoidable at times, today's advanced technologies offer brands the opportunity to beat the problem to the punch. In fact, according to one inContact survey, proactive outreach isn't just welcomed; it's encouraged:

  • Overall, 87 percent of U.S. adults polled want to be contacted proactively by an organization.
  • Fraudulent account activity (65 percent), appointments and reminders (53 percent), and order inquiries (51 percent) are the most popular reasons behind proactive outreach's desirability.
  • Seventy-three percent of those who've had a pleasant surprise or positive experience with an incoming call from a business or service provider reported positive changes in their perception of the given company.

Ruby Newell-Legner, author of Understanding Customers, emphasizes that negative customer experiences require vigorous recovery efforts, for it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative interaction. Thus, proactive support not only reduces spend by preventing problems from ever reaching the contact center, but also saves money by minimizing the need for reputation repair. But, before companies can truly change their financial situation, they must realize that customer service requires an investment of time, not just money, from both the brand and the consumer.

Randhir Vieira, vice president, product and marketing at Mindflash, notes that, when it comes to particular products, most consumers simply want the item to work. Thus, the average person will poke around in an attempt to solve the problem themselves, while some will visit the help site to find the answers they seek. Once the customer makes contact via email, chat, or phone, they've likely already tried to resolve the issue and have now invested time and effort in this cause. Therefore, the earlier the given company can help individuals through their situation, the happier and more productive they will be. Such actions will ultimately lower the number of direct contact center service inquiries, reducing costs, confusion, and dissatisfaction in the process.

It Takes Tools to Tango

Before companies can cut costs, however, they must first invest in the proper tools that will further their goals and aid their preventative efforts. By introducing technologies that monitor sentiment, observe behavior, and predict problems, brands can put themselves on the path to success because, while they say you've got to spend money to make money, in this case, companies will inevitably save money, too. Not only must these tools be versatile, but they must also be easy-to-use internally to reduce operational issues that may arise.

"More intelligent solutions are the way of the future-they grow, develop, and change according to needs," says Kaisa Salakka, senior product manager, analytics business unit at Comptel. "Contextual intelligence combined with predictive analytics offers tools to understand the flood of Big Data around each individual customer, and act according to his or her needs. By combining the intelligence from both the network and customer behavior side, service providers can offer more efficient and personalized customer service."

These tools must be able to actively monitor consumer behavior in ways that unlock patterns, particularly when it comes to social media sentiment and help site interactions. Just by observing and noting the help pages that receive the most hits, or the search terms that garner the most attention, brands can begin to determine where customers are struggling and find ways they can help alleviate or prevent these issues all together in the future.

Brian Rogers, director of customer success at Evergage, notes that, when it comes to customer support questions, teams often hear the same questions or complaints several times, especially when the given product glitches or malfunctions in some fashion. By recognizing that said issue impacts more than one customer, companies can be proactive by alerting users who specifically access the given feature and providing them with an immediate fix or estimate for the length of the resolution process. As brands collect customer data, they will also gain the ability to use the insight collected to more accurately predict when someone will need help and get them assistance before they reach the point of frustration.

Integrating monitoring capabilities and predictive tools will ultimately result in fewer people contacting support, as they will have access to the help they need before the issue grows out of hand. Requests that do need to escalate will also see improvements, as call center agents will have greater bandwidth for quicker responses. The more customers who reach their goals quicker and with less effort, the happier and more productive they'll be, allowing the contact center to focus on the real tough issues that require specialized attention.

Cut Costs, Preserve Quality

Though cost-cutting may be critical for some companies' longevity, these organizations must be sure not to compromise their quality of service in its wake. Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, emphasizes that proactive service isn't just for cost savings. Instead, this tactic has the power to keep consumers satisfied, strengthen loyalty, and increase revenue. For instance, financial institutions that alert customers of limited funds not only cut costs on their end, but they prove they've got the best interest of the customer at heart, which is inevitably worth far more than any contact center query. By engaging in outbound notifications via an array of channels-phone, text, email, or social-brands also position themselves as content creators, for they have the opportunity to share information with both consumers and call center agents in an effort to disseminate personalized, proactive assistance.

Leggett also encourages brands to extend proactive invitations and engage consumers at the decision point, for such service doesn't always have to apply to problem prevention or resolution. Instead, brands can use the incoming behavioral data to detect when consumers are approaching the point of purchase and reach out in an effort to build confidence through targeted support via the channel of their choice. Companies can walk the customer through the process and aid their deliberation in order to ensure they're secure in their purchase decision. Ultimately, no matter the customer service scenario, one-size-fits-all conversations no longer satisfy the average support interaction. Thus, companies must develop a well-balanced approach that allows them to engage proactively while maintaining personalization.