This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
Several days ago, I went to start my car… and nothing. I called my insurance company, where an upbeat, yet sympathetic agent told me she would dispatch help and told me what I could expect. Within minutes, I received an automated message telling me that help would be here in an hour. About 40 minutes later, I received another call saying that the truck would be here within 10 minutes. Five minutes later, a tow truck rumbled into my driveway.
This is the kind of textbook experience we all want out customers to have. But not only was it a customer pleaser, it also meant that I wasn’t calling the contact center to check the status of my case. Proactive outbound notification is not exactly new, but we are seeing it being used in ways that not only create a positive customer experience, but reduce inbound call volumes.
Look at outbound flight status, which is a lifesaver for many business travelers. Often, you’re notified of a flight delay or cancellation before it gets posted, so you can sidle to the counter and get rebooked before the mad rush. Drug stores are deploying outbound speech applications to remind customers of pending prescription refills and letting them refill the prescription on the phone. And some of the stores even deliver – how customer centric is that?
Text or outbound voice calls remind us of appointments, notify us when our account is past due, or let us know when the power will be restored. Are there opportunities for outbound applications in your business? Consider things like account status, updates and reminders, even awareness and fund raising. But be careful that you don’t barrage customers with outbound contacts that are of no value to them. Make sure that the messages you convey are personally relevant and timely. In general, marketing messages are not something that customers want to receive via a call or text – they are more successfully delivered through e-mail or other channels.
Done well, outbound notifications create a sense that as a customer, I am valued and special. And increasing intimacy usually means more loyal customers.
Elaine Cascio is a vice president at consulting firm Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net).
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi