If you’ve worked in the contact center world over the past few decades, you’ve undoubtedly seen firsthand the evolution of how customers engage with organizations–from voice calls to IVR to email, text, webchat, video and more. You may also have witnessed that contact centers typically saw division of labor into inbound versus outbound. Even contact center technologies were broken down into inbound and outbound solutions.
As customers increasingly expect an omnichannel experience, how can organizations continue to evolve their outbound operations along with their inbound capabilities? What role does outbound or, as we like to call it, proactive customer engagement, play in delivering on business needs and outcomes?
To address these questions, I sat down for 7 rounds with David C. Martin, Managing Principal in Avaya Professional Services and Portfolio Leader for Automated Contact Center solutions, to get his expert thoughts on the role proactive engagement plays in the changing world of customer engagement.
LB: What are the key economic benefits that outbound dialing and proactive communications can provide to an organization?
DCM: As with most automated solutions, economic benefits can be found in cost containment and revenue generation. But, with today’s outbound solutions seamlessly integrating across the contact center to care for the holistic customer relationship, proactive communications drive customer satisfaction and ongoing revenue streams. Organizations need to be leveraging these solutions across long-term strategies made up of multiple integrated touch points versus one-time discrete contacts.
LB: That’s a great point, David. Regarding your comment on how being proactive drives ongoing CSAT and revenue streams, we did a study that showed 92 percent of customers expect advanced notification, and that 88 percent would rather spend money with companies that made it easy to do business with them.
You marry that together, and it’s clear that companies that are proactive in using customer data to offer up relevant new offers and service updates are more likely to capitalize on cross-sell opportunities and retain customers going forward. My next question is, how is the emergence of multimedia channels (SMS, live chat, automated chat, email) helping to drive cost, efficiency, CSAT or revenue up or down?
DCM: The power of multimedia channels is customer empowerment. We all carry devices that allow us as customers to choose how we want to interact and when. Where a customer is at [in] time and what they’re doing can affect whether they want to interact with the organization. Customer engagement drives the tone and success of the proactive communication.
Less-intrusive communication channels, like email and SMS, can be more effective in engaging the customer when their attention is somewhere else and when they want to control their responsiveness to the outbound communication. But, on the same note, a customer’s level of urgency may dictate their need to have instant response from a live agent, possibly using chat, video, or even voice. Customer empowerment is closely aligned with customer satisfaction.
LB: What are some key infrastructure considerations that organizations should be aware of when building their proactive communication strategy?
DCM: The technology’s ability to seamlessly integrate with internal and external endpoints such as point-of-sale, Web and mobile applications, loyalty programs, etc., whether internal or 3rd party, is key. Disparate data sources that become obsolete or blind to other real-time customer interactions shatters any level of customer confidence in that outbound communication. Remember that the customer doesn’t typically delineate between inbound and outbound, as it is all part of their engagement with the organization.
LB: What are some key process considerations that organizations should really be aware of when building their proactive communication strategy?
DCM: Organizations should consider the consistency of data across the contact center and throughout the enterprise. Customers see one organization that they are interacting with, but [oftentimes], the organization itself is disjointed in terms of sharing information across the enterprise. This segmentation undermines consistent management of customer data. While inbound customer interaction is driven by the customer, proactive communication is driven by the data it’s supplied. Poor data sets the foundation for poor outreach.
LB: What are some key organizational considerations to be aware of when building a proactive communication strategy?
DCM: Similar to ensuring processes for consistent data, the organization needs to build a consistent customer management strategy. The theme of enabling a seamless and complete customer journey should always be the primary focus. Even with what seems like a discrete activity such as collections, integrating all communication channels with consistent data will draw customers into recurring engagements.
Before reaching out to customers, organizations should leverage the data to understand such things as what is driving this proactive communication, what touch points has the customer had with the organization in the past, and on which channels that the customer prefers to be served.
LB: What can organizations do to make it easier for their outbound-focused agents to deliver the same quality of service as their inbound agents?
DCM: Training and access to reliable data. When an organization takes the lead in proactively engaging a customer, the organization has the responsibility to serve that customer intelligently. Agents must be trained to anticipate how the customer accepts the proactive engagement and to build a level of confidence with the customer, supported by authentic information, of course. With an integrated solution, the agents have access to this reliable data instead of legacy disparate databases.
LB: David, in your experience, what is a key takeaway organizations should consider when it comes to outbound dialing and proactive communications?
DCM: In today’s world of engagement, it is imperative for organizations to use accurate and timely data in driving proactive communications so as to ensure a level of customer confidence and satisfaction. Customers do not delineate between inbound and outbound communication. It’s all about seamless engagement with the organization when it comes to serving their needs and nurturing the relationship. When one of those interactions is supported by inaccurate or obsolete data, customer confidence and satisfaction is damaged.
Be sure to tune into our Feb 10 Get Smart customer webinar at 9AM PST | 12 noon EST on “The Economics of Proactive Engaging Customers”.