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?