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Article : Consumers Have Adapted to the 21st Century—Shouldn’t Your Customer Service Do the Same?
By Scot Harris
The other day, I had to fax a document to a company. None of the other alternatives such as scanning and emailing the document or using a digital signature were acceptable. As I stood listening to the screeches and whirs of the machine while it desperately tried to communicate with the other fax machine, I felt like I was traveling back to the 1990s. The experience prompted me to wonder, "How many companies today still view their 21st century customer service interactions through a 20th century lens?"
In the not-so-distant 20th century, consumers initiated customer service interactions. Companies focused on answering questions, resolving complaints, or assisting with product setup. Twenty-first-century customers, however, are increasingly expecting personalized attention and proactive customer service that assures them their patronage is important to the company.
In a 2010 Forrester survey of consumers who had used telephone customer service in the past 12 months, 80 percent of respondents indicated an interest in receiving proactive communications from cable and telecommunications companies. Respondents expressed interest in receiving proactive notifications related to past-due account balances, confirmation of payment, account modification, and even reminders for service appointments. Other proactive communications included warning customers of approaching usage limits and offering loyalty packages or other service enhancements to reduce churn and improve customer satisfaction.
When implemented properly, customer service enterprises can create a better service experience by addressing customer concerns up front before a customer contacts them. Proactive notifications can transform a contact center from reactive to proactive and improve the customer experience by contacting customers in their preferred channel with an automated, personalized dialogue.
The best proactive notification solutions today employ a flexible framework to support different communications methods and/or channels. These can include multichannel notification capabilities, the ability to bridge inbound speech self-service or a live agent, and tightly integrated CRM or business management systems. Companies that add intelligence to their outbound communications tailor messages that are relevant to a specific customer, time, and place – further personalizing the customer experience.
While improving customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are very important, proactive customer service also helps businesses in three other important ways. First, proactive customer service helps you gain a competitive advantage by actively managing relationships with your customers; second, it helps you generate additional revenue by optimizing the utilization of agents and controlling outbound communications; and third, it contains costs by helping you proactively acquire new customers or cross-sell to existing customers.
The fax machine may be with us for some time yet to come, but technology is definitely changing consumer expectations about customer service and helping businesses evolve their service experience with proactive communications that help them stay at least one step ahead.
What artifacts of 20th century customer service still frustrate you today?
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About Scot Harris:
Scot Harris is a senior director of market strategy in Convergys Customer Management business, responsible for the Communications vertical.
Convergys delivers consistent, quality customer experiences in 58 languages and from more than 150 locations around the globe. We partner with our clients to improve customer loyalty, reduce costs, and generate revenue through an extensive portfolio of capabilities, including customer care, analytics, tech support, collections, home agent, and end-to-end selling. We are committed to delighting our clients and their customers, delivering value to our shareholders, and creating opportunities for our talented, caring employees, 130,000-strong in 33 countries around the world.
Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2011