Article : Preemptive Customer Service: Nip Costs Before They Even Bud
Under-used at best and often overlooked, preemptive customer service can go a long way in avoiding customer service costs instead of merely reducing them, a business imperative in a down economy. While there are some similarities between preemptive and proactive customer service, the central emphasis of the preemptive approach is cost avoidance. The article discusses six ways to preempt customer service costs through this approach, which turns traditional customer service cost control on its head, "nipping costs before they even bud"! These methods have saved many blue-chip companies millions of dollars, while enabling superior customer experiences.
1. Preemptive multichannel alerts
Preemptive alerts, based on triggers such as the steps of a customer service transaction or elapsed time, can help reduce incoming customer service requests. Unified, multichannel alerts are even more effective as they extend the reach of the notifications in a coordinated and consistent manner across channels. Examples include providing status alerts during the course of a mortgage application approval, sending alerts to home-owners on new government regulations and mortgage refinancing, and alerts of recommended prenatal activities to expecting mothers at various stages of their pregnancy.
A premier prescription services company provides unified alerts across email, voice, and SMS to notify members of the status of prescriptions and remind of them of refills, while making contextual promotional offers, based on the member’s zip code and purchase history in those alerts.
2. Preemptive web self-service
An obvious and cost-effective way to preempt customer service calls is to deliver highly effective web self-service. In order to maximize adoption, it is important to understand that customer queries come in all shapes and sizes—from simple informational questions to complex diagnostic or advice-seeking queries. Moreover, customers prefer different ways of looking for content, based on their information consumption styles. A "one size fits all" approach, where users are forced to scroll through FAQs or process hundreds of search hits, is a big deterrent to user adoption. For example, non-technical customers will do better with guided help, while tech-savvy customers may prefer to search. Providing multiple access methods (e.g., browse, guided help, etc., to complement FAQs and search) will tangibly increase adoption and preempt phone calls.
A leading GPS device producer was able to reduce phone agent workload by 66% and achieve significant cost savings through call deflection, enabled by guided-help self-service.
3. Escalation preemption
While deflection to self-service when customers are put on hold on the telephone is not uncommon, deflection to web self-service at the point of escalation to email or chat is under-used. A large warehouse chain in the US uses this approach to reduce incoming emails by 50% by presenting possible answers to customer queries as a second layer of "defense" right at the point of email escalation!
4. Field service and returns preemption
In the case of big-ticket items like household appliances, manufacturers can preempt unnecessary "truck rolls" or field visits through effective problem resolution by contact center agents and web self-service. The same approach can help preempt unwarranted product returns or exchanges through problem resolution in the contact center.
A premier home appliance manufacturer in the US preempts field service by using a guided-help knowledge management system to reduce unwarranted truck rolls, saving an average of $50M per year for the last eight years!
A leading European telecom company has reduced unwarranted handset exchanges by 38% through preemptive phone-based customer service by agents, armed with a guided-help knowledge management system.
Another telecom company uses remote device management for preemptive services such as remote configuration and installation of upgrades. Furthermore, the company’s contact center combines remote device management with a case-based reasoning tool to remotely interrogate handsets and then intelligently reason with the data to resolve customer problems at the first contact, preempting repeat calls.
5. Training preemption
Agent training is an expensive proposition since it increases downtime. Moreover, relentless product innovation and protean business formations driven by M&As, require more frequent agent training, driving up costs even further. A centralized multichannel knowledge base with a broad set of access methods to suit different agent learning styles preempts or at least reduces the need for training, while enforcing compliant customer interactions. A global bank was able to leverage such technology to reduce the agent training time needed to administer loans to small businesses, while cross-selling contextual offerings. The bank was able to not only cut training time from nine to two weeks, but also reduce Average Handle Times (AHT) by 67%!
6. "Social" preemption
Online social networks continue to experience rapid adoption, presenting a new opportunity for preemptive customer service. It is obvious that online forums can help preempt customer service calls. Savvy businesses have leveraged such networks to cost-effectively augment their own knowledge bases. For instance, a leading telecom company harvests "social knowledge" created by "power users" on third-party forums, deploying that knowledge with appropriate quality control for preemptive web self-service from its own site.
The pressure to reduce customer service costs is here to stay. Preemptive customer service is an overlooked approach that has helped best-in-class customer service organizations to take cost control and customer experience to new levels.
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About Anand Subramaniam:
Anand Subramaniam is SVP of Marketing for eGain. Prior to eGain, Anand served as an executive in corporate and product marketing, as well as product management and pre-sales roles at companies such as Oracle, Intel and Autodesk as well as startups.
About eGain Corporation:
eGain customer engagement solutions deliver digital transformation for leading brands – powered by virtual assistance, AI, knowledge, and analytics. Our comprehensive suite of applications help clients deliver memorable, digital-first customer experiences in an omnichannel world.
Published: Tuesday, June 2, 2009
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