Proactive Service Becoming Ever More Vital A Tool For Brands
John Duffy shares the results of the second part of a major recent VoiceSage market research exercise concentrated on the growing importance of Proactive for contact centres
We recently conducted an in-depth market research exercise in partnership with one of the most important professional bodies in the marketing sector, the UK Contact Centre Forum.
The Contact Centre Forum surveyed over 150 practitioners in customer contact in a wide range of sectors, from the public to the private sector. The first part of this research examined the mechanics of customer contact, as well as the important aspect of personalisation, which market watchers like Gartner identify as more and more of a dominant factor in CX (Customer Experience) as a tool to win more business.
In the second part, the research looked at out how – if at all – organisations proactively contact customers. That’s the focus of discussion for this article, so let’s review what was discovered on this important issue.
Phone still important – but not as big a role for Proactive as other outreach?
The second part of the survey began by asking whether organisations proactively contacted their customers. Interestingly, the answer came back – most definitely: 75% said they were.
What’s the nature of these proactive outbound customer contacts? The research revealed that the most popular form of proactive service being used by practitioners was asking customers to rate their experiences of their products and/or services. The next most popular was conformation of an appointment/meeting, followed by a welcome given to a new customer.
And how is that proactive work being carried out – by what channel? Again, similar to the results achieved for the first part of the survey, the phone remains in pole position as a medium – and the most popular choice for anything proactive by 60.4% of organisations, followed by email (26.4%), post/letter (7.5%) and SMS (5.7%). While highly popular, it is notable that the phone was not as popular as a Proactive Service channel when asking respondents about the customer contact channel used in part one of the survey, where it came out at 75%, and email 18%. In any case, a very high proportion of brands that shared their experiences with us, 79%, were happy with the results, rating them either Effective or even Very Effective.
The research the looked at the response rates contact centres get from proactive contact via this communications channel and whether they are getting better or worse. While most – 66.3% – reported that they were ‘About the same’, a higher proportion, 31.7%, reported they were improving rather than getting worse (2.0%).
The growing role of SMS and Automated Voice
The research then looked at two emerging Proactive Service channels – SMS and Automated Voice. Just over half (51%) said yes, they’d used the former, and had been eager to – 72% of people said that they thought the use of text for proactive contact to be either Effective or Very Effective as a tool. And of all the people who’d used SMS as a Proactive Service tool, 29.8% believe the response rates that they were getting from SMS were getting Better or A Lot Better, while only 8.8% said that rates were getting Worse or A Lot Worse. Interestingly, 53% of people that don’t currently use SMS thought that, if they did, it would be Effective or Very Effective.
But what about Automated Voice as a way to deliver proactive customer contact? A fifth, 19.3%, said they had used the channel. However, 14.1% of people that don’t currently use Automated Voice thought that, if they did, it would be Effective or Very Effective. (This compares to 54.3% who thought it would be Ineffective or Very Ineffective.)
While the previous finding could be interpreted as a negative towards the use of Automated Voice, that wouldn’t be the right conclusion. Many of those who use it reveal that it does work, with 58.3% finding it Effective, while only 25% of organisations using it felt the response rates they receive are getting worse. Indeed, 75% say that response rates are getting Better or About the Same.
When it comes to what organisations think that customers prefer, the findings are definitive; the channel that stands out is SMS. While used by just 5.7% of organisations as their main Proactive Service communications channel, 10.7% of respondents think that it is the channel that customers most prefer. When asked why, 38.7% said it was because, ‘It is an efficient communications channel’, 36.6% because, ‘It delivers the best customer experience’, and 35.6% because ‘It enables people to give rapid answers’.
If that’s what customers want, which communications channel delivers the best results for the business? The data is unambiguous – again, it’s SMS. While used by a minority, 5.7%, as their main Proactive Service communications channel, a significantly higher 11.9% of respondents agree SMS is the channel that delivers the best results for their organisations.
Why? 43.9% of people said that it delivers the best results because, ‘It delivers the best customer experience’, 37.8% because ‘It is an efficient communications channel’ and 32.6% because ‘It enables people to give rapid answers’.
What are the real benefits of Proactive to the brand?
Will it save money going proactive? The sample seems to agree, as the vast majority of people responding to the survey – 86.7% – think that Proactive Service will save customers having to make future inbound contacts to their organisations. Nearly half believe that Proactive Service will save customers having to make an additional inbound call to their organisation about a customer incident; 44.1% say it will save two contacts, and 7.1% say it will save three or more contacts – potentially equating to millions of pounds saved each year for large customer contact operations.
When organisations that don’t currently conduct Proactive Service were asked how its introduction could benefit them, 61.1% thought it could be great as a way to rate their experiences of their products, 44.4% said it would be really easy using it to confirm an appointment/meeting and 33.3% liked the idea of using it as way to welcome a new customer.
This clearly indicates a massive untapped marketplace for Proactive Service technology and huge benefits for consumers. It also points to untapped potential for SMS; respondents not currently involved in Proactive Service showed the same strong preference for Proactive Service via SMS when asked what channel would work best for their organisation (37.1% stated SMS compared with 31.4% for phone and 17.1% for email).
Finally, organisations that don’t currently conduct Proactive Service were asked if it would save customers having to make additional inbound contacts into their organisations. A very high 70.6% believed that it would, with a further 20.6% saying that it may save future contacts. And while agents can only handle a single phone-based interaction at a time, our respondents reported that their agents can, on average, handle many more by not using the phone – four by SMS and Twitter interactions, and more like five with social media and OTT (LinkedIn and What’sApp) interactions.
In conclusion, there’s clearly a great deal of potential here for both Proactive, and SMS as a way to deliver it. What do you think?
You can download the full research report and the conclusions John is discussing by visiting here.