Appointment reminders can cut patient no-shows

Reversing the Patient No-Show Trend

Healthcare is an expensive business. One preventable factor that often drives up costs for physicians and patients alike is appointment no-shows.

According to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the average practice experiences a 5-7% patient no-show rate. This can translate to thousands to millions of dollars of lost annual revenue—depending on the size of the practice.

If you manage a medical practice, you need to take steps to cut your no-show rate and stop unnecessary revenue drain. There are several proven ways you can reverse your missed appointment trend.

1. Automate Appointment Reminders

A key study published in the American Journal of Medicine (AJOM) validated that automated appointment reminder phone calls can sharply cut a practice’s patient no-show rate. In the study, the no-show rate for patients who received no pre-appointment reminder was 23.1%. Placing an automated reminder call three days before the scheduled visit dropped the patient no-show rate to 17.3%.

2. Use Same-Day Appointment Reminders

Although the AJOM study confirmed the benefit of automated reminders, the resulting patient no-show rate was still extremely high. That could be because the three-day pre-apointment notification was too far in advance. One way to shrink your no-show rate even further is to institute same-day reminders to connect with patients on the day of their appointments. You can choose to confirm with everyone on the day’s schedule or just reach out to those with whom you have not made contact.

3. Institute a Confirm or Auto-Reschedule Policy

Some practices may find benefit in requiring appointment confirmations from customers. If you go this route, you may also implement an automatic reschedule policy if you have not heard from patients within a specified time window before the appointment. While this may not work for every appointment, this approach may have value for appointments for certain lengthy procedures which can book up significant time on a physician’s schedule.

4. Adopt a Multi-Channel Approach

Reaching out to patients via phone has long been an industry standard practice. However, the proliferation of new communications options has motivated many practices to explore a multi-channel approach. This aligns well with emerging patient preferences. In one patient poll, 65% of respondents indicated that they would like to receive appointment reminders via email. That study also revealed that patients would appreciate proactive notifications via email and text to schedule preventative care appointments.

Other studies have validated that using text can benefit more than just your daily appointment schedule. Using texts can improve appointment adherence. They can also can help patients with chronic conditions—such as HIV/AIDS or diabetes—keep up with medication and treatment regimens.

5. Collect and Use Patient Communications Preferences

If you adopt multi-channel contact, you should ask patients their preferred method to receive communications from your practice—phone, text, or email. You also be sure to follow their preferences as often as possible. This shows that you value their time and input. However, if you are facing a potential missed appointment or have another critical need to contact a patient, you can use other channels to make contact in an effective way—especially if prior contact attempts via preferred channels have failed.

6. Know Your Patients’ Contact History and Patterns

The right technology can do more than just send out generic appointment reminders to patients. It can also keep track of contact attempts and whether or not they were successful in engaging patients. Building on this data, smart technology solutions can understand best times to reach out to increase the likelihood of contact.

7. Understand Which Patients are More Likely to Miss Appointments

Studies conducted across multiple medical specialties have revealed that certain categories of patients are more likely to miss appointments. Those groups include:

  • Patients who are younger than 35 years of age
  • Patients with an outstanding account balance with your practice
  • Patients who have a scheduled routine, annual exam, or non-urgent visit
  • Patients of low socioeconomic status

In addition, studies have also revealed that patient no-show rates tend to spike during the first and last weeks of each month. Patient cash-flow issues could be the root cause of this issue.

By knowing which types of patients have the greatest no-show risk, you can tailor communications and reminder practices to reach these patients.

Lowering Patient No-Shows with Appointment Reminders

Adopting a proactive, multi-channel appointment reminder strategy is an imperative for any medical practice wishing to cut costs and improve its bottom line. While other alternatives—such as patient no-show fees, double booking, or terminating patients from the practice—do exist, these can be cumbersome to administer and decrease your practice’s positive perception and goodwill in your community.

Smart medical practitioners are recognizing the strategic and economic value of high-quality appointment reminders.

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If you are in the business of healthcare, we would value your thoughts on this important industry topic. Respond to one of our questions or offer your own thoughts in the space below:

  • Does your practice experience a higher or lower no-show rate than the 5-7% industry standard noted by MGMA?
  • What approaches do you use to handle patient no-shows?
  • How do you issue pre-appointment reminders to patients?

We look forward to your input.

4 Reasons Why NPS Isn’t a Silver Bullet

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) earned widespread acclaim as an essential measure of customer satisfaction. In fact, some companies use NPS as the one and only barometer of customer experience.

Part of the appeal of NPS is its simplicity. It aims to measure customer loyalty based on a single question: “how likely is it that you will recommend this product to a friend or colleague?” Responses range from 0 for (not likely) to 10 (extremely likely).  NPS scoring groups respondents into three categories:

  • Those giving a score of 0 to 6 are “detractors”
  • Those giving a score of 7 to 8 are “passives”
  • Those giving a score of 9 to 10 are “promoters”

While NPS has some merit, it does not tell a full story about customer experiences.

NPS can provide an aggregate picture of how well a company is relating to its customers. However, the NPS approach does nothing to address the “detractors”—a potentially volatile group of unhappy customers who can quickly take their negative impressions online. Moreover, NPS does not help a company distinguish which detractors are at the greatest risk of churning.

Smart brands need to understand the limitations of NPS and look for additional ways to collect actionable customer insight.

#1: The NPS Question Doesn’t Always Apply

Although billed as a “one size fits all” solution, NPS doesn’t work for every market product, or situation. In fact, in his 2003 Harvard Business Review article, NPS creator Frederick Reichheld affirms the “would recommend” question isn’t effective in every industry.

In some cases, asking a customer if he or she would refer a product or service to another person is simply not relevant. For example, in B2B purchase situations, the individual who completes the transaction may not have buying authority. Moreover, the “would recommend” question has little merit in monopolies, where customers have very limited choice.

Other consumer research valiates that the NPS “willingness to recommend” (WTR) metric is a valid predictor of customer behavior in some industries, but one of the worst measures in other industries.

In one study, WTR had little relevance to predicting future retail customer behavior. Asking customers a different question—what share of their next 10 shopping visits they expected to dedicate to a specific brand—was a better predictor of future customer visits and purchases. This underscores that NPS does not apply across all customers, products, and markets.

#2: NPS Lacks Precision

Although NPS respondents have 11 possible answer choices, scoring lumps them into three broad categories—promoters, passives, and detractors. Companies have no way of distinguishing meaning within these segments. They have no tools to predict whether a detractor who gives a score of “0” will behave differently from a detractor who answers “6.”

Often, companies who use NPS tie aggregate NPS scores to organization-wide business results, such as revenue, sales volume, and market share. Such macro-level analysis can have value. However, in today’s economy, paying close attention to individual customer’s feedback, loyalty, and behavior is growing in importance.

#3: NPS Can Yield the Same Score in Varied Scenarios

To calculate NPS, companies can subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. This approach, while simple, can lead to calculating the same NPS score in multiple scenarios.

For example, a company with 50% promoters and 40% detractors would have an NPS of 10. However, that score would also occur when a company had 10% of its customers as promoters and 0% detractors. Despite achieving the same score, the brand should respond very differently to those case scenarios to bolster customer loyalty.

#4: NPS May Not Capture the Full Expression of Customer Experience

Consumer research suggests that many companies who use NPS may experience inflated scores. The reason: satisfied customers are traditionally more likely to respond to surveys.

Moreover, the NPS question is worded in a positive and leading way. The phrasing assumes that respondents are at least somewhat likely to recommend a product or service to others. Also, analysts note that the 0-10 scale may not have relevance in all cultures, which makes NPS less useful for multinational organizations.

Another limitation to NPS: it is, by nature, a closed-ended survey. This approaches forces respondents to fit their perceptions into a specific category, when their feelings may be more open-ended. This suggests NPS could fade in importance as companies turn to collection of Voice of the Customer (VoC) input.

Moving Beyond NPS

Ultimately, NPS can provide a snapshot of a company’s performance with its customers. Having a high NPS score can create a perception among management teams that a company is delivering good quality customer service. However, NPS provides no insight beyond a raw score.

Today’s brands must angle to retain customers in an economy where switching loyalties is the norm. That means they need to expand their approaches to customer feedback collection and analysis—and pay careful attention to the difficult “detractor” customer segment.

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If you have experience with NPS, we would love to hear from you. Answer one of our questions or add your own insights in the space below:

  • Does your organization use NPS scoring to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty?
  • What do you perceive as the benefits and limitations of NPS?
    What other techniques do you use to collect actionable customer feedback?

We appreciate your input and look forward to your ideas.

Addressing Latent Customer Dissatisfaction

Every time you handle a customer concern, you should know that many of your customers are harboring negative feelings—but not saying a word.

In fact, data from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs validated that there are 26 unhappy customers for each one who registers a formal concern. That means you likely hear from less than 5% of your dissatisfied customers.

Your brand has a significant amount of hidden negative sentiment that needs your attention. If you don’t focus on your the most volatile and vulnerable segment of your customer base—your slightly to moderately dissatisfied customers—the consequences can cause far-reaching damage.

This group of customers can share negative feelings via word-of-mouth and dissuade others from trying out your products or services. Or, one vocal complainer can incite an online groundswell of negative feedback and motivate other unhappy customers to lend their voices.

All it takes is one poor customer experience to put your brand at risk for large-scale defections and a loss of public reputation. As today’s brands angle to provide better customer experiences, focusing on latent customer dissatisfaction is a clear imperative.

Here are four things you need to know to address hidden negative sentiment:

1. Understand that Traditional Feedback Channels May Not Identify All Dissatisfied Customers

How do you know when a customer is unhappy? One obvious way is when a customer posts a concern on a social network or logs an online review. You can also glean insights from real-time analysis of post-interaction surveys.

But all of those scenarios fit into the small minority of complaints you do hear about.

Ironically, research suggests that many latently dissatisfied customers indicate that they are at least somewhat satisfied on quantitative customer surveys. That implies that closed-ended survey formats—with their yes/no and multiple choice response sets—may not tell you all you need to know.

2. Listen to What Your Customers Do Say

A good way to detect more dissatisfied customers is to include open-ended survey questions. Specifically, capturing customer spoken verbatims gives you potential for much deeper insight into perceptions and feelings about your brand.

Many companies are starting to realize the potential power of open-ended survey questions. In a recent study, the Temkin Group determined that brands will be ceasing their over-reliance on multiple choice survey questions and increasing collection of customer verbatims over the next three years..

Of course, collecting data is just a first step. Only analysis can reveal all-important customer insights. And only human sentiment analysis can assess the many nuances of of human communication.

Any customer can leave feedback on an experience or suggestion for improvement that seems positive on the surface. However, listening to their tone, voice volume, and other subtleties can let you know that a customer who speaks good words truly falls into the latent dissatisfaction category.

3. Know the Risks of Customer Defections

Customer sentiment insights can help you clarify which latently dissatisfied customers are at the greatest risk of defection. You can combine sentiment analysis with other customer data—such as spending trends, and engagement metrics—to define characteristics of likely to defect customers.

Using this data, you can construct a unique dissatisfaction-to-defection model for your brand. You can then define customized treatment and resolution strategies for varied customer segments. This approach can help you prioritize actions to mitigate risks of customer churn.

4. Use Customer Insights to Refine Operations and Strategies

Once you can identify latent negative sentiment, you must make good use of this high-value information. You may need to reach out to individual customers with reassuring messages, promotions, and other engagement opportunities to bolster their loyalty.

Alternatively, you may discern larger-scale trends that require your attention. Maybe you’ll find that specific product messages are not aligned with actual customer purchase and use experiences. Maybe you’ll find certain teams or regions are not delivering the best quality customer experiences. You can apply what you learn from your sentiment analysis to define opportunities for improvement or target training and coaching to your front-line teams.

Advancing Your Customer Dissatisfaction Management Practices

2015 promises to be a big year for companies who want to be leaders in the era of the empowered customer. Most brands know they need to deliver better customer experiences or risk losing customers to competitors.

However, you need to take fast action to move beyond generic data collection techniques. You must adopt advanced analytical approaches to identify and manage dissatisfied customers—especially the ones below the radar.

The potential payoff is huge. Organizations who effectively handle customer concerns are more likely to retain and inspire goodwill those customers. And happy customers are always the best advocates for your brand.

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Have insights to share on this topic? We would love to hear from you. Feel free to answer one of our questions or offer your own ideas:

  • Is your brand embracing the trend towards open-ended survey questions?
  • What do you do with the freeform comments and customer verbatims you do collect?
  • How do you apply customer learnings to refine front-line contact approaches?

We look forward to your input.

Field service

Field Service Customers Have High Expectations

Field service has tremendous power to make or break customer experiences. Organizations with field service components need insight on large-scale trends and shifts in customer needs and perceptions.

Emerging information from The Service Council (TSC) field service research study is a must-read for any service-centric brand interested in improving customer experiences. As of this writing, TSC is still taking survey input from organizations with in-house or outsourced field service groups.

Top Areas of Complaint by Field Service Customers

As customer demands for higher levels of service grows, field service teams must take heed of their customers’ top pain points. A significant number of customers—up to 90% in one recent year—switch brand loyalties after a poor service experience. That means field service operations need strategies to address emerging customer dissatisfaction issues.

1.  First Visit Issue Resolution

Traditionally, first-time fix has been a chief interest and area of complaint for field service customers. This is consistent with cross-industry research from Accenture. The consulting firm’s 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Research Study revealed that 72% of consumers who switched brand preferences would stay loyal to a brand who resolved their concerns on the first attempt.

Failure to resolve issues on the first visit is emerging as the #1 source of complaint in TSC’s 2014 survey. However, in prior years’ research, lack of first time fix has outpaced other customer dissatisfaction causes by a wide margin. Not so in 2014.

Does this mean service providers are getting better at first-visit issue resolution? No. This year’s first-time fix rate is consistent with last years. However, more customers are seeing success via self-service channels, which eliminates needs for on-site technician dispatches.

2. Service Visit Experience

Today’s customers desire more control over their experiences when a field service rep visits. This is reflected in several of their other top areas of concern. TSC’s findings show that nearly 1/3 of respondents said their customer complaints tie to concerns that the wait for an appointment was too long. Another 25% of respondents indicated that complaints arise from customers’ perceptions that they lack visibility into agent status. The length of appointment windows is another area provoking concern—with 22% of respondents noting complaints tied to this factor.

3. Service Costs

As TSC reports, the cost of service is becoming a key area of concern for customers. Approximately 30% of survey respondents noted that customers had registered cost complaints. According to TSC, many customer complaints arise from non-contract service and repair charges. Customers may perceive that they are not receiving value above and beyond standard service visits, yet are being asked to pay more. They may also question why their service provider is instituting cost-saving practices and not passing savings along to the customer.

Taking Charge of the Field Service Experience

Today’s field service operations have an unprecedented opportunity to use technology to take control of the customer experience. Effective, integrated customer contact strategies can empower your company to achieve shortening appointment windows and give customers greater insight into appointment statuses.

A key first step to tightening appointment windows is tying your contact management solution to your workforce management system. This allows you to provide real-time updates on customer statuses to your technicians in the field. If you can’t reach a customer or if a customer needs to cancel at the last minute, you can convey this information to your field service rep and allow him or her to move to the next pending appointment.

Another effective practice field service leaders employ is day-of-job customer contact. One-way appointment reminders 24 to 48 hours in advance are often not adequate for organizations which need to make dynamic adjustments to their daily dispatch schedule. You can institute day-of-job contacts to connect with every customer or just those who have not yet confirmed their appointments.

Service leaders also often implement automatic cancellations for unconfirmed customers. With this approach, you can issue a series of communications alerting your customers that their appointments will automatically cancel if they do not contact you to confirm. In addition, you can give your customers flexibility to self-cancel and reschedule. This lets you cut back on wasted trips an eliminate visits to customers who do not require service.

Opportunities for Innovation

As your customers rely on mobile devices as their key information portals, you can innovate communications approaches with your customers on-the-go. You can send them day-of-job confirmation notices and alerts about their pending appointments to give them the empowered customer experiences they expect. As an added benefit, you can manage your field service techs more effectively an dispatch with precision.

With the right technologies and smart contact strategies, you can address some of the chief sources of customer dissatisfaction and emerge as a field service leader in your industry.

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If your organization has a field service component, we would love to learn more about your experiences

  • Are your customer concerns consistent with the current TSC findings?
  • What steps have you taking to address customer experiences?
  • What emerging innovations do you see as game-changers in field service?

We look forward to hearing from you. Share your thoughts below.

Sentiment Analysis Can Reveal Silent Complaints

Today’s brands grapple with an ever-increasing proliferation of customer comments online. However, customer experience leaders know that feedback customers provide is only the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” in a sea of customer sentiment.

In a 2014 research study, CX Act revealed that more than half of people do tell others about customer contact experiences. However, the vast majority—85%—share their customer service stories in person. By contrast, just 22% of people post information about customer experiences on social media.

These findings suggest that many dissatisfied customers may not alert your organization about their concerns. Instead, those individuals make silent complaints to friends and family.

What does this mean for your brand?

Your company must anticipate that silent pockets of negative sentiment likely exist in your customer base. You need tools to identify and remedy those hidden concerns before they surface. Customer sentiment surveys are key resources in your quest to identify and manage silent complaints.

Collecting Customer Feedback

Many companies use surveys to collect and measure customer perceptions. Some companies still rely primarily on large-scale annual satisfaction surveys. However, post-interaction surveys—which allow companies to gauge individual customer experiences—are enjoying wide adoption.

Many post-interaction surveys rely heavily on closed-ended questions. These questions—which can solicit “yes/no” or numerical scale responses—certainly have value. However, the do very little to reveal customers’ true feelings about a specific experience or overall brand impression.

For a more well-rounded approach, your brand should include opportunities for customers to leave open-ended feedback. This can take the form of free-form text comments on a written survey. If you use a voice-response survey, you can let your customers leave thoughts in their own words. More and more organizations are recognizing the value of such Voice of the Customer (VoC) input.

Surveys aren’t the only way to receive VoC data. Other VoC sources include focus groups, inbound calls, and social media. However, surveys are highly valued by senior managers. In fact, a study from Maritz Research revealed that executives are far most likely to review VoC data from customers surveys—including transactional, relationship, and benchmarking surveys—than other sources.

VoC data sources used by senior management
Source: Maritz Research, October 2012

 

Recent research from the Temkin Group validates that brands are primed to make investments in VoC. More than 45% of firms plan to increase VoC program spending in the near-term, while just 5% expect to cut VoC spending. In addition, the Temkin study revealed that the vast majority of enterprises see positive results from their VoC efforts. However, most firms are not taking action or making business changes based on the insights they gain from VoC.

Discerning Meaning behind the Metrics

At present, many enterprises are lagging in moving from VoC data collection to action. One reason for this trend may be that companies lack the analysis approaches they need to gain high-value insight from their VoC data.

As companies look for ways to assess volumes of VoC input, computer-based analysis seems like a logical choice. However, service leaders know that raw analysis of words provided in free-form comments has its limitations.

Those companies who use voice surveys have a rich opportunity to gain deep understanding into the minds and feelings of their customers. The only way to achieve these insights is to use human-rated sentiment analysis. Technology tools can evaluate words, but only human beings can discern the true meaning behind customers’ statements.

With human-rated sentiment analysis, you may find that customers who give you good scores or speak good words about your brand may harbor negative feelings. A skilled sentiment analyst has in-depth knowledge of the subtleties of human communication and can evaluate nuances—such as word choice, tone, voice volume, and more—to uncover a speakers’ true feelings.

This approach can help single out individuals who may not overtly complain, but may be inclined to share negative word-of-mouth perceptions about your brand. Once you’ve identified that a person may be making “silent complaints,” you can identify remediation strategies. You may need to reach out to that customer to gain input about their perceptions, offer personalized discounts or incentives, or use other tactics to shift their feelings.

Moving from Collection to Action

If you are one of the many firms who needs to do more with the customer survey data you collect, you are not alone. As brands prioritize their 2015 VoC spending, they need to recognize that a reliance on machine-based analysis of VoC input may not yield the results they need.

Adding human-rated sentiment analysis is essential to gain true insight into customer perceptions. Human sentiment analysts can identify those customers who are likely to make “silent complaints” and empower you to keep those negative feelings out of the public eye. This is a must-do to protect your brand in today’s era of the social, vocal, empowered customer.

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We know that customer experience is a top-of-mind issue for every company today. Share your insights on these and other topics in the space below:

  • Do you have a process for spotting customers who may be harboring hidden negative sentiment about your brand?
  • Are you one of the many companies planning to increase VoC spending in the coming years?
  • How do you plan to move from collecting VoC input to using this high-value data to drive improved customer experiences?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Customers Stay Loyal, Spend More

Most of us intuitively recognize when we receive a great customer experience—or a poor one. But a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article tackled the question on every business leaders mind. How does the intangible feeling of customer experience affect revenue?

In the HBR-published study investigators analyzed data from transactional and subscription-based businesses. These two business models have different revenue-generation focuses. A transactional business relies on repeat customers, frequent returns, and amount spent per visit. By contrast, subscription-based businesses count on renewals, cross-selling and up-selling.

Despite their varied approaches to generating revenue, researchers found a direct link between past customer experience and future spend.

  • Transaction-Based Businesses: Research revealed that customers who gave the best experience scores spent 140% more than those who had the poorest experiences.
  • Subscription-Based Businesses: Results demonstrated that those with the poorest experiences were only 43% likely to renew, while those with the best experiences were 74% of remaining members.

Clearly, delivering good customer experiences delivers measurable financial returns.

The Cost of Poor Customer Experience

In the past, some firms argued that customer experience management was an expensive proposition. After all, unhappy customers tend to require more support and return more goods then others. Untangling these difficult situations seems like a waste of energy.

However, dissatisfied customers can damage your ability to retain existing customers and attract new ones. According to the White House office of Consumer Affairs, a single unhappy customer tells an average of nine to 15 people about their poor experience. Also, 13% tell more than 20 people about their dissatisfaction.

Today, your customers are more likely to use the Internet to voice their concerns. According to analysis from Dimensional Research, 45% share negative experiences on social media and 35% post negative online reviews. Moreover, 86% of respondents in the same study said negative online feedback influenced their buying decisions.

The bottom line: a single unhappy customer can drive away tens to hundreds of prospective customers. Multiple that one dissatisfied customer by one hundred or one thousand. Think of all the potential lost revenue.

Do You Know Who Your Unhappy Customers Are?

One way to discern who has had poor customer experiences is to see which customers post negative thoughts on social media or leave bad reviews online. However, by then, the damage is done and salvaging the relationship may be difficult. And others’ impressions have likely been tainted by this negative sentiment.

There is a better way.

Implementing a post-interaction survey program is an imperative for today’s businesses. You can capture immediate feedback to learn if your front-line representative interacted effectively with your customer. If your customer registers a negative feedback score, you can take immediate corrective action. This can include reaching out to the affected customer and providing corrective training or feedback to the front-line employee who delivered the poor experience.

The key is moving from large-scale customer satisfaction trend analysis to real-time alerting of negative survey responses.

Moving from Data Collection to Action

A lot of companies are collecting customer survey data—including free-form text comments. However, many have work to do to move from collection to action.

According to Voice of the Customer (VoC) maturity analysis from the Temkin Group, 41% of surveyed companies merely collect data and 39% perform some analysis. Only 11% have achieved the highest two levels of VoC maturity—and those companies do more with their customer insights, have stronger executive support for customer experience programs, and achieve better business performance overall.

Those aiming to deliver best-in-class customer experiences need to focus on robust, real-time survey analytics.

Putting it All Together

Dated thinking that limited spending on customer experience management is shifting. Now, business leaders know they need systems and processes to help them deliver the levels of service excellence customers expect.

Those that make smart moves sooner—by taking prompt, strategic action to address customer feedback—have an unprecedented opportunity to get ahead of the competition. The rewards will be tangible and financial.

It’s a proven fact: Happier customers = loyal customers = more revenue.

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Please contribute your thoughts on this high-value topic. Answer one of the questions below or add your own ideas:

  • Do you have any evidence—anecdotal or quantifiable—to show how customer experience and financial performance tie together in your company?
  • Are you prepared to move from collecting survey data to in-depth analysis?
  • How do you help mitigate negative customer perceptions before they hit social networks or online review sites?

We look forward to your insights.

Service Outage Alert

Why You Need Service Outage Alerts

Many service providers experience both planned and unplanned service outages. Some companies can plan and schedule needed down times to minimize services disruptions. Still, other disruptions happen unexpectedly.

Companies—such as utilities or communications providers—who deliver vital services to other businesses and consumers need robust customer contact solutions. With the right technologies, service providers can give customers advance notice of known service-impacting issues. Plus, these firms can also implement rapid customer outreach when unexpected down times occur.

How Service Disruptions Can Affect Your Customers

Service outages can have wide-reaching effects on other companies—and on their customers. For example, a power disruption can shut down other companies service providers’ information networks—and inhibit their ability to meet their customer demands. Recent research revealed that 80% of companies lose revenue when a network goes down. On average, those companies lost $140,000 per network incident, with financial firms losing an average of $540,000.

Other data from global consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) stated that more than one-third of companies take more than one day to recover from a significant outage. One in ten companies require more than a week to recover from an outage scenario.

The takeaways:

  • A single disruption of vital services—such as electricity or communications connectivity—can create a negative ripple effect which damages other businesses and affects their customers.
  • Advanced notification of service-affecting issues is an imperative for any provider serving a business community.

Handling Outages: The Old Way vs. The Better Way

In the past, most companies took an “after-the-fact” approach to managing unexpected service issues. The typical response was adding more front-line support representatives to respond to a flood of inbound calls from customers.

Obviously, this approach caused a spike in personnel costs, which added to the expense of managing an unplanned outage. Moreover, this practice created the potential of customers perceiving the company as reactive and inattentive to their concerns.

However, your customers have huge service demands. They expect to be able to get what they want when they want it. For that reason, you have to keep your customers informed of any service-affecting outage—including something as simple as a brief website downtime.

Today’s service providers have an unprecedented opportunity to handle difficult outage scenarios much more effectively.  Here are a few steps you can take to improve customer communications about service-affecting issues:

  • Use Customers’ Communications Preferences to Alert them to Known Issues: The ideal way to reach out to customers is to use the communications channel they prefer. Ask your customers how they want to be contacted—whether by email, SMS, and/or IVR. Use those channels to let them know of any issues which could affect services in advance. This approach demonstrates to customers that you listen to their preferences and value their time.
  • Communicate Promptly When the Unexpected Happens: With a robust and scalable contact management approach, you can deliver messages to all or part of your customer base very quickly. You can employ channel preferences and past customer contact history to maximize reach rates and keep your customers informed. Moreover, you can use advanced voice mail detection solutions to ensure delivery of complete messages so that your customers receive the vital information they need.
  • Reroute Service Outage Questions Automatically: The right approach can help you minimize inbound call volumes and cut the burden on your front-line teams. You can automatically route any calls related to a service outage to IVR so that your customers get the information they need without having to speak to a service representative.

Without question, service-centric businesses need to plan for the unexpected. A solid communications approach coupled with knowledge of customer preferences and advanced contact technologies is key to managing service outages effectively.

Anticipating The Customer of the Future—Today

If you think customers have expectations today—just wait a few years. The Customers 2020 study by Walker revealed that customer experience is fast overtaking product and service quality as the #1 brand differentiator. In addition, the customer of the future will expect brands to anticipate their needs and deliver personalized information and experiences.

All these factors underscore why proactive service notifications are essential. The brands who heighten their focus on customer experiences will be tomorrow’s winners—and the rest risk falling by the wayside.

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If you have questions or thoughts about how businesses can accelerate their customer contact and service notification strategies, please share them with us. You can address these questions or offer your own insights:

  • How does your brand handle service-affecting issues?
  • Do you have a strategy for both known and unknown service-affecting issues?
  • Can you segment your customer contacts to send targeted messages to specific audiences to mitigate outage consequences?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Dissatisfied Customers Can Spawn a Media Crisis

In today’s connected world, social media has made every brand vulnerable to a media crisis. A single negative comment by a customer or detractor can quickly go viral and cause deep and lasting reputation damage.

In fact, a recent study indicated that 50% of companies have experienced some type of media crisis, and 80% of companies do see the potential risk of a social media crisis. Moreover, research from Alitmeter has shown that 75% of social media crises could have been diminished or averted if companies had been better prepared to handle them.

What does this mean?

Your company must mitigate the risks of social media disaster by having a plan to combat negative customer sentiment when it surfaces. You need to understand the big picture about how an online crisis can damage your brand and the benefits of strong negative sentiment management. You also need a plan in place to avoid social media disaster due to poor customer sentiment.

An Online Media Crisis Can Damage Your Brand

Avoiding or managing a social sentiment crisis is an imperative for today’s brands. Recent research from Burson-Marsteller shows that companies that experienced a crisis experienced negative impacts across many dimensions. For example:

  • 32% experienced a revenue drop
  • 24% experienced cutbacks or layoffs
  • 18% experienced a reputation damage
  • 12% experienced heightened social media scrutiny

Moreover, academic research underscores that a brand’s response to a crisis has a measurable impact on financial results. A Stanford graduate school study revealed that companies that take responsibility for negative issues outperform those who do not by 15% to 19%.

These statistics reinforce that addressing negative sentiment isn’t just a nice idea. It’s a strategic imperative.

The good news is that managing a negative situation well can create reputation uplift. If negative sentiment surfaces, your brand can work to fortify relationships with affected customers. You can take targeted steps to reach out to your customers behind-the-scenes—via the communications channels they use to reach you—and help transform a negative experience into a positive one. By responding with authenticity and compassion online, you can demonstrate a commitment to positive customer experiences and potentially grow your engaged audience.

Keeping Negative Sentiment Out of the Public Eye

It’s a well-known fact that customers are more likely to share poor experiences than positive ones. However, you can mitigate the dissemination of word-of-mouth negative sentiment by making better use of the tools you likely already have—customer surveys.

Many brands have a sentiment survey mechanism in place for customer feedback capture after every interaction. Today’s customers can provide immediate feedback via phone, text, web, or email. However, far too many brands are still aggregating sentiment data at periodic levels for management review. By the time those reviews happen, brand damage may have already occurred and global customer sentiment may have shifted in a new direction.

The only way to get an accurate read on customer perceptions is via real-time customer survey analysis. Advanced technology tools can give you an up-to-the minute pulse on customer sentiment trends. Moreover, you can also get alerts to notify you when a customer has left a poor survey response as soon as it occurs. That gives you a much better chance of taking corrective steps to prevent negative perceptions from leaking out on to the social web.

Although every scenario is different, your negative sentiment resolution plan should include an expectation that you will need to reach out to dissatisfied customers several times to restore their trust. Results from the Edelman Trust Barometer study shows that 64% of  people need to receive a reassuring message three to five times to overcome skepticism.

This means that you need technology that lets you keep data on centralized customer interactions with your at-risk customers. That way, every front line employee—from the contact center to a physical location—can have the latest information on customer interactions.

Preparing for the Inevitable

It’s easy to avoid thinking about dissatisfied customers and potential media crises. But smart companies know that dealing with this difficult territory is vital to brand protection. In the past, nearly all business communications were one way, which gave brands more message control. Today’s customers and social influencers can participate in shaping, reinforcing, or even undermining your messages.

Research from Burson-Marsteller shows that the most crisis-ready companies have a rock-solid planning approach. Fifty-nine percent evaluate multiple scenarios that could trigger a crisis, while 57% have pre-established mitigation steps and 53% percent conduct proactive issue monitoring. By taking a strategic approach to evaluating and acting on negative customer sentiment, you can be one of the winners in this difficult terrain.

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Engage with Us

If you have experience or insight in dissatisfied customer and social negative sentiment management we would love to hear from you:

  • Has your brand experienced any threats or crises due to online sharing of negative customer sentiment?
  • Do you have a plan to handle negative customer perceptions when they surface?
  • How do you deliver multiple follow-up messages to customers to help rebuild their confidence in your brand after a poor experience?

Share your thoughts in the space below. We look forward to connecting with you.