Tag Archives: Forrester

proactive customer contact

Forrester: Proactive Customer Contact is Essential

Forrester has highlighted proactive customer contact on their list of top 2015 customer service trends. However, this isn’t the first year that the analyst firm has focused attention on this important issue.

In 2014, Forrester also emphasized that more customers expect to receive proactive outbound notifications. Yet, the firm’s research  revealed that just 29 percent of brands expected to invest in outbound technologies last year.

Another Forrester report from 2009 explained that brands can save money by implementing proactive outbound contact. The research notes that using multiple channels—including email and text—lets customers receive important messages on their preferred device.

Forrester highlighted three benefits of this approach:

  • Reaching Customers Quickly: Customers can promptly access messages from their device of choice.
  • Providing Proactive Contacts on Issues of Interest: Companies can use known customer preferences to provide messages on topics customers value.
  • Anticipating Customer Requirements: Brands can cut inbound support calls by proactively communicating relevant information to customers.

Brands who do use proactive outbound contact demonstrate that care about customers’ needs. This leads to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Proactive outbound contact offers many opportunities to brands. Here are three benefits companies can gain by implementing preemptive service notifications:

#1: Eliminate Costly Order Errors

Order issues can be high-visibility trouble spots for any brand. Why? Today’s customers have ready access to competitive purchase and pricing options. When customers do make a buying decision, customers have often done their homework. They expect to receive what they ordered when they want it. Any slowdowns can cause customers intense frustration and motivate them to cancel transactions and buy from a competitor.

They good news is companies can use proactive outbound contact to mitigate these issues. Quality order systems can detect when something is amiss with any order—which may be due to a customer input error or internal issues. These systems can alert skilled follow-up representatives and arm them with information to reach out to the customer to resolve the problem—right away.

Advanced outbound contact solutions give brands the power to fix order fallout when it happens. This can promote customer satisfaction. Another benefit: proactive contact can prevent wrong order data from leaking into other operational systems—which can cause costly downstream billing or inventory problems.

#2: Alert Customers to Service-Affecting Issues

Gone are the days of after-the-fact management of service issues. In the past, many brands responded to outages, down times or other service disruptions by staffing up their contact centers to field an influx of inbound calls.

Today, companies can rely on proactive, multichannel notifications to alert customers to known issues before they occur. Moreover, brands can respond promptly when unplanned issues arise by targeting informative alerts to the affected portion of their customer base.

#3: Cut Inbound Support Costs

Proactive notifications can reach people wherever they are, before they even know about a service-affecting issue. That means customers don’t need to make contact with a call center with questions or frustrations. As Forrester explains, “Outbound notifications deflect inbound calls, which reduce costs and boost consumer satisfaction and revenue.”

Forrester also predicts the continued proliferation of connected devices—with an estimated 50 billion in use by 2020. This will give companies even more opportunities to reach customers with information.

The Service and Revenue Opportunity

Cutting costs is always valuable. But Forrester, like many other thought leaders, advocate improving customer satisfaction for a healthy bottom line. In fact, Forrester claims that mere 10 percent uplift in a company’s customer experience CX score can add $1 billion in revenues for a company, in some scenarios.

Today’s brands know they must engage more deeply with and offer personalized interactions to their customers. Anticipating customer needs via proactive outbound contact is a logical next step. This empowers brands to move beyond traditional one-way outbound communications to an approach which lets customers feel the company has their best interests at heart.

Clearly, proactive outbound contact is key to  delivering exceptional quality service in the era of the empowered customer.

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We welcome your commentary and real-world stories about engaging customers via outbound contact.

  • Does your company deliver proactive notifications to customers?
  • Do you have any tangible or anecdotal insights on the success of proactive outbound contact?
  • What impact do preemptive service notifications have on your inbound support volumes?

Thank you for sharing your insights with us and our community.

Multichannel customer contact

Every Brand Needs Multichannel Customer Contact

The latest statistics reveal that nearly 90 percent of the population of North America uses the Internet. In addition, consumer research indicates an estimated 64 percent of North Americans accessed the Internet via a smart phone in 2014.

The message behind these numbers is clear. Companies must embrace multichannel customer contact today—or risk losing customers’ attention and loyalty.

As brands strive to improve customer experiences in 2015, upgrading multichannel outreach should be an area of focus.

Here are three practices your organization can adopt to put yourself at the head of the multichannel pack this year:

#1: Know Which Contact Channels Your Customers Prefer

Chances are, your customers communicate via multiple channels everyday. Some customer prefer to connect via email, while others prefer text, and still others like traditional voice. How do you know what your customers prefer?

The easiest way to get this data is to ask for it. If your customer makes contact with a service representative, you can use that interaction to collect or reaffirm channel preferences. You can also add a channel preference question to transaction screens.

Preference centers are other proven tools to collect customer data. You can include preference centers in your customer on-boarding processes. These tools empower customers to self-select how they wish to receive contact. As an added benefit, you can also collect high-value insight on product and service interests, demographic data, and much more.

Once you have collected contact channel data—use it. Adhering to your customers’ preferences lets them know that you listen and value their input. This cultivates positive sentiment and helps reinforce customer brand loyalty.

#2: Centralize Customer Contact Management Details

You must anticipate that your customers can and do shift channels rapidly. For example, a customer may start a self-service transaction on your website, but realize he needs more information. He may follow up with a customer service call or email—or even decide to visit a brick-and-mortar location.

Or, you may detect a need to reach-out to a customer—to confirm purchase details or validate a service need. That means you must provide up-to-date information on every customer interaction to your front-line employees.

Achieving this requires you to eliminate information silos that hamper exchange of information by your entire customer-facing team. You also need to take a close look at your processes and eliminate repetitive steps. That way you can avoid asking your customers for information multiple times, which is a common source of frustration.

A centralized approach gives you a clear advantages. You can provide the seamless, personalized experience your customer expects across multiple channels. This can be a solid differentiator in today’s service-drive competitive landscape.

#3: Deploy Proactive Multichannel Contact

Handing inbound contact is just one piece of the puzzle. According to Forrester, outbound contact has been a top-of-mind issue for customers and companies alike in recent years.

Brands should adopt proactive contact approaches to anticipate customer needs. They can combine recent customer contact data with insights from other solutions to deliver the right messages—such as an offer or link to an online tutorial—at the right time. This can eliminate steps in purchase processes and prevent inbound contact to support teams.

Another way to cut down on costly inbound contact is to notify customers of service-disrupting issues in advance. If you have a known downtime, letting customers know ahead of time can eliminate frustrating error messages.

Plus, you can respond immediately when the unexpected arises—such as network outages due to weather events. You can target relevant communications to affected segments of your customer population.

At the start of 2014, Forrester reported that just 29 percent of companies planned to invest in proactive contact solutions. That suggests that proactive notifications is a worthy area of focus for companies wishing to get ahead of an emerging trend.

Embracing the Multichannel Imperative

No doubt about it: 2015 is the year when brands must embrace multichannel customer contact. A recent Ovum study of over 8,000 global consumers affirmed this imperative.

The firm reported that 74 percent of consumers use a minimum of three channels when engaging with a company for customer service. Twenty-two percent (22%) of customers use five or more channels, while 52 percent use three or more.

Today’s brands need to know that the traditional voice channel is not going away. They need to strategize for an optimum mix of live voice, IVR, email, text, chat, mobile contact, and more—and deliver consistent experiences across all these touch points.

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We would love to hear your thoughts on this important topic.

  • Is your organization delivering multichannel contact to customers?
  • Do you have a capability to centralize up-to-date customer contact data for use by your entire front-line service team?
  • Have you adopted proactive outbound notifications and alerts to anticipate customer needs?

Please share your ideas in the space below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Order Verification: A Strategic Imperative

Order management is a complex process, which has a major impact on customer perceptions. Today’s brands must embrace automated order management capabilities to receive customer orders. However, to be a true service leader, you must move beyond generic order collection solutions to implement technologies to support customer order verification and confirmation steps. With these tools, you can catch order errors before bad order data feeds downstream billing and inventory systems—and before the wrong product or service is delivered to your end customer.

No doubt about it: in today’s hyper-competitive, customer-centric world, rock-solid order management is essential for success. Read on to learn about what separates today’s order management leaders from followers, get insights on essential features of next-generation ordering solutions, and understand how order verification can promote customer happiness.

Improving the Order-to-Cash Cycle

According to analyst firm, The Aberdeen Group, streamlining the “Order-to-Cash” (OTC) cycle is an important operational goal. If upfront order management is faulty, the impacts on the other steps in the OTC cycle—which include order fulfillment, payments/collection, and account reconciliation—are far reaching. By contrast, a solid order management approach allows brands to deliver products and services more quickly and fortifies customer relationships.

In their 2012 OTC Study, Aberdeen assessed self-reported order management performance across a range of brands. They grouped respondents into two categories: “Leaders,” or the top 30% based on performance and “Followers,” or the remaining 70%. Aberdeen’s research points out several key differences between these two groupings:

  • Order Exception Processing: On average Leaders report that 11.7% of their orders require some form of manual intervention to complete processing. For followers, this number jumps to 30.1%.
  • Order Exception Visibility: Sixty-eight percent (68%) of leaders have tools, which provide them real-time insight into order exceptions via problem type, customer, and other factors. Just 21% of Followers possess this capability.
  • Automated Order Workflows: Leaders are 39% more likely to have automated order workflows than followers. In addition, 63% of organizations still convert quotes to orders manually.

Together, these findings reveal that brands have significant opportunities to upgrade their order management capabilities. If you are still heavily reliant on manual intervention for order verification, you are not alone—but you have essential work to do.

Elements of Leading Order Management Solutions

According to research firm, Forrester, effective order management is fast becoming a strategic imperative to support today’s agile commerce expectations. Increasing globalization and customer expectations means that businesses of all sizes need multiple ordering channels and fulfillment centers. Forrester analyst Brian Walker detailed five essential capabilities of next-generation order management solutions:

  • Multiple Touch Points: Many companies take orders via the Internet. However, today’s brands must contend with an ever-widening array of ordering venues, including: smartphones, mobile apps, contact centers, mobile point-of-sale (POS) solutions, self-service kiosks, and more. Companies must have technologies to create a single order pipeline—and to evaluate the validity of customer orders—from data drawn from several channels.
  • Multiple Fulfillment Centers: Gone are the days of a single fulfillment node to handle all incoming customer orders. Smart brands need multiple sources for order fulfillment, including drop-shippers and stores. This reality underscores the need for accurate data for each order to keep the complex web of fulfillment sources operating effectively.
  • Inventory Visibility: Today’s tech-savvy customers often seek insight into product availability when placing orders. As a result, brands should look to make their inventories transparent to give customer the option of seeking out a product via a store or other location or choosing delivery.
  • Multiple Payment Options: As business globalizes, brands must accept multiple payment types and currencies.
  • Customer Self-Service: Order-related contacts are some of the most common types of customer communication. With the right technologies, brands can empower customers to place, track, edit, and cancel orders without any direct intervention by a customer service representative. This boosts customer satisfaction and facilitates greater contact center efficiency.

In addition, service leaders are not only letting customers place and manage orders, but also using technology for order verifications and confirmations. Today’s leaders employ tools to identify potential discrepancies in customer orders—such as a product number that does not synchronize to a product price—to trigger order verification routines.

Post-order outreach to a customer to validate their intent can prevent personal follow-up by your customer-facing employees. Moreover, this approach catches order errors before they spread into your downstream systems and create more complicated issues with billing, inventory, and other operational solutions.

Proactive Order Verification is an Essential to Customer Happiness

Today’s customers have high service expectations—and are apt to switch brand loyalty if those expectations go unmet. When customers place orders, they expect that they will get what they want in a timely and efficient way. A misstep in the process—even when due to a customer mistake—can lead to intense customer frustrations, abandoned transactions, and lingering negative sentiment.

By using today’s advanced contact management solutions to upgrade order verification processes, brands can mitigate these issues. Effective order verifications can help companies retain customers and contain costs stemming from manual follow-up and corrections to ordering and other downstream solutions.

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If you have insights or questions on order verification, please share your thoughts in the space below:

  • How have multichannel communications affected your ordering processes?
  • Are you seeing heightened customer demands for more streamlined ordering and fulfillment?
  • What steps have you taken to implement next-generation order management and verification capabilities in your operations?

We look forward to engaging with you on this important topic.

What Makes Customers Happy?

Retaining Customers in Today’s “Switching Economy”

Recent consumer research from Accenture revealed that customers are increasingly frustrated by the perceived poor levels of service they receive.

In 2013, the consulting firm’s annual Global Consumer Pulse Survey revealed that 51 percent of U.S. consumers switched service providers due to poor customer service experiences. That number jumped 5 percent from 2012. These compelling numbers motivated Accenture to label the current consumer environment “The Switching Economy.”

This research study affirmed that B2C companies must take action to improve customer experiences and stop churn—right now. Many consumer brands have taken a good first step and implemented post-interaction surveys. However, to maximize the value of these surveys, brands must accelerate analysis and have routines in place to respond to dips in customer satisfaction as soon as they occur.

Six Things that Make Customers Unhappy

As the Accenture study reports, there are several things, which consistently upset customers and trigger defections. Specifically, consumers get frustrated by:

  1. Contacting a company multiple times to address the same issue (91%)
  2. Being put on hold for lengthy periods (90%)
  3. Needing to repeat their questions or concerns to more than one representative (89%)
  4. Perceiving that a company does not make it easy to do business with them (85%)
  5. Noticing a difference between a company’s marketing promises and delivered products, services, or experiences (84%)
  6. Having inconsistent experiences across various channels (58%)

Moreover, 81 percent of respondents did report that companies could have done something different to retain their loyalty. Understanding these unwelcome behaviors and taking steps to remedy them can put you on a good path to improving customer experiences and keeping customers loyal.

However, best-in-class service providers know that customer satisfaction trends are in constant flux. You also need to survey customers regularly and act on their responses to keep tabs on the current state of the customer experiences your brand is delivering. Post-interaction surveys are the path to deeper insight.

Customer Surveys: Beyond the Fabled NPS Score

In recent years, the “Net Promoter Score,” widely known as NPS, has earned widespread hype as the ultimate customer satisfaction metric. NPS asks respondents use a one to 10 scale to answer a single question: “”How likely is it that you will recommend our company to a friend or colleague?”

However, analyst firm, Forrester has noted that there are several issues with relying on NPS alone:

  • Cultural Variances: The use of a one to 10 scale does not translate across all cultures. This makes NPS scoring less valid for firms with international or diverse customer bases.
  • Limited Motivator: Companies may find it challenging to motivate employees to raise NPS scores.
  • Questionable Correlation: Although NPS is supposed to tie to customer referrals or renewals, limited quantitative evidence exists to support this fact.

Despite its shortcomings, NPS can be a valid customer satisfaction measure, when coupled with other customer feedback. Forrester recommends adding Voice of the Customer (VoC) sentiment input to NPS data collection for robust, actionable insights into customers’ perceptions.

Adding Open-Ended Feedback for Honest Customer Insights

Today’s customer experience leaders know that quantitative surveys and metrics are just one source of information about customers. To understand customer’s true feeling about your business, you need to use open-ended sentiment survey questions to solicit high-value VoC feedback. With open-ended questions, you gain customers spoken-word perceptions, which give you context beyond customer satisfaction statistics.

However, you need to recognize the immense worth of customer’s open-ended comments. While some companies rely on computer-based analysis to review customer comments, this approach is shortsighted. Machine-based solutions can only analyze the words your customers speak—but leave a wealth of information unevaluated.

Speech analysis experts know you need to study communication nuances—including tone, word choice, volume, inflections, and more—to gain complete understanding of customers’ true sentiment. Sometimes, you may find that customers who speak affirming words about your company may be harboring hidden negative sentiment. The only way to uncover customers’ true feelings is through human sentiment that goes beyond machine-based survey evaluations.

Achieving Coordinated Following Up

As Accenture’s research proves, having a bad experience can prompt your customers to defect to competitors. Today, however, customers are also likely to share their perceptions on social media—and take their bad feelings public. In fact, consumer research revealed that 95 percent of customers who have had a poor experience tell someone about it, and are 45 percent share negative customer experiences on social media.

What does that mean? You need to move beyond aggregate reviews of NPS data and institute real-time reviews of post-interaction survey data. You also need plans and resources for coordinated follow up with unhappy customers before they defect or spread the word about their poor perceptions on social networks.

As a result, you need a centralized system that provides up-to-date statuses on all customer contacts to front-line employees across the enterprise. With the right tools, you can address customer questions and issues promptly and tackle some of the six things that often prompt customer concerns.

Scoring a “Thumbs Up” from Your Customers

In today’s customer-driven world, listening to customers and taking proactive steps to address customer feedback is an imperative. Focusing on customer satisfaction can help retain customers and solidify your revenues.

Those who don’t are primed to lose—and lose big. Accenture estimates that a potential $1.3 billion dollars in revenue will be in play due to customer’s shifting loyalties.

The time to implement tools and processes to capture, analyze, and act on customer feedback is now. You need to move beyond the comfort zone of periodic review of aggregate customer satisfaction scores and jump into the new world of real-time customer survey analysis.

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Engage with Us

If you are a service provider, we would love to learn more about your real-world experiences:

  • What do you see as the biggest challenges to keeping customers loyal in today’s switching economy?
  • How has your company’s approach to customer survey dissemination and analysis changed?
  • What are you doing to protect your brand in the era of the social customer?

We look forward to hearing from you.