Use Outbound to Start Conversations With Your Customers

Target

Use Outbound to Start Conversations With Your Customers

By Elaine Cascio, Vice President  |  April 09, 2013

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of CUSTOMER Magazine.

According to research sources, outbound customer service implementations are growing by leaps and bounds. From outbound calls for prescription refills to flight update notifications via text to Twitter and Facebook (News - Alert) outage updates, outbound can be a valuable tool no matter what your industry. And outbound doesn’t just help companies avoid costs, it can help them grow revenue. In the case of pharmacies, customers usually wait several days before refilling prescriptions. But calling customers one to two days before the expected renewal helps pharmacies recapture lost revenues.

If you’re considering deploying outbound channels for your contact center, here are a few tips for building your strategy.

If you don’t have lifecycle models, build them now.  

If you read this column regularly, you’ve heard me talk about the value of building customer lifecycles to improve the customer experience. For outbound, it’s critical to understand the key moments of truth that are triggers for outbound conversations and identify ways to meet your customers’ needs at these critical moments.

Formulate an opt-in strategy.

For many outbound communications, you’ll need customer agreement to have you contact them. It’s especially important if the contact involves personal information. Design a way to acquire permission for proactive contact – this may be part of a new customer welcome package or triggered by a visit to your website, a call to the contact center, or download of a mobile app. Opt-in also helps you understand the customer’s contact channel of choice for other communications.

Assess your channel options.

What outbound capabilities do you have available today – phone, web, mobile, social media, e-mail? Are you missing channels? Do you need to add capabilities (for example, you may have inbound IVR but need to add a module for outbound)? Understand that a conversation may cross several channels: An e-mail or text may contain a link to a website or a mobile app may turn into an inbound call. Are your customers able to move between channels seamlessly today or is it a challenge?

Map the outbound conversations you’ve identified to the appropriate channels.

Your lifecycle models help you understand where and when to reach out to customers. For each conversation, identify the data required and the business rules that will trigger the conversation. Define success and set up data gathering for your metrics.

Build the outbound applications and test with customers.

Use customer experience tools like personas and focus groups to help build customer friendly applications. Consider having customers opt in for a trial period and get their feedback before a general release. Use their feedback to refine your applications and as guidance for new applications.

Continue to monitor, measure and gather user feedback.

When you look at measuring success for outbound conversations, make sure that your measures are customer-centric, strategic, and make a difference in how the business operates. Make sure that you’re supporting enterprise-wide and customer contact goals. Areas to measure include: renewal or repurchase rates, satisfaction rates (including Net Promoter Scores), social media sentiment, reduced inbound contacts and increased revenue. Also continue to evaluate new opportunities for outbound proactive contact with customers.

 

Whether you’re already offering outbound or are inspired to get started, remember that it’s all part of your customer experience, so keep it branded, consistent and customer friendly. Good luck!

 

Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net), a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology. 


Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net), a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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