By Tyler Weaver, Director of Sales
A well-trained, well-staffed contact center is an important step in making a good first impression with your customers, but it’s not the only way nor the most cost-effective. With a strong proactive communication strategy, you can answer questions, create exceptional customer experiences (CX) and address four factors increasing call volume at your business.
You have several multi-channel notification options when it comes to getting proactive, but the three biggest opportunities are short message service (SMS), voice and email messages. Each of these give you the chance to reach customers on a device that is, according to Gartner, already in the pocket of 89 percent of adults in mature markets: a smartphone.
SMS — also known as text messaging — in particular is increasingly popular and is becoming the primary way for organizations to engage customers with smartphones. Order tracking, appointment reminders, account confirmations and more are all possible through texting. That makes it a great way to connect with 5.5 billion active SMS users around the world, Gartner estimates.
With that in mind, here’s how all three channels — texting, voice and email — can be used to proactively address four major factors increasing call volume for many businesses.
1. Emergency Response
Before Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, a nationwide pharmacy realized the storm’s potential to become one of the most damaging natural events in U.S. history. After Harvey grew to a Category 4 storm, the pharmacy sent 238,000 voice and text messages over the next 24 hours to customers at 128 Texas stores, urging them to refill their prescriptions before the stores were forced to close. Read more about what this pharmacy did to prepare customers before disaster struck.
Storms like this frequently cause problems for companies in the utility and insurance industries. But even with short notice, a single message can help customers prepare for the worst and vastly improve the customer experience.
Imagine a hail storm that damages hundreds of homes. Suddenly, the insurance provider’s call center will be flooded with claim requests. By sending a proactive message during or immediately following the storm, the provider can direct customers to a self-service option or begin answering common questions.
But storms can continue increasing call volume even after the event is over. In this case, the insurance provider should continue sending proactive notifications until the claim is resolved to keep customers informed and to continually manage the interaction.
“Hello, this is ABC Insurance calling. As our valued policyholder, we’re here to help you repair any hail damage caused last night to your home or vehicle. To open a claim, please visit ABCInsurance.com/Claims. If you have questions, please call or text our claims department at 1-800-555-0123. Thank you for choosing ABC Insurance. To hear this message again, press ‘1.’ ”
“Our adjuster has finished inspections and estimates vehicle repairs of $3,000. Please visit ABCInsurance.com/Partners to find a certified repair shop near you.”
Other factors are easier to predict — if you know how to predict customer behavior. A managed proactive communication provider can use business intelligence and analytics to predict when increasing call volume is likely. For many industries, this may revolve around seasonality.
Business isn’t a consistent venture. There are natural booms and busts that bring fluctuating amounts of both revenue and call expenses. In retail, booms are often seen during holidays and big sales.
In these cases, customers usually just have a simple question. “When does the sale start?” “What’s your return policy?” “Will my order be here in time for Christmas?” These questions are increasing call volume but provide little value to your business. Sending a text message answers common questions and introduces customers to the opportunity to continue using SMS as their channel of choice.
“Doors open at 5 a.m. for our Black Friday Sale. Go to FranksHomeImprovement.com for a list of sale items and terms and conditions.”
“The doors open at 5 a.m. Friday, so make sure you know what you’re looking for before getting to the store. Check out all the deals in our gift catalog.
And don’t worry about buying the wrong size shirt or model of hand drill. Shop with confidence knowing your friends and family can make an exchange for any item in the store at sale price. We’ll see you tomorrow!”
3. Poor Notification Strategy
Recently, I was traveling in San Francisco. A few hours before I was scheduled to head home, I got a text saying the flight had been canceled. So I picked up the phone and called the airline, called another airline and called our corporate travel manager to get something lined up at the last minute.
That text was a notification, but it was hardly proactive. The airline could have easily considered the next step. Obviously, I would be interested in catching another flight, so they could have changed my ticket or offered another flight option. Instead, they paid to send the notification and actually drove me to call their contact center. That’s not cost-efficient or providing enjoyable CX. With a little strategy, it could have been a completely different experience.
Often times, your own processes can be increasing call volume. If you’re not considering what your customers actually want or if you’re not personalizing messages with customer data, you’re missing an opportunity to predict intent and ultimately provide that “wow” experience.
“WEATHER ALERT: Your flight has been canceled. We’ve rebooked you on Flight NE216 with a 4:35PM departure. Reply ACCEPT to confirm or CHANGE for another option.”
“Hello, this is XYZ Airlines. Due to inclement weather in Denver, your 3 p.m. flight out of San Francisco International Airport has been canceled. We’ve rebooked you on Flight NE216 with a 4:35 p.m. departure time. Please press ‘1’ to confirm this booking or press ‘2’ to speak with an agent. Thank you for flying XYZ Airlines. To hear this message again, please press ‘9.’ ”
4. Business Success
Not all factors that may be increasing call volume are bad. Consider an upstart automotive shop. Unlike a utility, for example, its customers are not perpetual. They only become paying customers when their vehicles need repairs. Every couple years, a customer walks in for repairs and calls to make payments over the phone.
As the shop becomes more successful and builds its reputation, it attracts more customers in this mold. Suddenly, these infrequent callers add up — as do call center costs. While there is clearly something to celebrate, the right proactive communication strategy can still reduce call volume.
Step one is collecting customer preferences when a customer calls or walks through the door. Many may prefer to be contacted by text message, but you have to ask them to opt in first. Second, send a payment reminder via text and collect mobile payments. A financial institution partnered with West to collect payments from SMS messages and increased on-time payments by 93 percent.
“REMINDER: Your payment of $112.35 is due to Hometown Auto on 8/10. Reply PAY to pay this bill in full. Text BALANCE to see the balance of your account.”
“Thank you for trusting Hometown Auto with your automotive needs. Your payment of $112.35 is due on August 10.
Click here to pay your bill online, set up recurring payments or view the balance of your account. And feel free to call or text us at 800-555-0123. Safe driving!”
For more examples of proactive messaging, check out our blog post explaining how to communicate during emergencies. Or contact us at 800.841.9000 to learn how a managed notifications provider can help your business.
Businesses can’t afford to wait for customer calls anymore. They can’t afford the increasing call volume or the poor CX. Taking a proactive approach is the key to reducing operational costs while simultaneously creating an experience that will turn loyal customers into brand advocates.
Tyler has been a director of sales with West Corporation since January 2017. He works closely with companies of all sizes — with a specialization in the insurance industry — to improve customer experience by incorporating advanced technology solutions into their communication infrastructure. Tyler collaborates with clients to ensure they have the right tools to interact with customers, proactively communicate, empower self-service and create truly memorable cross-channel experiences.