Powering Proactive Service: It's All About the Data

Have you found your name on a Coca-Cola bottle yet? Not long ago, the beverage giant's Share a Coke campaign highlighted 750 of the country's most popular names on their beverage containers.

To stand out from the noise, modern marketing campaigns from companies, large and small, are seeking new ways to surprise and engage customers. By bringing them unexpected value and fostering emotional connections, companies are actively creating brand loyalty and customer evangelists.

At the service level, we interact with the same customers our marketing counterparts woo every day, but the hard truth is that simply solving their problems isn't enough to surprise and engage them. How can service borrow from marketing's playbook?

Proactive Service: The Welcome Intrusion

What always makes customers happy? Well-informed and personalized service underpinned by good data. With clean and connected data, agents can provide proactive service and take actions sooner. This is the service center's version of surprise and engage.

You might ask, "But won't we bother customers by reaching out to them unsolicited?" Research shows the opposite. Seventy-three percent of customers who received positive or pleasantly surprising incoming calls from service providers reported positive changes in their perceptions of those organizations.

But what qualifies as positive and proactive? A sales pitch thinly veiled as customer service does not qualify. There must be some immediate value to the customer. Notifying customers of a service disruption, sending the top new customer FAQs when they are most likely to need them, and acting on customer feedback (no matter the channel) are all good options.

These proactive service tactics might appear simple, but for many companies, bad data hinders effectiveness. For example, it's hard to notify customers about service outages if contact information is outdated or if it's unclear which service the customer is using. And while clean, connected data is certainly the answer, even the best companies struggle with data spoilage.

Don't Let Good Data Go Bad

Imagine this: A customer had a poor service interaction and is considering leaving negative feedback on a visible portal like Yelp. Then an agent contacts this customer with an up-sell or added-value offering based on data that isn't current. In this case, the incorrect assumption is that the customer is pleased with the previous service experience. The end result is that the customer will likely defect, leave the negative feedback, and even give the service agent an earful.

Good data goes bad faster than you think, but the consistent care and feeding of data can avoid these negative outcomes. To ensure the quality of service center data, the best companies invest in processes to continuously check data quality and alert managers to potential problems. Waiting for an external department to validate or enter data adds the unnecessary risk of scenarios like the above. Deploying internal self-service tools allows managers to customize data management by flagging incomplete case entries and incorporating human tasks into the workflow, like pausing automation to review, correct, and approve data quality.

Three Strategies to Improve Data Quality

Up-to-date, accessible data is key to achieving positive customer interactions, period. At Bluewolf we often find ourselves helping service centers create new data-governance programs to keep data quality high. Based on our experience, below are three strategies the best enterprises are using to build and maintain data standards:

  1. Limit agents' data-input choices. Data-validation rules for contact information, combined with required and unique fields, can help reduce incorrect information. On the technical side, ensure pick-list fields and look-ups are used in place of free text fields to help constrain input in a way that reduces error and simplifies entry.
  2. Use third-party data sources. Providing agents with a true 360-degree view of the customer is essential to the surprise-and-engage proactive service approach. However, phone numbers, email addresses, and billing addresses can become outdated in the blink of an eye. Using third-party data sources can verify or supplement existing public data, as well as provide up-to-date demographic data like age, gender, and income, reducing the burden of agent data entry that creates task resistance and costs valuable service time.
  3. Gamify desired behaviors. Agents will maintain the best quality data when it's easy to do so, but also when they're motivated by external factors. Incentivize service agents with game-like challenges and data quality will improve. For example, you might award points based on a contact record's completeness or for providing data in optional fields.

Once robust data-management structures are in place, service agents will trust the accuracy of customer data and can take steps toward offering customers proactive, more personalized service. And soon, your service center can begin to realize the same promise of its marketing counterparts: a surprising and satisfying customer experience.

Bob Furniss is customer care practice director at Bluewolf Group.