It's no secret that contact centers struggle to meet customer expectations and that customer satisfaction levels have been in decline. A key reason is that most customer interactions are based on inbound inquiries where agents must react in real time to problems, often without prior knowledge. This gives rise to a variety of challenges that ultimately drive down customer satisfaction ratings.
Upgrading the contact center to properly support flexible communication options for the customer will take time. The need for flexible omnichannel communications is a key reason why contact center as a service (CCaaS) is gaining traction. CCaaS allows contact centers of all sizes and types to offer additional communication options to their customers. However, this isn't the only thing contact centers can do to improve customer satisfaction.
Another approach to customer engagement—independent of managing inbound inquiries—is using outbound communications. Generic outbound notifications and marketing pushes have been in use for years, but today's technologies can enable a wide range of proactive messaging that is highly personal, delivering relevant information in a timely manner and via the mode preferred by each customer.
Aside from outbound notifications being an effective solution that contact centers can deploy to boost customer satisfaction, this also represents a business opportunity for service providers. Automated outbound notification can be offered by cloud service providers to enterprises as a turnkey service that doesn't require internal management or the use of agents.
Of course, contact centers can deploy agents for outbound messaging, but their time is usually better used handling inbound inquiries and high-priority outbound contacts. For contact centers looking to modernize their capabilities, a hosted outbound notification service could serve as a fairly easy entry point for a more extensive CCaaS deployment from their service provider in the future.
Two prime vertical markets benefiting from outbound notification messaging are healthcare and utilities, and to illustrate the value proposition, consider the following examples.
- Appointment reminders;
- Prescription renewal or pickup notifications;
- Home delivery announcements;
- Insurance claims processing status;
- Wellness alerts for flu shots, blood donor clinics, wellness visit scheduling, etc.; and
- Patient reminders for taking medications or performing in-home medical tests.
- Reminders for annual service calls, filter changes, etc.;
- Bill payment reminders and confirmations;
- Requests to update credit card auto-payment information;
- Status updates and restoration notifications during service outages;
- Seasonal energy conservation alerts;
- Promotional offers for new furnaces, water heaters, etc.;
- Notifications for warranty or service contract renewals/extensions; and
- Smart home alerts for using smart meters, off-peak energy pricing, etc.
When customers opt-in for these types of communications, they have value, not just because the information is timely and relevant, but also because it's welcome. In these cases, proactive outreach can improve customer satisfaction by anticipating needs specific to the customer. These notifications are driven by customer data, and an outbound notification application allows companies to leverage the service provider platform to tailor and personalize outbound notification requirements.
Perhaps equally important is the ability of the service provider to allow companies to deliver outbound messages via their preferred channels. Not only can companies specify their channels of choice (voice, email, text/SMS) but they can choose different channels for different types of notifications. This is a key aspect of personalizing the experience that makes the customer feel valued even though the notifications are automated.
For contact centers, this type of service offers a strong value proposition. First, they can gain a powerful new capability without needing to add new agents or infrastructure. In cases where agents are being used for outbound communications, headcount could even be reduced by automating certain outbound processes. Proactive outbound notifications can be leveraged for right party connect processes, where messages are delivered to determine that the correct contact has been reached and only when contacts acknowledge their availability are they connected to agents in the contact center.
Second, there is the financial impact to consider. For healthcare, insurance billings and payments can be optimized by ensuring patients keep their appointments and file their claims properly. Outbound notifications can be built into a number of wellness healthcare processes, such as verifying via the automated message the contact is available before delivering the message. For utilities, the impact can be two-fold, with cost savings coming in the form of energy conservation or by limiting the need to receive or call out to affected outage customers. Outbound notifications can also help generate new revenue from messaging about replacing equipment, extending warranties, and buying new products for improved energy management.
Third, by being proactive, these types of notifications can impact customer satisfaction in ways current inbound methods cannot. Since cloud-based services can be deployed quickly and the results can materialize in short order, it will have strategic business value, especially where customer satisfaction ratings are sensitive.
Finally, this type of service can be a low-risk proof point for CCaaS. Not only is this a significant opportunity for service providers, but moving to the cloud is emerging as the best option for contact centers to modernize and catch up to customer expectations. As much as enterprises want state-of-the-art contact centers, the investment can be prohibitive, plus the technology is evolving at apace where a premises-based infrastructure is difficult to justify.
Most enterprises aren't ready for a wholesale shift to CCaaS, but a proactive outbound notification service hosted by a service provider could be an ideal point of entry.
Jacki Tessmer is vice president of service provider and cloud strategy at Enghouse Interactive.