Setting Out On A Proactive Engagement Journey – VoiceSage’s John Duffy looks at how the proactive journey can be started
Today, I’d like to discuss the insights we gleaned from a roundtable discussion between front-line contact centre practitioners on how brands are making progress on the concept of proactive engagement.
The roundtable debate was hostedin central London in the Summer, and brought together senior UK customer contact practitioners from several sectors including manufacturing, newspaper publishing, IT services and financial services consultancy.
And what did we learn? The discussion revealed that practitioners are all too aware that they need to become more proactive – but don’t feel they have enough knowledge to get over the challenges they believe are present in efficiently connecting users.
Even more strikingly, many of the participants said that a proactive approach was starting to happen in Marketing, but that the all-important service side of the customer relationship was proving to be a bigger hurdle.
Despite the challenges, they are open to the idea of new technology, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and channels such as social media, helping them get there – and although organisations saw the value of proactive engagement, they were not going to adopt it at any price.
Therefore it needs to be a progressive approach, evolving within the means of the business.
What’s holding UK brand back from getting more proactive?
What are the issues that are blocking practitioners? For some, it’s a difficult thing to prioritise and decide which channels people like to communicate on (often text) to get the results they want.
Many also found it a headache to encourage customers to engage with them, they confessed.
For example, one financial services professional said that due to compliance reasons her firm needs to send out information to a large number of businesses. Currently, she said, this is done via paper or email: to move to a real-time mechanism would require extra teams of contact centre staff, which he firm says it can’t afford.
To make it work, technology would have to provide an answer. Such a technology would have to be powerful enough to link all the elements of the customer journey together quickly and easily.
Does this solution exist? This is a difficult one to answer, and as so many organisations are inextricably bonded to paper-based way of working, this doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
Proactive first steps
What is the difference between offering proactive versus self-service? A good question and one that is being discussed at length in the market, we found.
Practitioners know that providing online solutions and tools like FAQs can be a real aid to active users when it comes to the idea of proactively dealing with customer problems before they become a real issue. Others are adamant that proactive is a great way of managing exceptions, looking at the problems of customers and addressing them on a less critical level to make sure they go away satisfied.
Chatbots are very much a topic of interest, but there is a serious debate about when is the right time to add an AI/chatbot element to service channels. Some are confident that chatbots are ready to handle routine queries, while others still see their use as limited, we were told.
Whatever solution is adopted, there’s one clear conclusion – it has to be simple. Contact centre leaders say it has to be as easy as possible for customers to communicate with brands in order to engage them properly.
A Proactive future?
Summing up, our delegates are all aware of the benefits that proactive engagement can bring, and they are all laying the foundations – but they all agree there is still a long way to go for the UK contact centre sector.
One of the biggest challenges when embarking on their proactive journey is in re-designing their processes from the customer point of view – so instead of regarding the customer as a number of channels that need to be unified, they need to look at their proactive engagement strategy as a whole, with the customer having the power to communicate through their chosen channel.
For our roundtable, it’s only then will Proactive achieve its goal in retaining and acquiring new customers and building brand loyalty, it seems. Do you agree?
John Duffy is Enterprise Consultant at proactive customer engagement specialist VoiceSage