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Businesses Save Money Through Interactive Outreach To Customers, According to Forrester

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March 13, 2009

Businesses Save Money Through Interactive Outreach To Customers, According to Forrester

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor

Organizations seeking to reduce costs and improve customer service can do so by intelligently reaching out to customers through outbound notification: interactive voice messages, e-mail, and SMS, rather than relying on annoying one-way home phone ‘robocalls’.

A new report by Forrester Research “Proactive Outbound Notification Saves Money” and which is being publicized by SoundBite Communications discusses how the outbound notification market is evolving to address these new channels and consumer preferences.
These new means lead to savings on carrier, staffing, and infrastructure costs over live agent call handling. There are fewer incoming lines, decreased number of calls, and reduced long distance changes, along with fewer agents and support staff, and lower recruitment, training, and overhead costs. Rates range from $0.08 to $0.20 per message with SaaS (News - Alert) pricing and a small setup fee. In contrast other research indicates that live agent calls costs $5 per interaction.
The Forrester (News - Alert) report, written by Vice President and Principal Analyst Elizabeth Herrell says traditional outbound voice messaging services that typically send calls to home phones are no longer adequate. They have major limitations that include:
*          One-way communication, which prevents customers from responding easily, questioning the messages, or making changes to them. This restriction may generate more and expensive inbound calls to live agents
*          Confusion and miscommunication with unclear messages may lead to increased customer dissatisfaction when customers cannot respond
*          Single-channel use, what with many customers using multiple channels today. Also many people no longer use their home phones as their prime communication tool. Sources say increasing numbers of households have gone wireless-only
*          Lack of personalization, which leads to ignored messages, and wasted money
*          Lack of security, as anyone can listen to landline phone messages unless there is screening
Instead the new channels: e-mail, text, and mobile messaging, and smart use of and interactive voice messages have become preferred communication channels for many firms. These methods, which Forrester refers to as ‘interactive multichannel communications’, provide several benefits. These include:
*          Messages reaching customers quickly and in the methods they prefer: SMS, e-mail messages, mobile phones, smartphones, or landline phones. This increases customer satisfaction due to the timely receipt of the messages
*          Proactive contact with customers on matters of interest through customer opt-in. Customers react positively to companies that take a special interest in them and anticipate their needs. This results in better brand recognition and increased loyalty
Opt-in also has another key benefit: compliance with the new Federal Trade Commission regulations that take effect in September that require express written consent from customers before receiving pre-recorded marketing/sales messages. This can be done, said the report “at the same time they become customers and agree to the channel through which they want to receive relevant sales offers.”
*          Anticipating customer needs, which eliminates repetitive inbound calls on common topics by proactively providing customer information on changes or account updates
“Customers appreciate receiving timely information that indicates the company is looking out for their best interests,” said the report.
*          Alerting customers to special events, which helps predict customers’ interest and target promotions to generate new revenues. This supports marketing campaigns without the expense of other forms of expensive advertising.
 “Customer service managers find that interactive proactive communications improve customer satisfaction and add value with personalized messages to individual recipients,” says the report. “While these services are typically applied to collections and emergency notifications services, newer customer support and sales and marketing notifications offer greater potential for differentiating services and engaging customers. Anticipating customers’ needs before they have to make a call not only saves money in handling customer calls but also creates interest in special marketing offers and services that your customers find valuable.”
"Proactive customer communications is evolving to address how consumers communicate today-primarily via mobile devices,” adds Mark Friedman (News - Alert), chief marketing officer for SoundBite Communications. “This Forrester report provides objective information on proactive customer communications. It is an excellent resource for any organization that values their customer relationships and would like to evaluate whether their existing communications strategy can support individual consumer communications preferences.”

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tim Gray

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