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Making the Most of Proactive Alerts

Posted on  9 February 10  by 

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thunder storm over roadMy husband drives a Toyota included in the recall that gained widespread media attention in the last two weeks.  After hearing about the company’s solution (replacing the gas pedal), my husband quipped: “Too bad; I was hoping they’d give me a new car!”  Obviously an irrational expectation.  But, I bet Toyota customers have a range of expectations given the current scenario – ranging from the “just-get-it-fixed” mentality to my husband’s “give-me-a-new-car.”

And so Toyota’s current situation got me thinking – how can the service center be best positioned to mitigate customer frustration in situations like mass recalls or large process breaks? The short answer is “reduce customer effort”, but when you are faced with a large number of customers needing assistance, a good approach is often to get ahead of the curve with proactive service.

But, not all proactive service initiatives are created equal.  Here are three tips for an effective proactive outreach plan:

1. Sometimes companies err on the side of “more is better” when it comes to proactive alerts, but over-communication is not always the best strategy.  Customers can become numb to your messages if they are a constant presence.  If they only hear from you when it is REALLY important, customers are more likely to open the e-mail or listen to the voice message.

2. Messages should clearly state the problem—and a solution.  Customers will wonder if their product is involved, especially if the situation has gained media attention.  Two things to remember:

a) Communicate specifics about which products are involved to eliminate questions.

b) Clearly communicate a solution.  It’s not enough to say “your flight is cancelled”…the customer also wants to hear “we are re-booking you for a new flight at 11:30am.”  If you leave a customer hanging, that’s when the flood of calls comes to customer service.  Although messages need to be short, don’t be concise to the point of confusion.

3. Choices are usually a good thing.  For proactive service alerts, this means enabling customers to select how you communicate with them initally – through e-mail, phone, SMS, not at all? 

Once you activate your proactive alerts, customers likely appreciate the ability to select a channel for follow-up information (for example: “press one if you would like to receive another message when your account has received the credit”).  Follow-up messages can be just as important as the original message because they eliminate from the customer’s mind the lingering question, “did the problem actually get fixed?”

A product failure doesn’t have to be a disaster for customer service.  Handled proactively, companies can save customers a lot of effort.  In doing so, customers will appreciate the small gestures that made their lives easier.  Do you agree?  How have you handled recalls or other major product failures in your organizations?

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