3 Steps to Pre-emptive Contact Center Service

In our last post on pre-emptive contact center services we made the case for… well, that.

Pre-emptive services mean lower costs, fewer calls and better service.

All good news. But here’s the big question you’re probably asking: how can my contact centre actually set that up?

That’s what we’re going to think about today.

In this post:

  • What is pre-emptive service?
  • How can a contact center create pre-emptive services?
  • How to get the data
  • How to share the data
  • How to make the data to work

What is pre-emptive service?

We covered this topic in detail before so this is just a brief overview.

Pre-emptive service is any action you take to prevent a problem rather than solve a problem.

For example: AT&T was getting a lot of calls from new customers who didn’t understand their first bill.

Their solution was to send new customers a link to a video. The video gave a quick overview of the bill, preventing thousands of calls per year.

That’s pre-emptive service.

How can a contact center create pre-emptive services?

Sending out a link to a video sounds very simple. 

But is it?

It could actually take a lot of work to reach that outcome. There are generally three steps you need to take to make pre-emptive service effective. 


newsletter banner

Step 1 – Get the right data

The first thing you’ll do is figure out why customers contact you.

Makes sense right? You can’t prevent problems that you don’t understand.

Your approach to doing this depends entirely on your approach to recording call drivers. If you use voice analytics, this is the time for them to shine.

Otherwise, you’ll need to dig into CRM records of call outcomes. Agents are also an invaluable source of insight because they know:

  • Which issues drive contact?
  • Which issues are very easy to resolve? (and therefore ‘presolve’)
  • Which issues are most frustrating for customers?

Surveying your agents on these issues will at least give you a starting point. If a certain kind of call sticks in their mind, it probably sticks in the customers’ minds too.

However – when you’re gathering this information, don’t expect to find single massive issues like AT&T’s confusing bill.

It’s far more likely that you’ll find lots of small opportunities to pre-empt customer queries.

(To be clear, that’s a good thing. The fact that AT&T got 10% of its call volume from a single issue probably indicates a flaw in their process. )

For example within contact centres – why are customers contacting you? Research by the Customer Contact Association found that between 25% and 40% of all calls to contact centres are either unnecessary or avoidable. 

The most common causes are customers chasing information about deliveries or updates on what is due to happen next. In many instances, customers make contact because they were unable to find what they need on an organisation’s website.’

Colin Hay, VP Sales at Puzzel UK

Step 2 – Share that data around

Here’s where a lot of businesses fall off the horse.

You can do a lot with the information you collect – but you will need help from other areas of the business.

Research from ICMI shows that, for one-third of contact centers, communication and collaboration with other teams is the single biggest challenge.  

That’s the exact challenge you’ll need to overcome.

Sticking with AT&T example; their inbound call center identified a problem with billing. Great! Did the contact center also commission the video explanation?

No. They collaborated with other teams to produce it because media production wasn’t their remit.

Here’s a simple fact: most of the problems you’re going to uncover don’t begin in the contact center. (They just end up there.)

There’s a lot you can do to build up better internal cooperation.  

Make regular, structured communication someone’s job means there’s a much better chance it will actually happen.

But one thing that should never be an obstacle is your own fear that other departments aren’t interested. 

Why not proceed with the good-faith assumption that other teams also want to make service easier and more affordable?

Companies are starting to use support automation to preemptively diagnose and fix issues with minimal human intervention. Preemptive service wins on all fronts: faster resolution at lower costs, deeply personalized engagements, better planning, and anticipation of future customer needs.’

Kate Legget, Vice President, Principal Analyst at Gartner


Step 3 – Put the data to work in your contact center

However strong your collaborations, the lion’s share of this work will remain with the contact center.

So what regular service situations can you pre-empt?

It’s a given that new customers will have set-up questions. Can you deliver the answers as a natural part of onboarding them?

What about the other end of their journey? When it’s time to renew, can you make staying easier and more compelling than leaving?

When it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily. Armed with this understanding, we can fundamentally change the emphasis of customer service interactions. Framing the service challenge in terms of making it easy for the customer can be highly illuminating, even liberating, especially for companies that have been struggling to delight.

Harvard Business Review 

The answer in every case is…  it depends. 

It depends on your ability to:

  1. Integrate your core systems. If there’s a new customer record in your CRM, does your outbound SMS service know about it? Or is it siloed?
  2. Automate across your core systems. It that SMS sent out without any manual intervention?

These are the challenges you have to resolve before you can reach pre-emptive service. After all, it’s only worth pre-empting issues if you can solve them at any scale. 

When it comes to integration, APIs are the call center technology of choice.  

Related Posts