The past several years have brought many exciting developments in client contact automation. One of the best of these is the appointment reminder, typically in the form of an email, text or automated call. The customer gets a phone call reminding them of an existing appointment. Sometimes they're given a simple step to take (a link to click or a number to call) if they need to cancel or reschedule.
This interactive communication is a great step toward creating a more efficient way to interact with your customers. But too many businesses miss how to use it as a jumping-off point for further automation, and thus overlook an important opportunity to increase customer engagement.
Missing Engagement Opportunities
Maybe you're a dentist's office, and you send out automated notifications to your customers every six months to let them know it's time to schedule an appointment. Great!
The notification itself isn't bad. But it is a missed opportunity, one to be taken advantage of for mutual benefit.
Consider taking the notification a step further. If you're sending an automated email, for instance, you might include a clickable link so the customer can schedule an appointment right then. Make it individualized, so the scheduling service recognizes the customer and what they're trying to do. You might also set up the system so it offers several possible times, with a preference toward the same day of the week or time of day. In other words, you would think from the customer's point of view and anticipate their needs.
When you streamline your process like this, you're making it easier for the customer to take the next step, which increases customer retention. You're benefiting both the customer and your organization — you get more business from the customer, and they get the product or service they need.
Further Applications to Boost Engagement
Appointment (re)scheduling is just one example of a situation where you can increase engagement. For instance, let's say you run a store, and your system is set up so customers receive an automatic notification if a part is out of stock. But don't let that be the last step in the process. Instead, you might prompt the customer with a link where they can purchase a comparable item that's in stock.
You can also use this to fill in gaps in your business' schedule. A clinic might send out an annual reminder about flu shots, for instance, and prompt people to schedule at times when doctors and nurses are free. In all of these examples, you're combining the automation with a thoughtful, human anticipation of your customers' needs to better guide your customers through the process of getting their needs met.
To apply these ideas, look at your automated systems that reach out to contact your customers. Mentally follow them to their conclusion. Is there any point where the customer isn't guided to the next step of the process - such as rescheduling a canceled appointment or choosing a different item to purchase? If so, that's a perfect place to add engagement.
Many businesses have the misconception that customers want to be happy above all things. While happiness is important, what's most important to customers is simplicity and convenience. In a time when customer brand loyalty is fickle at best, anything you can do to increase engagement and streamline your automated processes is vital to retaining existing customers. Going beyond passive notification to preemptively engage customers is a key way of accomplishing this.