A May 2012 white paper from Ovum highlights the importance of proactive outbound contact and “how to reach out to customers in ways that delight them.” Its discourse and conclusions are very consistent with my experience implementing proactive notification systems at water, gas and electric utilities.

Proactive outbound contact delivers messages using a variety of methods including automated voice messages, emails, and text messages. Today’s outbound messaging differs from traditional auto-dialers because it can deliver highly specific messages that are relevant to your end customer. These systems can be setup to relay very detailed information to a specific customer group.

The white paper also emphasized the importance of a solid CRM database as well as the protocol necessary to determine contact points, communication channels, and what information gets disseminated. Additionally, it covers when outbound calls should be combined with an inbound IVR solution, so that customers who receive a call can use automation to interact directly with the database or can be routed to an agent for more detailed discussions.

Concluding that a well-crafted outbound notification program serves the best interests of both company and customer, the white paper also validates the fact that customers are very open to communications from companies with which they do business.

Although not specifically discussed in the white paper, utilities are ideal users of proactive outbound. A utility can use proactive notifications to make automated calls to all account holders with an overdue balance greater than 20 days or to those customers scheduled to be shut off in two days. These types of call-outs can be tremendous cost savers for utilities; thereby avoiding the expense and time delay of sending a late notice in the mail. Even more impressive? Customers actually value and appreciate the call, since it enables them to circumvent additional late fees or utility service shut-offs.