There is nothing more frustrating for consumers than having to contact a company or business about something they should have been notified about proactively. Product recalls, warranty issues, late payments resulting in fees, and basic questions about products and services are just a few examples. Adding insult to injury, when consumers call a company’s 800 number, they are often put into a long call queue, having to navigate endless and seemingly circular menu prompts, frequently arriving back at the beginning. Email messages are not much better as they are often not responded to for several days. Even one isolated incident of poor customer care can poison a consumer’s view of a company.

One root cause of the problem is that automation does not necessarily deliver a higher grade of customer care. Putting systems in place that only serve to take live bodies out of contact centers is not a panacea for practices, procedures and automation that improve customer care. More often, customers become frustrated and can then quickly become vocal and visible to wider audiences through the use of social media tools, such as Twitter.

Today, however, there is an alternative – proactive customer care, which unfortunately is not being embraced by enough companies. Instead of reducing headcount and quality of service, proactive customer care can deliver several benefits as a comprehensive, next-generation automation approach without compromising on service. Companies save on costs and develop their view of their customers, both in quantity and in understanding their preferences for future communications. Customers are now proactively notified, on their preferred communications channels, whenever a situation arises that they need to be aware of. Consumers can communicate with a customer care agent precisely when needed and in new ways, such as via mobile chat, thanks to the ubiquitous mobile phone.

How do companies get started and take advantage of these benefits? One way is to begin with small point solutions, versus full enterprise roll outs. Small efforts can be monitored and measured, and feedback and changes can be implemented quickly. Also, consider leveraging cloud-based solutions, which can minimize capital investments, reduce the time to implement and enable demand bursts, such as a retailer may experience during the holidays, new product introductions, or one-off event promotions. Once implemented, customers can be proactively contacted and satisfaction measured using a variety of tools, including customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys or net promoter score (NPS) surveys. These allow for a near immediate feedback loop for improving customer service, where customers are prompted at the time of their interaction with the company. With the proliferation of mobile phones, consumers have another channel at their disposal- mobile chat. Companies should consider the pervasive reach of the mobile SMS channel and the immediacy it brings to proactive customer care.

As with all solutions, there are best practices for effective rollout and sustainability over the long term. Companies that want to stay in their customers’ good graces must actively maintain a preference management database, a list of opt-outs and accounts for phone number deactivation. Companies should have a plan in the event of time sensitive outreach, such as product recalls, because preparedness is critical and proactive contact is appreciated by customers who aren’t necessarily asking for it, but are expecting it.

Proactive customer care can help build loyalty, provide competitive differentiation and create new revenue streams for companies. It is time to get proactive.