SoundBite has been traveling the past two weeks to events focused on customer engagement. Last week I attended Frost and Sullivan’s Customer Contact West, where I had the chance to hear Don Peppers, founding partner at Peppers & Rogers Group, present the keynote, “Why Your Customers Don’t Trust You.” He stated that customers have become so numb to the influx of reactionary messaging that in order to make customers truly loyal, they require “proactive trustworthiness”, and the best way to achieve that is through transparent interactions. Additionally, moving from reactive to proactive communications was a theme at SoundBite’s workshop at Loyalty 360’s Engagement & Experience Expo this week.

Proactively communicating with your customers came immediately to mind when I received a Hurricane Sandy-related notification from Verizon on Sunday. They let me know that my Internet service may be affected by the storm’s high winds, and in the case of a power outage, they promised to do their best to restore service. They also empowered me with troubleshooting information for self-resolution.,. While it would be wonderful to never lose service, or to have a technician at my door within minutes, during times of extreme weather that isn’t realistic. I appreciated Verizon’s proactive outreach and honesty. I trusted they would do their best, and in return, I continue to give them my loyalty.

National Grid, an electric and gas utility that services the currently hurricane-hit east coast regions of New England and New York, has been communicating via multiple channels with its customers to keep them informed of outage updates. According to Ken Daly, President, National Grid New York, ”We want everyone to be safe during and after the storm, and we have been reaching out to customers to advise them how to do that.” They were ready to help customers with a toll-free line, online updates, social media, and a proactive text message. I opted-in for the text option because when my power and Internet router went out, mobile was the only source of communications I had.

Storm updates, power outages and service interruptions are always a source of heightened reactive response for utilities. Proactively reaching out to customers lets them know you are here for them, contacting them through multiple channels lets them know you care and are “with” them as well.