Proactive customer service increases publisher revenues, subscriber retention


We live in a world where 24/7 self-service is the norm and customers can obtain “instant service” with the click of a mouse.

Even though customers have been empowered to “manage” their relationships with most businesses – including news media companies – there is still an opportunity for proactive customer service to not only delight customers, but provide news media companies with measurable financial benefits.

Below are several examples of proactive customer service delivering a win-win for customers and media organisations.

Anticipating delivery problems: In recent weeks, the southeast United States experienced a once-in-a-decade winter storm with ice, snow, and more ice, impacting travel as well as newspaper delivery.

Weather forecasters provided advance notice of the storm, which helped keep people off the roads, but left newspaper circulation staffs across the region with the challenge of managing subscribers’ expectations.

Todd Benz, circulation director of The Times-News in Burlington, North Carolina, is originally from Wisconsin (no stranger to snow). He knew that facing a major snow and ice storm in a community without adequate snow removal equipment was going to present a challenge for newspaper delivery.

Just two weeks earlier, a similar storm had hit the region and led to significant delivery issues. While there was nothing Todd could do about the pending weather, he did take the initiative to reach out to current subscribers via e-mail to let them know his staff was doing everything they could to safely deliver their newspapers.

The proactive communications as the storm began helped manage subscribers’ expectations, provided access to the newspaper’s online offering, and reduced the number of delivery complaint calls received by the newspaper.

Proactive customer service paid off by reducing customer complaints and freeing up available staff to deal with delivery issues.

Managing auto-pay credit card expiration dates: The good news is that  media companies have recognised the benefits provided by subscription auto-payment: higher retention and lower re-marketing costs.

The bad news is credit cards used for auto-payment expire over time, often creating a lapse in revenue while a new credit card or updated credit card expiration date is obtained from auto-pay subscribers.

Media organisations are using available information – credit card expiration dates – to automate e-mail communications with auto-pay subscribers.

The month before an auto-pay subscriber’s credit card expires, the subscriber receives an e-mail requesting the updated credit card information. If the credit card information has not been updated by the first day of the credit card expiration date month, a follow-up e-mail is sent requesting the updated information.

As a result of this strategy, the number of lapsed credit cards is significantly reduced, improving retention and eliminating delays in circulation revenue. Proactive customer contact prevents an interruption of delivery service for subscribers, while providing media organisations with fewer interruptions in circulation revenue.

Renewing classified advertising: Advertising staff members at The Blade, in Toledo, Ohio, United States, have plenty of time-sensitive tasks to do each day, but thankfully renewing classified ads is not at the top of their list.

Classified ad representatives at The Blade attempt to collect an e-mail address with each ad placed for the purpose of managing customer relationships.

Using available information – ad end date, ad category, ad rep – an e-mail is automatically sent to advertisers one or two days prior to a classified ad expiring, providing customers with the option to renew their ad with or without changes.

As a result, the number of ads renewed has increased along with the average value of an ad renewed. Proactive customer service that reaches out to customers in advance of their ad expiring makes it easier for advertisers to work with The Blade. At the same time, it increases ad renewals and ad renewal value.

In our self-service world, there are still opportunities for proactive customer service to anticipate customer needs and provide solutions that improve customer experience and satisfaction.

Customers benefit from timely proactive service, while news media companies benefit through cost savings, revenue retention, and revenue increases.

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