Customer service is an important business topic. Companies that do it well often see great success. Companies that don't… Well, they don't usually stick around for long.
Proactive customer success has become a hot topic in recent years. In this article, we'll look at what proactive customer success is, why it's beneficial, and how to implement it for your company — with examples! Let's get started...
Proactive Customer Service: A Definition
Proactive customer service is the act of helping customers resolve issues before they occur. How can you resolve an issue before it even happens? By anticipating your customer's problems and removing them from their path before they have a chance to experience them.
For instance, AT&T provides a video link to all new customers, which walks them through the charges on their first month's bill. This simple message lessens "bill shock" and greatly reduces the amount of calls the AT&T support team fields from confused patrons.
The opposite of proactive customer service is reactive customer service, which attempts to solve issues already experienced by customers.
When you contact your internet provider because the service suddenly decides to stop working, you generally end up talking to a customer service rep who apologizes for the inconvenience and does what they can to get you back online as quickly as possible. This is reactiver customer service in action.
There's nothing wrong with reactive customer service. There's also nothing special about it either because it's what all customers expect to receive. Proactive customer service goes above and beyond the norm and has major benefits when done correctly.
The Benefits of Proactive Customer Service
What's the big deal with proactive customer service? Does your company really need to offer this to its customers? We can't tell you what your company needs to do. But we can share with you three amazing benefits of proactive customer service:
1. Increased Customer Loyalty
When customers see that your company makes an effort to solve their problems before they even happen, they'll feel respected. They'll realize that your organization values them and will offer you their loyalty in return. Why wouldn't they? Your business treats them better than the competition.
Customer loyalty is important because it can cost 5x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain a current one. Offer your audience proactive customer service, boost customer loyalty, and enjoy increased profit margins.
2. Better Team Productivity
Proactive customer service doesn't just benefit customers, it also benefits the companies that provide it in very tangible ways. For example, the less time your team has to spend responding to customer complaints, the more time it will have to work on important business initiatives.
This boost in productivity will allow your organization to accomplish bigger goals in less time, simply because its employees have the bandwidth to tackle them consistently.
3. Control of the Narrative
Lastly, proactive customer service enables companies to control the narrative that surrounds them. The internet has given every person on the planet a platform to express their thoughts and ideas. If they don't like the way a certain business treats them, they can take to social media, YouTube, a personal blog, etc. and share their opinions with millions around the world.
For companies that don't prioritize top-notch customer service, this could lead to major complications and a damaged reputation.
If your company can offer proactive customer service and reduce the amount of issues your customers experience, they'll be a lot less for them to complain about online. Also, when your target market sees you interacting with customers on social media and other channels and actively working to remedy issues, they'll be more inclined to do business with your company in the future.
Make the Shift From Reactive to Proactive Customer Service
Proactive customer service leads to increased customer loyalty, better team productivity, and greater control over the narrative that surrounds your brand. But the question remains: how do you make the shift from reactive to proactive customer service?
The following six steps will help you:
1. Understand the Customer Journey
When attempting to implement a proactive customer service strategy, it can be helpful to look at the five stages of the customer journey: awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy, and evaluating which one contains the most customer service issues.
- Awareness: The customer journey starts with awareness. This is when a potential customer first realizes that they have a specific pain point or need.
- Consideration: Next comes consideration, the part of the customer journey when a potential customer begins to research ways to cure their pain or fulfill their need.
- Purchase: The potential customer then moves to the next stage in the customer journey: purchase. At this point they evaluate their options and choose one by opening their wallets and purchasing products and/or services.
- Retention: Most companies stop at the purchase phase. They converted a potential customer into a paying one. Job done, game over, right? Not for smart organizations! This is when the real work begins because they have to put in the effort to keep their customers happy. Proactive customer support pays dividends at this stage.
- Advocacy: Lastly, we have advocacy. If your customers reach this phase, it means they not only pay for your company products/services, but they encourage others to do the same as well. This is the highest level of customer and offering proactive customer service will help your company secure more patrons who advocate for your brand.
Every customer goes through these five steps in some form or fashion. You can improve your proactive customer service efforts by analyzing the journeys your customers take and asking yourself if there are common stages that trip them up.
2. Talk to Your Customers
Here's a crazy idea: talk to your customers and ask them how your company can offer more proactive service. The information you receive will be pure gold!
When you understand the areas of your business that regularly frustrate customers, you can work to resolve them before they become mass scale issues. Brooks Brothers exemplifies this strategy perfectly. When a customer checks into one of its stores through Twitter, the company automatically contacts them on the social network and asks how they can improve.
By talking with customers on a regular basis like this, Brooks Brothers proves to their customers that they value their business and learns about potential issues before they become business-crushing problems.
3. Be Honest With Your Customers
Modern consumers value brand transparency more than ever before. They will NOT purchase from organizations they feel lie to them or hide the truth in any way. That's why it's so important to be honest with your customers and announce mistakes and/or issues to your community before they stumble upon them for themselves. Doing so will build customer trust and loyalty.
Netflix is a perfect example of this proactive customer service technique. When users are unable to use Netflix, the streaming giant is quick to respond. They generally release a statement notifying customers that they are aware of the issue and apologizing for any inconvenience the outage might be causing.
Netflix doesn't try to hide from the issue or blame others. They're very transparent and their customers respect them a great deal for it.
The next time you discover an issue with your product or service, take the Netflix route and notify your customers. Then say you're sorry and assure them that you're doing everything within your power to remedy the situation.
4. Reward Customer Loyalty
Remember what we said earlier? It's much more expensive to generate new customers than it is to keep old ones. Plus, happy customers tend to tell others about the companies they love, boosting word of mouth marketing.
To help make more happy customers, consider rewarding your patrons for their loyalty. You can do this by offering special discounts and/or free upgrades.
When it comes to customer loyalty programs, few companies offer the level of service that Starbucks does. The entire program is run through a mobile app, which, when it was first released, was completely revolutionary.
Every time a Starbucks customer buys a coffee, scone, or other offering, they win stars, which can be redeemed for free food and beverages in the future.
Your company might not have the funds to create an app. But any business can reward its loyal customers. It's a great proactive customer service strategy!
5. Strengthen Your Content Library
No matter how proactive your company is about solving problems before customers experience them, some issues will slip through unnoticed. Many customers prefer to solve minor problems themselves rather than having to call or email customer support. Make sure your website contains enough content for them to do so!
Not only will an extensive content library help satisfy customers who want information quickly, it will also reduce the strain put on your support team and improve sales numbers. In fact, Forrester discovered that 53% of consumers will decide not to purchase a product if finding an answer to their question requires too much effort.
So create an FAQ page on your company's website. Talk with your customers and determine what issues they have. Then write articles explaining the details and add them to your website's knowledge base or blog archive. You may even consider shooting videos or webinars.
Facebook has an excellent content library that allows its users to solve problems for themselves rather than contacting the Facebook customer support team.
The social media giant's content library includes frequently asked questions, product explainer videos, detailed documentation, new feature tours, and more. It's an excellent collection of self-help tools that nail the proactive customer service right on the head.
6. Invest in Technology
Finally, technology can help you implement an effective proactive customer service strategy for your company. Here are a few recommended tools:
- Chat Software: Chat software like LiveChat will allow your team to interact with potential and paying customers in real time. If they have questions while browsing your website, they can simply jump on a chat and get answers to them. It's incredibly convenient and sure to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Survey Software: To provide the best proactive customer support you need to talk with your customers. They can tell you which aspects of your company's products work well and which don't, the parts of your website that frustrate them, and so much more. One of the easiest ways to get information from customers is to send out a survey with SurveyMonkey or a similar tool. Just know that you may have to offer an incentive to get enough responses. Don't worry the information you acquire will be worth it!
- Email Marketing Software: Most people think email marketing software is only useful to marketing teams, but it's not. Your company can offer Grade-A proactive customer support by using a mass email program to send out company updates, notify patrons about potential issues they may face, educate customers on product use, and ask for feedback on specific product features. If your company doesn't currently have an email marketing software, try MailChimp or MailerLite. Both are reputable brands and offer free plans for companies just starting with email.
- Visual Communication Software: Visual communication software like CloudApp is the most engaging way to interact with your customers. The tool's screen and webcam recording features will allow you to quickly answer customer questions in hyper-personal ways. And the image annotation capability will enable you to clearly explain processes and point out specific details. That's why major brands like Uber, Salesforce, and Adobe use the solution on a regular basis.
The right technology will make it much easier for your company to offer incredibly proactive customer service. Take a closer look at the options we just mentioned and choose one or two (or all!) of them to invest in ASAP.
Better Customer Service
Put simply, proactive customer service is better customer service. While reactively responding to customer needs will always be necessary, the more proactive your company can be in regards to satisfying its customer base, the more success it will have.
Fortunately, you just need to follow the six tips we covered in this article to implement a winning proactive customer service strategy:
- Understand the Customer Journey
- Talk to Your Customers
- Be Honest With Your Customers
- Reward Customer Loyalty
- Strengthen Your Content Library
- Invest in Technology
If you implement these six steps you'll be able to proactively take care of your customers and improve your business in the process. Good luck!