Benefits of Proactive Customer Service
⏱ Reading Time: 9 minutes
There’s an old but timeless saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It has referred to everything from getting preventive auto maintenance to getting flu shots, to fixing small home repairs before they graduate into large problems. The concept is that not being proactive will be more costly in the long run.
And in the world of customer service, that cost can be in the form of losing both potential and current customers, as well as reputations.
It’s time to take a deep dive into this thing called “Proactive Customer Service” – what it is, why customers demand it, the benefits of implementing such an approach to customer service, and actionable steps that companies and customer service professionals can take to implement proactive customer service.
Defining Proactive Customer Service
Most businesses, until recently, have been engaged in what can best be described as reactive customer service. In essence, they wait until a customer has a question, a problem, or a concern/complaint and takes the initiative to contact the company, or worse, splatters their issues on social media or consumer review sites. Reputations are easily damaged in this digital world and both difficult and time-consuming to repair.
Contrast this approach to customer service to a proactive one – one in which the company takes the initiative, in advance, to keep customers close, to anticipate questions or issues that might arise, and to provide solutions up front to those questions, concerns, or issues that have not even yet arisen.
In short, proactive customer service is all about making the first move to reach out rather than to just respond after the fact. And it can be a game-changer for customers who have high expectations and plenty of options when choosing to patronize specific businesses.
Proactive vs. Reactive – Simple Example
Let’s look at a brief example. You manufacture hall trees for entryways – lots of different styles and models. When you ship out each hall tree, you include an instruction pamphlet because they all must be assembled in different ways. You think you have done a pretty good job and that the instructions are clear. And you have provided an 800 number and an email address if the customer runs into any problems. You expect the customer to contact you if any of those problems do arise, and you will do all that you can to resolve the issues. In fact, you have even trained your support agents – they have copies of the instructions on their screens in order to walk a customer through them.
A competitor has gone one step beyond this. He has actually created YouTube videos for the assembly of each of his hall tree products – slow-moving videos that give the customer time to do exactly what he is being shown, and, of course, the ability to pause that video at any point while he “catches up.” The customer receives an email that his hall tree is being shipped and another when your carrier notifies you that it has been delivered. This second email includes the YouTube link for assembly and encourages the customer to view the entire video first and then again as he assembles the product.
Who do you think has made the customer happier? No contest here. Proactive customer service wins.
Picture 1. Proactive vs reactive service
The Benefits of a Proactive Customer Service Model
The previous example points to customer satisfaction, and, indeed, that is the overarching benefit of proactive customer service. But let’s unpack the specific benefits your company can realize through this model.
1. You Can Establish an Upfront Connection
You have already experienced this on many websites you have visited. A college student, for example, Googles the term “best essay writing service.” He then clicks through to a site. Immediately, he is presented with a pop-up message from a customer support agent. “Hi, I’m Jason. If you have any questions or if I can help you in any way, just type in your message here.”
If you sell hall trees, you can do the same, and most companies now do this. It is the most common example of proactive customer service today.
But the benefit is this: if a visitor does have questions, he can get them answered at any time while he is navigating your site and looking at your products/services. He immediately feels that you are interested in his need, not yours, which is to sell him something.
2. You Earn Credibility and Trust
Consumers are demanding, and in this competitive environment, they can afford to be. They want trustful relationships with businesses, and this is obtained by those businesses understanding the needs, their values, etc., and focusing on those things as they present themselves.
Millennials and Gen Z’ers, for example, want quality products and services, but they also want to do business with companies that exhibit social responsibility. Companies that understand this do spend time addressing this in their multi-channel content.
But for all of these demands, these same groups also want fast, easy, and satisfactory customer service. They do not want to wait for responses. If those responses are already available, the company has increased its credibility.
Of course, millennials and Gen Z’ers are not the only customer bases – there are boomers, for example. And they have preferred methods of receiving customer service too. The job of a business looking to move to a proactive model will be to anticipate the types of customer service venues each segment wants and to provide the upfront solutions and answers through those venues.
Picture 2. Customer loyalty
3. Data Collection Benefit
Once you adopt a proactive customer service approach, you will get a huge pool of data to collect, organize, and analyze. Which of your proactive activities is being used most? Which do not seem to be resonating? And if not, how can they be improved.
Are you seeing a reduction in complaints on your multiple channels? For this, of course, you will need some social mention and listening tools that will alert you whenever your brand is mentioned anywhere on the web. Of course, you will engage in reactive customer service to respond to any negative mentions. But you will also use this information to inform how you will continue to improve your proactive model.
4. Increased Loyalty and Conversions
This is what proactive customer service is to ultimately achieve. What you want is customers who will return to you whenever they need your products or services and who will refer others to you. You want potential customers to see that you have their interests and needs in the forefront, before your own.
Then, when they are ready to make a purchase of what you offer, they will remember that you provided help from the very beginning, not just after they became a customer.
5. Fewer Customer Support Requests/Tickets
As you implement and continue to improve your proactive customer service activities, you should receive far fewer customer support requests. When you do receive one, you can point that customer in the direction of the solution (e.g., a “how to” video), or, if it is unique or rare, respond immediately and consider this a new opportunity to add to your repertoire.
How Do You Make This Conversion to Proactive Customer Service?
The short answer is deliberately, carefully, and with a sequential plan. And that plan must have the customer as your premise.
1. Put Together a Team
This group must be responsible for several things:
- Organizing and analyzing the data that has been collected about customer service demands. If this has not yet been done, then this will be the first step.
- Monitoring social media and other web-based mentions will provide additional information. This should be done on an on-going basis so that proactive content can continue to be added.
- Surveying current customers is a critical piece. While some companies are not enthusiastic about doing this, they will be surprised to find that there will be a positive response. A 2018 Gladly survey about consumer customer service expectations, as reported by Forbes, has clearly indicated that customers do want to voice their opinions about the service they receive and how they believe companies can do a better job.
- Prioritizing the changes that should be made and developing a sequential plan to move from reactive to proactive. This will also involve gathering the resources necessary to implement these changes – automated email systems, video production, and such.
2. Train Existing Support Personnel
When proactive customer service activities are implemented, it is up to existing support personnel to help customers find those resources and get into the habit of using them. Will every customer warm up to these immediately? No. But that is why customer support is still there, to hold hands and to help customers make the transition on their own time frame.
Still, existing support personnel need to understand exactly what the resources where and how they can be accessed, and the benefit of those resources to visitors and customers.
3. Keeping an Eye on the Competition
You can rest assured that your competitors are also working on proactive customer service efforts. And they may be using resources and implementing activities that will give you some solid ideas for your own planning and improvement. This is always a smart practice.
Proactive customer service is here to stay. As more and more consumers demand more than the traditional reactive approach, companies will be forced to meet those demands. Consumers just do not want to wait for answers and solutions – they should be able to access those quickly and on their own. Making this happen will bring about better relationships, greater credibility, customer loyalty, and, most important, satisfaction and conversions.
Nicole Garrison has been a content marketing writer and editor for most of
her career. This has also taken her to a consulting role to help academic consumers to
find the best dissertation writing service for their needs, especially through their
customer service records.
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