Proactive customer service.

How to Implement Proactive Customer Service (and Why Do It)

Are you planning to get proactive with your customer service? Looking for advice to form a proactive customer service strategy?

Did you know? – A Gartner survey found that proactive customer service results in a full point increase in customer satisfaction metrics – Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Customer Effort Score (CES), and Value Enhancement Score (VES).

To put it in simpler terms, being proactive with customer service will result in higher customer satisfaction. And that, in turn, will result in more sales, and positive word-of-mouth about your brand. 

But how do you do it? How do you become proactive with customer support?

Well, that’s what you’ll find out in this post. Keep on reading to discover tips, techniques, and examples that’ll help you implement a proper proactive customer service strategy.

But let’s start with the basics.

What Is Proactive Customer Service?

Proactive customer service (or proactive customer support) is the act of anticipating customers’ and potential customers’ queries and answering them even before the customer feels the need to reach out for an answer.

3 real-life proactive customer service examples

To help you get a better idea, here are three companies doing it well:

1. Amazon

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon has been known for saying: “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.”

Here are the company’s customer service tenets:

Example of proactive customer service from Amazon.

(Source: Forbes)

Note the third customer service tenet – “Anticipate customer needs and treat their time and attention as sacred.” 

And they indeed follow the principle.

Here are a couple of things they do to deliver a delightful experience:

  • Amazon proactively sends SMS about early or late delivery, so the customers don’t have to check the order status.
  • Amazon proactively issue refunds for video purchases if it notices that the download speed is slow.

2. BetterCloud

BetterCloud is a SaaS management platform that takes proactive customer service to the next level. They’ve hired a Proactive Support specialist!

They say it themselves:

“We have a support agent on the team who actively monitors the errors in the application. If you encounter an issue, we can offer help for your specific problem before you even think of submitting a ticket or, better yet, before you even know you have a problem.”BetterCloud.

Example of a proactive approach to customer service in live chat.

BetterCloud’s Proactive live chat support

And it has served them well: Customers have stated positive words like, “I’ve worked in IT for over 25 years and have never had a vendor support agent proactively reach out to check if I was having a problem.”

3. Canva:

Canva is an easy-to-use graphic design platform. They offer a 30-day free trial on its Pro plan. Now, generally, companies that offer a free trial silently charge as soon as the trial days are over. But not Canva.

Another example of proactive approach to supporting customers.

Canva proactively reminds its users that they will start charging the credit card after 3 days (when the trial period is over).

Jay Baer, a leading marketing and customer experience expert, recently praised the effort in his LinkedIn post: “Of all the software I’ve tried and bought over the years (and it’s a LOT) I’ve never had a company proactively alert me that they were about to start billing my credit card, until Canva. ”

Benefits Of Proactive Customer Service

After reading the last example, you must be thinking, “Won’t Canva lose revenue because of the alert?” Well, the answer is probably yes ⁠— they’ll lose some revenue in the short term. However, the benefits of proactive customer service far outweigh that one drawback.

Here are few benefits of proactive customer service that Canva (among other examples) gets and you can too:

1. Proactive support increases customer satisfaction

Naturally, when you help customers before they ask, it’d make them happy (at least, comparatively happy. I’m using the term loosely here – replace it with “less frustrated” and others depending on the situation).

How happy? As I already mentioned in the introduction, they’d be happy enough to give an extra point on the customer surveys. For instance, let’s suppose you run a web hosting company. If you’d tell users about the server maintenance before they ask about their website’s downtime, they’d probably give 6/10 instead of 5/10 on the post-repair customer satisfaction survey.

Besides, 87 percent of U.S. adults want to be contacted proactively by an organization or company, making proactive service even more important for customer satisfaction.

2. As a result, it increases customer loyalty

Going back to the Gartner study, proactive customer service increases NPS. In other words, it increases customer loyalty.

If you don’t know, the NPS survey measures customer loyalty and likeliness to recommend your brand to others. Meaning, if NPS or the Net Promoter Score is high, the customers will likely buy from you again and spread positive word of mouth. 

3. Proactive support helps recover abandoned carts

The average documented online cart abandonment is nearly 70%. But you can keep your business’s abandoned cart under the average by simply choosing a proactive approach.

You can proactively trigger a live chat and remind cart abandoners they forgot something in the cart. Similarly, you can ask their reason not to purchase and offer them free shipping, exclusive discounts, etc., to increase conversions.

4. It increases AOV & LTV

If you proactively recommend an item related to the customer’s previous orders or what’s in the cart, they will probably purchase it, especially if it gets them some perks like free shipping. Essentially, you increase average order value (AOV) and customer lifetime value (LTV) with this sort of proactive approach.

5. It saves support costs

Let’s get back to the Canva example. By proactively reminding customers before the trial is about to end, they save staff time they’d otherwise need for acknowledging and processing cancellation requests and credit card refunds.

Statistically, proactive customer service can lead to a 20-30% reduction in call center calls — lowering call center operating costs by as much as 25%. For a company as big as Canva (~30 million users), that’s tens of thousands of dollars in savings.

8 Steps To Implement Proactive Customer Service

Ready to start your proactive customer service? Here are your first few initial steps:

1. Predict customer frustrations

Step-1 of proactive customer service is to predict where the customer might need your help or an answer from you. For example, if their site is down and you are the hosting provider, they’ll ask you about it. Similarly, if they just joined your hosting, they may need your help to set up their website.

Overall, customer frustrations are unique to all businesses. But here are a few common ones:

  • The product or service is missing a proper description/documentation
  • The customer doesn’t understand documentation
  • The customer is unsure of what exactly they need
  • There was a payment error
  • They couldn’t find contact details
  • Having to repeat the same information to multiple agents
  • Having to pay the shipping fee, which wasn’t mentioned until the checkout page
  • Website downtime

Quick Tip: You can also analyze the data you already have to see where the customer/visitor might be facing an issue. For example, you can look through chat support transcripts to find customer pain points. Similarly, if an important page’s CTR is extraordinarily low or bounce rate is high, there might be something repelling there.

2. Gather customer feedback

There’s only so much you can predict on your own. At the end of the day, your customers know their needs, wants, and frustrations best. Therefore, asking for customer feedback is essential to proactive customer service.

You can run CSAT or NPS customer surveys and ask questions like these to the unhappy customers:

  • What are we missing?
  • What could we have done differently?
  • How can we improve [Specific Feature/Service]?
  • How can we improve your [Installation] experience?
  • If this were your company, what would you do differently?
  • Why are you still using [Product or Service]?
  • What would you like to see changed?

Once you figure out customer frustrations, it’s time to act on it.

3. Create a knowledge base

A knowledge base is a collection of resources that answer commonly asked questions or offer a solution to commonly faced problems. The answers can be in the form of buying guides, video tutorials, short answers under FAQs, step-by-step guides, etc.

Overall, it’s proactively helping future questioners. 

Example of a knowledge base.

The Social Intents knowledge base

For instance, say a new customer buys software from you. Instead of getting frustrated about the setup process and asking your support team to help, they can simply look at the setup guide in the knowledge base.

4. Proactively provide recommendations

People spend hours and hours on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Netflix. Why these and why not other entertainment platforms? For one, all ⁠— Instagram, Netflix, and YouTube ⁠— have powerful recommendation engines that recommend what the users want to see.

In other words, they proactively help customers discover things they’d like and enhance the customer experience.

You can do the same by implementing a recommendation engine on your website. Generally, a recommendation engine uses past individual and collective data to show relevant items. For example, if you buy a book from Amazon, it will show you other books in the same genre or by the same author under the “You may also like” section. 

5. Power your website with live chat

Besides a recommendation engine, you can also recommend items manually through live chat

For example, say someone is about to abandon a cart. You can set a proactive live chat trigger to ask cart abandoners why they are not buying the item. If they accept the chat request, your agent can manually recommend a relevant product to buy alongside the one in the cart and offer free shipping or an exclusive discount in exchange. Chances are, this will not only convert a cart abandoner but also increase AOV.

Similarly, there are many more instances where live chat can come in handy:

  • If a user is struggling with something, an agent can proactively ask to help. For example, this is what BetterCloud does.
  • Like Amazon, you can set up a chatbot to show shipping status, refund status, etc.
  • If a visitor is scrolling through the features or pricing page, an agent can ask if they need help choosing a plan.

6. Practice social listening

Social listening is the practice of keeping an eye on social media channels for mentions of your brand, competing brands, and your product or service. 

Many times, customers share their frustrations or love towards your brand on social media. So pay attention to all the mentions and be ready to reply.

For example, here’s Nike solving a customer’s query on Twitter:

Example of proactive listening to customer's issues.

Source: Hootsuite

7. Proactively answer dynamic questions, too

You can answer static questions in the knowledge base. However, issues like shipping delay, server downtime, etc., are dynamic yet bound to attract customer queries. So proactively answer those potential queries as well.

You can set up systems that update customers via SMS, email, live chat, notifications, or even call about queries related to shipping, server issues, appointment timing, etc. Similarly, you can also inform customers about the new sale, price drop on products in their wishlist, their about-to-expire plan, etc., to enhance customer experience.

Note: Obviously, admit and apologize for mistakes like shipping delays. In fact… 

8. Reward customers

You can proactively reward customers as a part of your apology. For example, you can say something like, “Hey [Name], sorry for the shipping delay. We cannot do anything about it, unfortunately 🙁 But we sure can give you an exclusive discount on your next order: Here’s a 20% coupon [Coupon]. I hope…” 

In general, too, pleasantly surprising customers with rewards is a good practice.

  • You can proactively offer discount codes to cart abandoners and increase the conversion rate.
  • Similarly, you can reward loyalty points to customers for being loyal to your brand and enhance loyalty. Did you know 75% of consumers favor companies that offer rewards?

Conclusion

The benefits of a proactive approach to customer service are obvious, even if you don’t know the statistics. Yet, most companies offer just reactive customer service. 

The fact that you read this article means you’re ready to go proactive. So, I have only one thing to say before ending this article: Good luck!

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