Proactive Customer Service: A Complete Guide

Published on:

April 29, 2021

Proactive customer service

Sometimes in business, it can feel like our whole working lives are taken up putting out fire after fire. You run from department to department, dealing with the current problem at the current time and by the time you sit down… there’s yet another fire to put out.

Sound familiar?

There is an alternative to the madness and it comes in the form of proactive customer service. In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • What is proactive customer service?
  • Proactive customer service benefits
  • How to implement proactive customer service ideas
  • Proactive customer service examples to follow

What Is Proactive Customer Service?

We wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard the term proactive customer service before. It’s been thrown around by those in the business world for some time now with little regard for clarity or usefulness. As such, it’s got a bit of a reputation as a buzzword.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a simple concept with simple implementations. We like this definition best:

Proactive Customer Service Definition:

“Also known as proactive customer support, proactive customer service involves going out of your way to improve a customer experience. Businesses who use proactive customer service help customers by anticipating their needs before customers feel the need to contact the company.”

As you can imagine there are lots of ways businesses can implement proactive customer service. It could be by introducing a new product, improving a service or changing a process completely to name just a few examples. 

Whatever the solution is, all businesses who implement proactive customer service have one thing in common — they resolve customer issues before they occur.

They achieve this by anticipating customer needs, pains and desires and taking action to resolve whatever it is as soon as possible. All of this improves the customer experience.

The opposite to proactive customer service is the example we used in the introduction. This is reactive customer service. 

Proactive Customer Service Vs. Reactive Customer Service

Reactive customer service is the far more common type of customer service we see in businesses across the UK.

We’re not here to slate reactive customer service. There is absolutely a time and a place for it. It’s almost impossible to anticipate all customer issues, needs and desires. 

This said, companies tend to lean too heavily on reactive customer service with proactive customer service left on the backburner. If companies dedicated more time and resources into proactive customer service, employees would have more time to dedicate to helping the business grow through chasing leads, as opposed to being bogged down with reactive issues.

A good way to understand the two is with a simple analogy. Let’s think about our garden. We put weed killer down to stop them cropping up as regularly. That’s our proactive customer service.

Weed killer doesn’t stop all weeds from coming up though, so we also need to go round and deal with the weeds that do come up. This is reactive customer service.

I think we can all agree we’d rather deal with less weeds in the garden and spend more time growing new plants! Using both customer service approaches together can help businesses spend less time on reactive customer service and more time on growing their business.

Proactive Customer Service Benefits

There are so many great benefits of implementing proactive customer service for your business. They’re as follows:

Free Up Your Team

We touched on this above, but it’s worth expanding on.

How much of your team’s day is taken up with service calls? By this we mean calls about queries or issues that could have been easily resolved at a point before the customer contacted you.

We’d guess the answer is quite a lot! 

From the companies we’ve worked with, most of them spend around 50% of their day on service calls. 

Now think how much time your team would have to spend on more productive tasks if you halved the amount of service calls. It’s a complete game changer for business productivity.

Boost Brand Authority

Brand authority is so important for companies in an increasingly digital landscape. It’s vital for both the acquisition and retention of customers. Getting it right is the difference between you and the next competitor.

Improve Retention Rates

Intrinsically related to the above, boosting brand authority can help improve your retention rates by creating loyal customers. Loyal customers are better for business, costing a fraction of the price new customers cost to acquire. 

More Reviews

Think about it — when was the last time a company really ‘wowed’ you?

We bet when they did, you probably left them a review. Just like customers are more inclined to leave negative reviews for poor experiences, customers are more inclined to leave positive reviews for seamless experiences

Because you’re delivering a better service through a proactive support, your reviews should increase.

Create Advocates

Word of mouth marketing is still a valuable tool even in the digital commerce realm.

In fact, word of mouth marketing drives $6 trillion of annual consumer spending in America, accounting for 13% of consumer sales. It’s importance cannot be overstated.

Customers who have an outstanding experience with your brand are more likely to recommend your business to a friend, colleague or family member. 

How to Implement Proactive Customer Service Ideas

We can guess what you’re thinking.

As if my customer service team don’t have enough to do already! There’s no way I’ll find the time.”

Fortunately, implementing proactive customer service ideas isn’t as hard as you might think it is. In fact, you’re probably doing some of it already! 

You need to do three main factors involving in implementing a proactive customer service strategy:

  1. Be available
  2. Help customers help themselves
  3. Know your customers

You should have more than just a contact us form on your site to be available to your customers. You should be available across many different channels and actually monitor these channels. This includes phone, email and social media. Customers can then choose the channel most convenient to them.

You should also empower your customers to help themselves. This can be through improving your customer experience with great content. Not content written solely for SEO, but content that actually helps your customers resolve common queries or issues to do with your product or service. 

Of course, without knowing your customers all of this is futile. You can’t anticipate what your customer’s needs and wants are if you don’t have a clue who your customers are.

These three foundations help you lay the foundations for your proactive support approach, but we’ll give you a few more proactive customer service ideas to try to add to your strategy to build on these foundations.

Proactive Customer Service Strategies

There's lots of strategies you can implement to deliver more proactive customer service. Try these.

Ask For Feedback

Very obvious, but very helpful — the best way to figure out how your customers think you could improve is by asking them.

You can do this in many different ways. You could add feedback surveys to your customer journey, ask for reviews, ask for feedback on your site or kick it old school and pick up a phone to ask.

Companies who do this can identify areas of weakness before they become an issue and cause unhappy customers. 

Monitor Mentions

Do you pay attention to what’s being said about your business online — both the good and the bad?

Good mentions feel great, but negative mentions should be seen as an opportunity, not a slight. Reach out to any negative mentions to get to the root of the problem so you can make sure it never happens again.

There’s also opportunity in the positive interactions. Many brands are killing it on twitter with positive and fun interactions with customers instead of getting bogged down in reactive tweets from upset customers only.

Reward Customers

So many companies claim to value their customers, but don’t do anything to show it. They’re too focused on chasing down the new customer.

Show your loyal customers you value them by rewarding them with exclusive offers and deals. Alongside outstanding customer service, it's one of the best strategies to build loyalty.

This doesn’t have to be as simple as offering a percentage off on their next purchase. You can send out personalised emails recommending products related to their previous purchases. This could be to remind them a subscription is running out or giving them the heads up on an exclusive sale of products you know they love, as well as many other ideas. 

Admit Mistakes

Honesty is a virtue in life and business. 

Don’t let customers discover a problem on their own. If you’re aware of a problem, proactively reach out to inform customers. 

Anytime you identify a problem that will affect your customer experience, you should be reaching out to let them know, as well as letting them know what you’re doing to fix it and how long it’ll take. 

Amazon is a great example of this. As we all know, their entire service revolves around the fastest delivery possible. So when they have delivery issues or delays, Amazon will reach out to the customer to let them know when the new delivery date will be. For prime subscribers, they’ll also often credit them with a month free subscription to make up for the inconvenience — all before the customer has even realised there’s a problem! It’s an outstanding proactive customer service example that shows why Amazon is the king of eCommerce. 

Create Content

Have you ever had to call up a company for a query so minor that you feel like it’s a waste of both your time? Wouldn’t you have preferred to just find the answer you were looking for online?

Creating content that helps customers answer their own queries is a vital step of proactive customer service.

You should be keeping track of common queries from customers and creating content to answer them on your website. Not only that but this information should be really easy to find. You can put together an FAQs section, a resources hub or add it to product pages.

Embrace Automation

Automation can help in so many aspects of proactive customer care and service.

You could use email or SMS automation to send notifications and reminders (that will actually help your customers, not just sell products!). You could use an AI chatbot to answer simple queries or better direct queries to the right department. There’s endless examples where automation can help deliver a better customer experience. 

Proactive Customer Service Examples

We’ve covered a few proactive customer service strategies that you could implement across many different businesses in various industries above. But sometimes it’s easier to learn by example, so here’s a few beacons of proactive customer service.

Netflix

Streaming issues are Netflix’s nemesis. They make the service completely defective. But they do happen.

Instead of brushing them under the carpet or waiting for customers to find out, Netflix issues a statement anytime there’s an issue that could cause streaming issues. They apologise and sometimes offer a free month to make up for the inconvenience. 

It’s a great example of transparent proactive customer service which no doubt saves their customer service team hours of potential complaints down the line.

Adobe

Adobe may well have the most comprehensive collection of proactive content around. They have exhaustive guides for all of their different programs. Not just this but they have different level guides for novice, intermediate and advanced users.

The content is easy to trawl through so customers can find what they’re looking for, as well as search engine optimised to allow customers to find the answers through that route instead.

Tesla

In such a short time since the company first started making waves, Tesla has built an incredibly loyal customer base through proactive customer service. In fact, 80% of their customers buy or lease another Tesla for their next car. It’s an enviable statistic for other companies. 

They achieve this through an outstanding customer journey. Not just from inquiry to sale, but after the sale as well. Tesla created an entire charging network infrastructure across the United States, at their own initial cost, to ensure their customers could drive and charge their vehicles with ease. 

BetterCloud

BetterCloud is a SaaS management company. When their customers have an issue, the system flags it and sends it to one of their customer service agents. The agent then contacts the customer explaining the problem has been flagged and asking how they can help, all before the customer has to get in touch. 

IKEA

Ikea uses augmented reality to relieve the customer pain point of not knowing how a piece of furniture will look in their home before purchasing. It’s a great tool that not only improves the customer experience, but likely saves the company a huge amount of time dealing with refunds or exchanges.

Amazon

Of course, no list of proactive customer service examples would be complete without mentioning Amazon. We mentioned them above, but that's just one example of many outstanding customer service strategies the eCommerce giant follows. The company has been slowly revolutionising many different industries from bookstores to subscription services by focusing on one core value — customer obsessed.

They have an incredibly detailed DIY help centre which is easy to navigate and packed full of helpful information. As we mentioned above, they proactively inform customers not just about delivery slots but also update them beforehand if there will be delays. Even their reactive support is impressive; should users ever actually have a problem which isn't resolved beforehand, they have 24/7 support with impressively low wait times.

Be Proactive and Grow Your Business

Companies who embrace proactive customer service will remain ahead of the competition in terms of revenue, customer loyalty and brand authority. Though reactive customer service still has its place within customer support teams, an increased focus on proactive customer service can decrease the time spent on service calls, freeing up your staff for more productive tasks to help grow your business.

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About Paul Freudenberg

Paul Freudenberg is a business productivity coach and consultant with a focus on operational excellence delivering improved profitability and business performance, and Founder of Awardaroo in 2005. Paul has set the mission of Awardaroo to help raise UK Business Productivity from one of the lowest in the G7 to one of the highest by 2030. Connect on LinkedIn

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