How to build proactive customer service from scratch
The world has become a place of one-click ordering and instant delivery with proactive customer service still being a distinguishing feature on every front.
But for all its conveniences, it’s also a place where customers have zero tolerance for customer support that falls short of the best practices we’ve come to expect from support giants like, say, Amazon.
But why should customer service be proactive? We are already trying to improve customer experience with every interaction — isn’t that enough to stand out?
Turns out it’s not — Gartner found that 87% of customers would prefer companies to proactively reach out to them regarding issues related to customer service.
In this blog post, we’re going to analyze the value of proactive customer support and look at ways you can get your agents to be proactive at work.
What is proactive customer service?
The definition of proactive customer service is simple — it is all about taking proactive steps to prevent customer problems before they happen.
In other words, it is when you do proactive contact support to provide customers with comprehensive and anticipatory actions, without them having to reach out first.
This means proactive customer support going above and beyond for your customers, and making sure they have everything needed before they even know they need it.
In fact, there are six levels of proactive service, where you can go from ignoring customer problems when they come in to taking all the steps for those problems to never appear in the first place.
By taking proactive steps to prevent customer problems, you can reduce churn, increase customer satisfaction, and build long-term loyalty. So if you’re not already providing proactive customer service, now is the time to start!
How can AI help proactive service?
AI has proven to be key not only for reactive customer service but for proactive customer support, too . A well-curated AI can evaluate data to provide the best next action in any scenario making your customer service operations more efficient.
In other words, with AI you can take proactive measures to avoid a potential service failure or give the best solution to a current situation.
Here are some reasons why you should incorporate a proactive customer support strategy.
- 89% of consumers found proactive customer service to be a positive experience or a pleasant surprise
- 92% of consumers reported that the experience of being contacted proactively by the company changed their perception of the company in a positive way
- 87% of consumers said that a positive experience of proactive service propelled them to take positive action
Proactive vs reactive customer service
In essence, there are two types of customer service: proactive and reactive.
Reactive customer service is when you wait for the customer to come to you with a problem. Proactive customer service is when you try to solve the customer’s problem before they even have a chance to ask.
Gartner surveyed 6,000 customers and found that only 13% of them report any type of proactive customer service. However, that same research shows that proactive customer service results in a full percentage point increase in NPS, customer satisfaction score, and customer effort score.
Which one is better then? That depends on the situation.
If you have a proactive solution to a problem that the customer doesn’t even know they have yet — that’s amazing proactive customer service. On the other hand, if you’re just trying to upsell the customer on something they don’t need — that’s just bad business.
The key difference between proactive and reactive customer service is proactive solutions. If you can solve the customer’s problem before they even know they have it, then you’re providing proactive solutions and giving them an amazing customer service experience.
Additionally, proactive customer service can help improve your Net Promoter Score (NPS) and bring more business while simply focusing on your customers.
So next time you’re thinking about how to provide better customer service, ask yourself: am I being proactive or reactive? And remember, reactive customer service is preferred to a proactive system.
But, what are proactive customer service examples? Here are some of them:
- proactively checking in with customers after they make a purchase
- sending customized follow-up emails after important events
- offering live chat support on your website asking the customer if they need any help
On the other hand, examples of reactive customer service are:
- Attending a complaint ticket on chat, trying to solve the situation
- Customer calls to cancel a service — you offer them a retention package
How to build a proactive customer service team
A lack of proactive support is a common problem that plagues many businesses. Customers are often quick to complain, whether it be on social media or through other channels, but rarely do they provide feedback or report issues when things go well.
Although customer service will always be reactive in nature, every company can implement proactive customer service processes that make the whole experience more pleasant and reduce customer churn over time.
In fact, building a proactive customer service team is easier than it seems. You need to make a plan, hire the right people, focus on the right hires, train them to deliver proactive support, and create an environment of trust.
Here’s where you start.
1. Gather customer feedback to later integrate it in your strategy
To implement proactive customer service, businesses should first gather customer feedback to identify areas where improvements can be made.
Once potential problems have been identified, you can then develop proactive strategies to address them. This may involve anything from improving communication with customers to streamlining processes to better meet their needs.
By taking a proactive approach to customer service, businesses can improve the overall experience for their customers and build loyalty and goodwill in the process.
2. Develop a proactive customer support strategy
As with any strategy, you need to plan to be successful. When developing your proactive customer service team, remember to:
- Set clear goals and KPIs to drive agents’ performance
- Identify all the touchpoints that can have proactive service
- Empower your agents to make decisions and improvements
But before everything else, consider this: what can make customer service proactive in your specific case?
Think about what you can do to reduce friction for your customers.
For example, if you have an e-commerce store, consider adding automated enrollment in your rewards program based on positive shopping behavior.
If you’re an online marketplace, try implementing a tool that allows sellers to “claim” inventory they want to sell and update their item descriptions in your system—you can then automatically approve these listings and help them get off the ground more quickly by streamlining this process.
3. Enable your agents to do their best
It does not matter how determined your representatives are to be excellent, you need to enable them in order to make the strategy work.
Your customer service agents are the frontline of your business and the catalysts of your proactive customer service strategies. So, they need to be equipped with the right tools to provide an outstanding customer experience.
Customers must feel your agents are obsessed over them.
In other words, agents need access to customer data, being able to quickly resolve issues, and do proactive calling. By giving your agents the tools they need to be successful, you can ensure that your customers will always receive the best possible service.
Some of the tools you can give your agents to be more proactive are:
- Live chat with skill-based routing: Having a smart Interactive Voice Response (IVR) would help you route the calls towards the most knowledgeable agents based on statistics from your business intelligence department.
- AI Chatbots: AI can help you be more proactive by monitoring your customer’s interactions on your web page, a well-configured chatbot can detect when a customer is taking too long to do a transaction and can offer help, opening an opportunity for an agent to take over if necessary
- CRM: A good CRM can make your callers reach proactive solutions for customer service a lot faster. Not having enough transparent information about your customers and their previous interactions can be detrimental to customer experience.
More than 75% of consumers expect customer service representatives to have visibility into previous interactions and purchases, according to Microsoft. Yet nearly half say agents almost never or only occasionally have the context they need to most effectively and efficiently solve their issue.
4. Make a reliable knowledge base
A good knowledge base should contain all your customers’ most frequently asked questions.
This will save your customer service agents valuable time. Plus, your agents can contribute to your knowledge base and provide proactive customer service ideas.
A good knowledge base will not only answer the most frequently asked questions but also address the “should ask questions”.
Ask yourself — what are the questions behind the question? What should your customer really be asking to solve their problems?
Anticipate what question they will have next. You should be addressing these as well! And since your customers don’t know they should be asking these questions, be sure to promote them in related knowledge base articles.
5. Continuously coach your agents
Constant feedback and coaching is key when implementing customer service strategies. Be sure to keep your eyes open for learning opportunities and help agents get better using their own performance data when giving actionable advice.
As a manager or supervisor, it is your responsibility to consistently communicate with your team. After all, the only way your agents can identify if they are doing a great job or not is through constant feedback that you get in a company with a strong coaching culture.
Moreover, identifying strengths and weaknesses is key to developing your team and proactive customer service strategies.
6. Unify all customer support operations within one platform
Create a centralized hub for all of your support needs, so you can monitor activity across different channels in one place. This way you can see what’s being said about your organization and respond accordingly without ever having to hunt for information or lose track of conversations as they move.
Having a unified system across all departments is important for streamlining the way support issues move through your organization. This way, everyone is on the same page in terms of how they communicate with customers, which helps keep things consistent.
With Kaizo, you can have all the data at your fingertips. From quality assurance and performance management to agent motivation and performance coaching — you can make data-driven decisions and build plans that will always work.
7. Reward your team for proactiveness
Outstanding customer service does not happen by accident. It requires proactive employees who are always looking for ways to improve the customer experience. When these agents go above and beyond, they should be recognized and rewarded for their efforts.
There are many ways to reward proactive customer service representatives. One way is to give them a bonus or commission for each interaction with NPS 9 or 10. Another option is to provide them with vouchers for free dinner or a day at a spa.
Of course, cash is always welcome. However, whatever you do, make sure the reward is meaningful and motivates the proactive customer service representative to continue providing outstanding service. When you invest in your team, you invest in your company’s future.
Proactive customer support is a hallmark of a standout brand. It stands out in the age of social media and online reviews, where the most talked-about brands are those that make it their mission to respond to customers’ needs.
Customer service is no longer just answering customers’ questions as they come in—the most successful companies are using proactive support strategies to anticipate customers’ needs, solve problems before they occur, and build loyalty with customers.
Are you ready to be one of them?