Imagine you’ve finally finished packing your bags for that big overseas holidays. After months of planning, saving and researching, you’re finally ready to get on that plane and spend three weeks in paradise.
That is until you get to the airport to find your flight has been delayed. Or even worse, cancelled. None of which you knew before getting a $50 taxi to the airport.
Thousands of would-be holiday makers had just that experience when volcanic ash caused widespread disruption for days. Television news showed images of tired and distraught customers, sounding off at check-in counter staff or collapsing into tears near baggage carousels.
Such experiences and images are devastating for a business. Yet routinely companies chose to sit back and wait, rather than pursuing a more proactive customer service approach.
What do we mean by proactive customer service?
Proactive customer service is nothing new. Businesses have long been aware that it’s far better to anticipate and address potential issues than deal with an irate customer.
Customers are also keen on a proactive approach. A recent report from Forrester found that 83 percent of adults wanted to be contacted by companies or organisations. Taking steps to alert customers to unusual account behaviour, reminding them of appointments or following up on items they have already purchased can go a long way to winning long-term trust.
So why don’t businesses spend more time proactively troubleshooting customer problems? Often it’s a case of not wanting to inadvertently concern their customers.
However, that’s not the only reason to consider a more proactive approach.
Delivering business benefits
Three reasons why proactive customer service might be best for your company:
Proactive customer service forces your business to really pay attention to your customers. An unprompted follow-up to a recent sale can give you a candid and honest evaluation of your product. Monitoring social media for potential issues gives you a stronger appreciation of changes to wider public sentiment.
2. Reduces cost
Cost reduction from a front-footed approach comes in a variety forms. Directly, companies report seeing a decrease in call volume when reaching out to customers first. Indirectly, a stronger relationship can lessen the need for marketing activities.
3. Increases sales
There are many studies that have shown a link between proactive customer service and increased sales. Customers that experience a positive engagement with companies are significantly more loyal, as well as likely to recommend brands to friends and family.
The trick to taking a more proactive approach to customer service is to start small. Initially, this means evaluating the benefit of forwarding engagement and then determining what type of events might trigger an agent to contact the customer.
The trigger really depends on the company. It might be responding to customers that post a critical Tweet, change to billing patterns or even observation of in-store behaviours. This can be further honed by setting the trigger for a particular audience segment, such as focusing on high-value customers.
Once begun, it’s also important to monitor the effectiveness of the program and make tweaks as needed. This might mean swapping communications channels, changing trigger thresholds or altering your customer contact frequency.
As organisational comfort grows, this new proactive approach can be augmented with devices such as multiple channels and listening tools.
Meeting an immediate need
Occasionally many customers will need to be contacted in a very short time. This could be through a new promotion or sales initiative, or something less desirable like a product recall or customer alert.
In these instances, businesses need to be able to quickly scale-up their contact centre support with skilled agents that can eliminate unnecessary wait times.
Historically this has been challenging, as an increased deployment in the contact centre could require everything from IT infrastructure installation, recruitment, policy development and more.
However, the newer approach of a cloud contact centre allows for resources to be deployed in a shorter time frame, typically only three to four weeks. Adding extra agents can happen instantaneously, eliminating unnecessary wait times.
This kind of upscaling for improved proactive communications can mean the difference between retaining or losing a customer and enhancing or frustrating a customer experience.
Proactive customer support can benefit companies throughout the customer lifecycle. With small steps and continuous monitoring, proactive support is within reach of almost all organisations.