Being proactive entails acting and thinking ahead of anticipated events. In customer service being proactive means that you anticipate challenges customers might have, and working towards resolving them before they know about it. A good example would be a customer service representative who calls a customer to notify him about a service disruption before he notices it, or a Hotel manager who calls to inform customers of problems with their reservation before they get to the hotel.
Reactive customer service is the opposite of proactive customer service, in this case, it is the customer who identifies a problem and reaches out to the business before they can “react.” One key difference between the two lies in who makes the first move. In proactive customer service, the business makes the first move, while the customer makes the move in reactive customer service. Both approaches will satisfy the customer as long as the problem is fixed, but a reactive approach will not leave the customer delighted or surprised.
Proactive customer service is good for business, there are enormous advantages to reaching out to customers first. Here are my top three reasons on why businesses should adopt a proactive customer service strategy:
Making the first move before customers become disappointed or angry not only diffuses a potential problem, it leaves the customers feeling as if the brand is competent and thoughtful. This creates a sense of confidence in the brand and enables customers to see the value of doing business with them.
If a business can make its customers think and believe “They’ve got my back, and will always let me know if there are any issues”. You can be sure those customers will continue patronizing the brand and saying positive things about them.
Proactive customer service, especially in the event of a service failure prevents customers from having to reach out just to find out “what’s going on?” This reduces the effort customers need to make, in order to get such issues resolved and keeps them from getting anxious or making (erroneous) assumptions, that might negatively affect their perception of the organization. In her Forbes article, Blake Morgan puts it this way –
“Today’s customers are busy and don’t want to have to jump through hoops to get the help they need, especially if a product breaks or they have issues with a service. Reducing customer effort makes life easier for customers and improves their impression of the brand and their overall customer experience”
If a particular problem is one that affects a large percentage of customers, then being proactive is critical for reducing pressure on customer support channels. Reaching out to the customers first to inform them about a problem and what is being done about it eliminates the need for them to call and gives the business an opportunity to guide customers to less expensive self-service options or channels such as Live Chat or email for more support.
That way, a situation where all customers are going for expensive support channels like the call center is avoided and costs reduced. This saves the call center time and prevents them from opening too many support tickets on the same issue.
With recent technological advancements in areas like Artificial Intelligence & Data analytics, businesses now have greater ability to anticipate problems before they occur, making it easier to render preemptive service to customers. Below are four tips any business can adapt to move from a reactive customer service approach to a proactive one:
The ability of a business to amass, analyze and make meaningful interpretations of customer data will significantly enhance its ability to preempt customer needs, preferences and potential issues.
Investing in CRM tools, recruiting data analysts or training employees to fill such roles will empower businesses to gain greater insights from customer data. With these insights, it becomes easier to identify opportunities where they can offer proactive customer service to customers.
When a service failure occurs, communicating early on to the customers is an important step in being proactive. That means, the business should not wait for the customers to wonder what the problem might be with the product or service in question.
Communicate with customers through all available channels, this might involve sending emails, text messages or posting a notice on social media. While the issue is being fixed, the brand should keep the customers informed on the status of resolution, or how long it will take to get the issue resolved. It could be done via periodic updates on the company website or social media handle.
It is not enough for a brand to reach out to customers first to inform them about a (potential) problem, without telling them what is being done or what can be done to fix it.
This airline customer service story is a great example of how being proactive and fixing the customer’s problem can transform a potentially horrible customer experience to an inspiring customer service story. When a problem or service failure occurs, all that will matter to the customer is how the issue is handled.
If employees have to scale through a number of approval processes before they can inform customers about potential issues (and fix them), then being proactive will be an uphill task. A business that has doubts about the ability of its employees to make decisions in its best interest and that of the customers probably hired the wrong people.
Train employees and give them a clear direction on what they can do to get in tune with the customers, getting them what they need before they ask for it. When employees have been trained, then they must be trusted to do the right thing at the right time, without compromising the interests of the business.
Adopting a proactive customer service strategy is good for business, it creates customer confidence, improves loyalty and reduces cost. It might not be possible to be proactive all the time, because service failures beyond the control of an business will inevitably occur, but it is possible to be proactive most of the time.
Originally published at www.cxservice360.com