Like Magic: 5 Strategies for Proactive Customer Service in the Digital Age

Proactive customer service is delivering what someone wants before they know they want it. It's like magic. 

Let's imagine I want a hamburger; it's a reasonable guess: the truth is that I almost always want a hamburger. I’ve ordered them from Grubhub more times than I want to admit. That’s why it is great that when I go to Grubhub, they suggest hamburger joints that deliver near me. They do so even when I'm traveling, and don't know any of the places near at whatever hotel I find myself. Wherever I am, I know a hamburger can find me.

What would be even better, in my opinion, is that as soon as I start getting hungry—really, before I even know consciously that I am getting hungry—a hamburger just appears. That would seem like more than customer service! It would seem like magic. 

Now, in the real world, that would be the kind of magic that is terrible for my health. I hope that never happens. However, the theory behind it, that of proactive customer service, is what every business should aspire to. Using data analytics, aggressive social media monitoring, well-trained sales and customer service representatives, and just some empathetic intuition, you can provide customer care that generates goodwill and long-term loyalty.

Proactive customer service is not only possible in the digital age, it is practically required. Too many businesses, though, are still reactive. The good news is that can change. You can develop the kind of service that makes your customers happy and your employees more efficient and content. You can have your hamburger and eat it too.

The Benefits of Proactive Customer Service

Before we get into how you can employ proactive customer service, let’s look at what it can do for you.

When proactive customer service is done correctly, it can:

  • Reduce calls by as much as 30%

  • Increase customer retention by 5%

And keeping customers is important. After all, you have a 60-70% chance of selling more to an existing customer, as opposed to only a 5-20% of making a sell to a new prospect. Selling to someone new, while vital, takes a long time and is never a sure thing. That’s why it’s so important to keep the customers you have, and to make sure that they aren’t frustrated by slow customer service.

And these days, “slow customer service” means something different than it did even 10 years ago. Customer expectations have changed so much due to the ubiquity of mobile technology. We’re used to having all world’s expectations in our pockets. We’re used to websites knowing that we want hamburgers. What was once speedy customer service can now be seen as deadly reactionary and a thousand miles behind.

It’s time to get proactive.

5 Ways Companies Can Employ Proactive Customer Service

There are a lot of forms that proactive customer service can take. These can, and should, be used in conjunction with each other, as they inform and complement one another. This isn’t to say you have to use all of them, but it is important to keep them all in mind.

Data Analytics to Understand Common Concerns

Data is your friend

Data analytics are the base on which all proactive customer service is built. By analyzing every interaction, every customer call, every chat, and logging how each was handled, you’ll have a good idea of what common concerns are. These can be troubleshooting issues with a product, common questions from leads about how a service can be used, or billing issues from people who are confused about a pay cycle.

Of course, if the problem comes from the product, then it needs to be addressed. But that’s not what we’re talking about, right now. Let’s look at a common problem with billing, that a customer sees that the bill is due the 1st, but they have a five-day grace period until the 5th. For some reason, a lot of customers have thought they have a five-day grace period starting on the 5th.

You notice that you have gotten a lot of complaints about this, and a lot of people charged fines when they expected not to. So you have a system set up where if a new customer doesn’t pay by the 5th, they get an email/text that reminds them the grace period only goes up until today, and doesn’t extend until the 10th. However, for the first time, we’ll let it slide.

This gave the customer an answer to a question they didn’t know they had, and solved a problem they weren’t aware they were about to run into. It is good PR, it shows that you are actually taking their cares into account, and that you understand them. The cost of doing so it little more than the fine you would have charged. The benefits are your customer looking at you not as a company, but as a group of people. That’s the core around which loyalty is spun.

Using Social Media

Social media lets you reach your customers at all times, even when they are clearly posing for a stock photo. 

There are a lot of tools for monitoring your social media mentions when you aren’t @’d or hashtagged. We don’t have a recommendation right now for which one is the best, but whichever one you find works for you, use it.

If a customer or lead has complaints about you, you can monitor it and address them. This never means arguing with them online, but DMing them, or having a CSR contact them through phone or email to handle the problem. You can respond and say “Hey Chet, sorry about this. We’ll be having someone contact you to solve the problem. In the meantime, here’s a troubleshooting guide.” If they’re a customer, you already have their contact info, and all the other information you’ll need to create a solution even before you contact them.

This works for people who aren’t currently customers yet, and who are just in the Awareness stage of the Discovery Process. Someone might be asking if anyone knows how well your service works. They might be asking a general question about your field. Aggressive monitoring of keywords and hashtags can help you jump on this. Think of this exchange.

@undecidedbuyer. Hey, I’ve been looking to buy a #tractor for my lawn, but not sure what kind to get. I have a lot of obstacles to get around.

@lawntractorcompany. Hey @undecidedbuyer. That’s a pretty common issue. Here’s a whitepaper about it.

You aren’t pushing. You aren’t even really contacting them. You’re just being proactively helpful.

Give Alerts and Warnings

Not too long ago I was getting ready to leave the office for the airport (finding new hamburger in new cities) and I got an alert that my flight was delayed more than two hours due to storms in the Rockies. I was able to stay in the office and get some work done, rather than hang out in the somnambulant twilight of an airport for hours.

That was great proactive customer service. It solved a problem before I knew it was going to be one. That’s what other companies can do. Whether it is letting someone know their bill is coming due, reminding them that there is a new update about to upload, or sending out messages updating customers on progress of an order, you are making sure they are involved in your process. There isn’t a disconnect.

One of the best times you do this is when you’ve made a mistake. Customers are very happy to forgive a mistake if it is owned up to and rectified, especially when it is done preemptively. 70% say they’ll do more business with a company, even if they’ve made a mistake, as long as it is resolved well. If you notice that, say, you’ve overbilled someone, don’t wait until they bring it up. Send a message explaining what happened, and sincerely apologize along with the refund. A gift wouldn’t hurt either.

Share Data between Departments

 

Him again!

Think about Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in the woods. Those are like the clues your customers leave while they are going through their buyer’s journey. From the first time they interact with you on social media, to when they chat with a bot on your website, talk to a salesperson, and make the purchase, there is a record building of what they need, what their pain points are, and how they react.

This is data that should be shared! CSRs should have access to a record of the first tweet (if possible). Engineers should know if there are any peculiarities. All of this can be used to create a picture of a customer, which helps to anticipate where they are going, and what they might want.

For instance, they can now of a potential new product months in advance, because engineering, when designing it, noticed the customer fit into their profile of possible users. They can get a message saying “You can expect this in 4 months- we think you’ll like it.” That can head off their buying of a similar product, and remind them that you have their interests in mind.

Fix problems, upsell solutions

Getting there...

Using all this data, you may be able to anticipate a problem. You can work to fix it before the customer notices. We talked about how this works with billing issues, and you can spread that philosophy across your entire organization. If you’re a telecom company, keep a database of anticipated outages due to repair work. Let your customers know that WiFi will be out in their area on a time and date. Offer backup solutions.

This is also a great time to upsell. If someone has an issue, your CSR will be able to say “We have this solution for that problem. Based on other conversations with customers who use our service, you may be needing (XYZ) in the future. I’ll send you some information, and if you want to know more, give us a call.” This isn’t selling. It’s personalized, preemptive inbound marketing, which leaves the decision up to the customers.

Proactively Making Happy Employees

Do these people look like they'd provide magical customer care?

That’s an ideal segue to talk about how this will impact your CSRs. After all, they probably don’t love selling, but they’ll love being able to offer solutions before a complaint. And proactive customer service is all about getting things solved before complaints. It will reduce problems and increase good feeling toward your company, which means interactions with customers will be far more pleasant for your representatives.

There’s a rising spiral of goodness from employee satisfaction. You can keep trained employees who are increasingly experience and able to handle customer issues. That continues to make customers happier, which leads to better retention, etc. That saves money—it costs anywhere from 10-30% of an employee’s annual salary to replace them—and lets you keep customers. See the stats at top for what that’s worth.

It’s called proactive customer service because it looks into the future for your client. But it’s really about putting the future of your company on solid footing. It is responsive to changing expectations of care. It is a reflection of the digital era in which we live. Looking back, you’ll realize the job you did was like a hamburger: very well done.

(Don’t actually order your hamburger that way.)

 

At RDI-Connect, we combine technological solutions, extensive training, and the best people to make sure every prospect and customer is treated to the most meaningful experience across all channels so that your business attracts sales and retains positive promoters. For more information, please download our white paper Digital Customer Care in 2017: Many Channels, One Focus. Connect with us today to learn more about the services we can provide your business.

 

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