Proactive customer service: ideal solution or a pig in a poke?

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Customer service as an industry keeps changing every year. People’s expectations are growing up, technologies are developing fast, and new approaches are discovered and implemented by various managers and companies. Anyhow, the goal is stable and the same as it has been for years - the perfect customer experience. The customer service team is tracking every interaction during the customer journey, customer expectations are researched and implemented faster than a client understands he needs them, and customer satisfaction is set as the highest priority.

To create ideal customer relationships with a brand, the business has been spending years finding the ideal strategy. As a result, a proactive customer service approach has been developed. This tactic is based on resolving customer service issues before a customer will feel or get them. To put it simply, it means that the customer service issues are solved before the client comes with a request to deal with the problem. 

Nonetheless, even if a proactive customer service approach looks like an irreplaceable and ideal solution, some companies are still using reactive customer service. So what is the most suitable way to achieve customer loyalty and assist clients to get a positive experience? What is the difference between a proactive approach and reactive customer service? Which of them creates higher customer satisfaction? How to build an ideal proactive strategy? And where lies the secret of exceptional customer service? 

Prepare for deep analytics and discovering new opportunities - we’re going to tell you all about the proactive approach and its opponent - reactive customer service.

In this article you will find:

What is proactive customer service?

Difference between proactive and reactive service

How to switch to a proactive model: starting point

Nine tips for proactive service

How not to scare customers by being too proactive


What is the proactive customer service strategy?

This is the customer issues-solving method established on the principle of resolving issues before a customer decides to comply. It has many components of implementation, which require a skilled and well-trained customer support team and a thoughtful proactive strategy. It is based on customer service automation and its objective is to increase customer loyalty and customer retention. Every interaction during a customer journey has to be provided with various support contact center tools to assist clients in tackling the issues or answering common questions on their own, without applying to an operator for help.

According to proactive service, clients must be equipped with all the necessary tools to deal with any issue on their customer journey and what’s more essential - they should feel satisfied by using these tools and get a positive experience. By the way, self-service is a trend in the contact center industry, so it’s another argument for implementing proactive service.

Where lies the dissimilarity between the two solutions?

Proactive service as a customer support strategy has its goal to eliminate problems before clients face them and come to a company with a complaint. This means the proactive approach is very effortful and requires permanent monitoring and analytic processes to be organized and provided to identify issues as momentarily as probable. Continuing this thought, you need more experienced and high-qualified employees to control all aspects of customer support strategy and avoid any imperfections which can cause customer complaints.

The forms of how the proactive customer service strategy may be implemented vary widely: from chat-bots, FAQs, and self-service knowledge bases to IVRs, automated surveys, and social listening.

Reactive customer service is well-known and may be called a “classic” solution in any industry. Its goal is to solve a client’s problems only when a client comes with a complaint to an agent. The nuance is that you can’t get rid of reactive service even if you want to do so. Anyhow the customer service team will achieve requests for assistance or appeals, but it doesn’t mean you have to be limited in founding new solutions. 

Descending customer retention rates, more heightened customer satisfaction,  more promising customer experience, and additional insights into customer behavior - here are the benefits of proactive service, so we don’t see any reasons to avoid using it even if you perform excellent reactive support. 

But to avoid misunderstandings and discover all dissimilarities between reactive and proactive services, we have to go deeper in finding out their key differences. The question is not to comprehend the overall disparity, but to get all aspects of processes and interactions in these two solutions. 

Who’s coming first?

As we have already told, in the reactive model a client is the one who makes the first step - and more often he comes with unpleasant news. Appeals, assistance requests, angry calls, refunds, etc. - all of these communication touches are painfully familiar for any contact center leader. The trouble lies in the essence of such communication - it starts only when the problem has harmed a client, so the goal is not only to tackle the trouble but to change the client’s mood and impression of a brand. 

Proactive customer service approaches to the solution of an issue from another side - it contacts the client before the trouble might do the same. Now imagine how will customer satisfaction or customer experience counter in these two cases. What solution gives more chances to achieve a deeply loyal customer? That’s it. 

There is a hitch in providing a quality customer experience - by allowing finding answers or tackling problems directly to clients, without any participation of the contact center’s agents. This course also increases the chances for positive customer feedback caused by both unexpected useful services and the intuitive nature of self-service tools. 

Identify, react, eliminate

Three words describe the entire proactive customer service strategy. Instead of a reactive model where clients are the testers and bug finders of your products, proactive customer service takes responsibility for the goods and services supported. According to such an approach, all common questions or common issues which can face the client are already answered or solved by the support department and gently put into knowledge bases or FAQs to ease clients’ life. 

If we talk about an easier life, we’ll tell a sample of such a service. 

Imagine a company that sells software for email marketing. It is designed for Windows, but the firm decides to scale up and open a new market in Switzerland, where most laptop users prefer MacOS. Developers just put a line “works on Mac” on a product, but there is no info on the website or social networks about how to start it on the mentioned operating system. 

Unhappy customers do massive calls to the support department every day, where they stay in queues, repeat the same questions and listen to a long and boring description of installing the virtual machines on their Macs. May you foresee the result of such “service”? We bet yes.

Numerous refunds, negative customer feedback, tons of disgusting reviews, and one-star rates on Capterra or Trustpilot, customer experience which is wanted to be never repeated- that is what will happen. 

How the proactive customer service strategy may help here? In various manners: chatbot instructions for installation, FAQ link on product selling page, instructions put directly in software interface or on its page. Funny, how easily can horrible trouble be created, and how simply it may be avoided. 

Customer activity is a key to solving all problems

Where does proactive customer support get data about potential problems and queries? Actually, it all gets through customer activity control. Contact centers have enough contact center tools to notice every client’s action to avoid further troubles. The service provided is based on three fundamental parts: monitoring actions, detecting potential problems, determination of the tips to solve them. 

It may be monitoring of interactions on the website, thematic forums surfing to find popular questions, Q&A resources control, and permanent community support in social media to find out potential issues by using customers’ comments or messages, or just product testing to find out its pros and cons. 

Omnichannel contact center software has an advantage over other solutions in its integrating opportunities with all communication channels. That means your agents can monitor every digital channel to avoid leaving any client’s appeal without attention. 

I want to switch to proactive solutions from the reactive model. Where to start? 

A good question that faces every manager who is looking for ways to improve their contact center performance. As it’s clear that the reactive model is a must-have and still can’t be replaced by an AI-based solution, you should comprehend that proactive customer service is an add-on to a reactive one, not a total replacement. By the way, we can’t talk about the final shift from one to another, but the creation of ideal customer service automation is impossible without proactive customer service and well-designed customer service software. 

So where is the starting point hidden? Well, you don’t need to spend years or sleepless nights to complete the shift to proactive customer service. First of all, you should allow people to contact the company through all possible channels. That means not only an email or phone (even though almost half of the companies keep the phone number hidden without any reason), but social networks, messengers, or voicemail too. More digital channels are required to receive more customer feedback and data to construct a strategy and find out imperfections that have to be resolved. 

The second step is to create the simplest type of self-service material - like a FAQ or short knowledge base on the website. You have internal information materials for agents, so it wouldn’t take much time to transform them into suitable ones for clients. In this way, clients won’t have to do the extra mile before achieving info or assistance, and their satisfaction will be higher. 

To deal with numerous contact lines, you need an omnichannel contact center equipped with special contact center tools. These instruments will not only assist in furnishing brilliant customer service but boost sales too. 

Nine tips to become a proactive service guru

Before we’ll start talking about the tips and tricks to make your proactive service and customer service automation perform at an excellent level, let’s discuss the segmentation of every single tool throughout the conversion funnel. The entire proactive model exists as a funnel, so it is easy to understand it as you definitely know how the sales funnel works. 

At the top of the funnel are tools that have to solve customers’ problems before they will determine the problem that exists. The list of these instruments contains FAQs, automatic messages, chatbots, etc. This phase is essential to get additional insights into customer behavior.

The next stage is about self-service. Here we should mention the IVR system and knowledge bases, where the customer is looking for the answers to his questions. 

The third phase is direct contact between the customer and support operators. For a sample, an omnichannel contact center can be organized via social networks, email, phone, SMS, and so on.

The final step is about receiving feedback to improve the service provided. It can be organized as live feedback during calls, automated surveys, or even post-contact analysis of the contract by recording the call or by another option.

The best piece of this approach is that a client has two entire stages before contacting a living agent, so a great number of his issues are solved even before the client determines them as the existing problems. Even if such a situation happens, customer service automation allows a client to solve the problem on his own. And if things are going badly, call center agents are always available in different digital channels to offer assistance - this is a great advantage of the omnichannel contact center. 

But even after comprehending a proactive approach as a funnel, you need a deeper understanding of all its essential tools and methods to perform proactive service with excellent performance. Now we are going to talk about every one of them separately.

Knowledge base and FAQ as the first line of support

The interesting Vanilla research states that self-service is adored by almost all clients. As it’s mentioned in the study, 79% of buyers wish businesses to furnish self-service tools, 84% prefer to resolve troubles on their own, and a fantastic rate of 92% would like to use knowledge bases. We suggest not ignoring these scores and finding ways to implement knowledge bases and FAQs as soon as possible. 

The same study also says that people are more willing to choose another company after bad clients’ service - 61% have said so, but on the other hand, 78% of buyers would buy more goods from a firm that has assisted them with a great service. And to comprehend what is meant by “great clients’ service”, we must remember that this study is about self-service - and this is exactly what buyers are looking for. 

So we have mentioned knowledge bases and FAQs as your first supporters in the field of providing self-service. Their goal is to help customers get all the information they require to start using products and services and avoid them from facing problems. But there is another great challenge - the actuality of knowledge bases. 

Many companies don’t put the changes in their support databases, so after several product or service changes or updates, the base becomes outdated. Another trouble is poorly designed service materials, which are unavailable to surf through or cut one topic on numerous articles and make the client come for an agent’s support. 

Tips for designing an easy-in-use, intuitive, complicated, and adored knowledge base:

  1. Segment it to the groups which have topics related to the client journey, such as “Pricing Policies”, “Being started”, or “Setuping”
  2. Make all materials structured in the same way. If there is one issue, make one article for it. Use relinking to orientate between thematically related writings.
  3. Use videos and infographics, but the videos should be short and easy to understand. Don’t use 20 minutes long guides, no one will watch them till the end.
  4. If there is an update, update the database too. 

AI-based chatbots and IVAs

The second part of your automated assistants on the path of furnishing client service. AI integrations are not as old as FAQs, but their popularity grows from year to year. The secret to their success is their adaptability to customers’ needs and potential questions. But to go further, we should distinguish IVA from the chatbot. 

IVAs have their objective to propose to a client different solutions. They are mostly used on a page with pricing policies, where they unobtrusively ask a visitor to say some significant facts about his business - number of team members, workforce model, industry, etc. After that integration offers the most suitable pricing plan.

Chatbot has approximate objectives, but it works more like an automated knowledge base - it asks several questions and afterward sends related information, articles, links, and so on. 

These two tools have vital value for self-service strategy - one of them helps to offer personalized solutions, while another one may plug the gaps in knowledge bases.

Intelligent routing on real-time chats

Even though IVAs and AI-powered chatbots are great instruments to furnish adorable self-service, some appeals still need to be processed by a well-trained and highly qualified agent. Here the work for IVAs or chatbots isn’t over - they usually propose to switch from using an AI-provided interface to a living operator, and after that, a client is linked to a worker who is the most relevant to the client’s question.

How does it work? Even here we can’t go away from AI. The system analyzes where the customer is (we mean the exact website page), where he was, what keywords he was using during his visit to the website, and connects an agent who is the most related to the topic of the customer’s issue. 

This method ensures that the client will achieve the best possible service because he is assisted by the appropriate operator. On the other hand, it is well integrated with self-service as when the opportunities of AI-based tools are over, there is one click to switch from them to professional and personalized assistance. 

IVR with live updates

IVR solutions are well-known, extremely popular, and maybe a bit annoying for every contact center. It is another must-have self-serving option that has an irreplaceable influence on customer satisfaction and experience. But classic IVR software can be determined as banal and uninteresting solutions, although it is impossible to set up a contact center without using an IVR system. There is a hitch?

You can pleasantly surprise your customers and upgrade your IVR software by using up-to-minute notifications. As a sample, when a client is going through an IVR system to be linked with a relevant operator, he may hear an announcement that his issue is already detected and processed to be resolved. What would be the reaction? Probably, the client will be pleased and a bit shocked by such fulminant service, and his mood before the conversation with an agent will already be good. 

Such an option is as easy to implement as great in the case of improving client satisfaction and experience. We suggest you do not avoid using IVR solutions.

CRM assistance

Most of the clients desire you to know their name, last interactions with a company, and the products that they’ve bought. If the agent isn’t equipped with such data, a client can take it as bad service, and at least try one more time to ask for assistance or, what’s much worse, just choose another company. 

It is enough to think about having all info related to an exact customer near at hand. Such an option can be provided by CRM assistance - by its integration with a call center software, all required data from the CRM system can be transferred to an agent’s screen before he answers a call. This data can be customized, but mostly it includes info about the last interaction, satisfaction level, survey responses, and total cost of the client’s account. 

By receiving this information, an agent can construct a strategy for a further call in a few seconds before he’ll take the phone. Just imagine, how better he would perform with this data, and how poorly would his service look if he knows nothing about the exact customer. That is more than enough to think about integrating such CRM support.

Ask the clients about how you’re doing

Real-time feedback and automated surveys are great features to know where you can put more effort and do better, or where are you already at the top. Such surveys should follow clients at every stage of their journey, from entering the main page of the website to buying a product and achieving post-purchase support. 

Such surveys are interactive, easy to fill, and take a little time for customers, while you get tons of essential information. Customer needs, expectations, displeasure, issues, pieces of advice - all these data can be collected through such surveys. 

In addition, automated surveys can be followed by automated messages which relate to the topic of the survey or to things that were evaluated as “bad”. In this way, clients’ answers can lead you to detect customers who need assistance but somehow don’t ask for it. 

Use client journey to automate the service

The process of cooperation between the business and a client, as well as the clients' evaluation of this process, is called the client’s journey. The absolute goal is to make it keep a 5-star rating during the whole journey, but there is nothing ideal in the world. Another ideal and theoretical goal is to assist just before it becomes necessary, but it can’t be done manually. But what about automation?

Data about every exact client is obtained from surveys, conversions, interactions, etc. This data constructs the client's journey. By detecting downfalls in the client journey, you see where to automate some processes. 

Great samples of service automation:

  1. Welcoming messages
  2. Personal offers or discounts for loyal customers
  3. Reminders for clients who left important processes unfinished
  4. Sending related articles about the features mostly used by a client
  5. Sending educational or advertising materials about features that have not been used by a client

This list isn’t exhaustive - you can customize automated messages or other types of contact on your own. Just ensure that every customer gets a personalized approach. 

Play ahead with updates

Every product or service is changing after some time. The main question is not to update or not to update the product - we hope it is clear enough, but how the changes can affect the community, existing customers, or potential ones who have been already looking for your company to make a purchase. 

Especially harmful some updates can be in specific industries, such as highly regulated niches - insurance, health care, real estate, or high-tech industries, which design software or applications, or other complicated and highly technological products. 

The community can be satisfied by an update, but sometimes the reaction can be diametrically opposite - and this is the worst possible case for you. So instead of sitting and crossing your fingers while waiting for feedback, play ahead and provide happy customers with all data about updates before you will release it. 

Create a complicated update knowledge base with links to the support department, and for the most valued clients provide personal contact to make them discover all update features. 

Even though the update will be greeted coldly, customers will be pleased by such personalized and community-oriented service. 

Listen to the social platforms

Social networks, as well as special review websites, are the places where people are more willing to criticize, be negatively evaluated, or in some more hardcore ways destroy a company’s reputation. So, as you could guess, these platforms should be monitored permanently to avoid such things or to solve the existing cases of client dissatisfaction. 

Of course, it is impossible to do manually, you better don’t even try it. You can’t control every lead or client just because it will cost you all your working time to scroll through their accounts. But it is one more time than AI scripts and automation save the task - special software can easily monitor every mention of your company, products, or team members and show them an all-in-one interface. This option helps to get in touch with people who comply with you and close the cases. 

What if buyers are not prepared for the proactive model?

Proactive service is all about the personalized approach. It starts from unobtrusive suggestions like FAQs or related articles, but some people think that there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed.

The proactive approach works and exists only because of the collection of data regarding customers. Even though this data is provided by the customer by his willingness to do so, sometimes it is better to avoid using all opportunities opened by it - at least, it is one of the popular thoughts.

Personalization means that the interface where the client is doing his interactions will be customized using his preferences of wishes collected by analyzing his previous actions. As research says, it is approved by the bigger part of clients, so there is nothing illegal or immoral in it.

The proactive model has to provide the client with the information he requires for further interactions with a product or service, even if a customer doesn’t know that this data is essential for him. 

On the other hand, is it a good idea to use the data to advertise products that are needed by a customer, but he still doesn’t know it? For Nicola Millard, one of the top managers in GlobalServices BT, it is not. For other managers it is, and Amazon, Facebook, and other giants have been doing so for years. It should be your own choice to do or not do it in this way, so we will avoid any recommendations. 

Perhaps, the key answer is no more - yes, customers are ready for more proactive service and they adore it. The goal is to provide it wisely to avoid misunderstandings and negative emotions caused by too obsessive service.

Finally, here’s the conclusion

As we severally stated in this article, a proactive approach is a great add-on for the reactive model that keeps its position despite all circumstances. It helps to increase customer retention rates, improve customer satisfaction and provide better CX and a new level of service. But to do so, you need a strong technological solution - a complicated customer service software based on the omnichannel model to cover all contact lines and be sure that your service is provided error-free and everywhere where it is possible.

To save the time that you could spend in difficult thoughts, comparing various solutions, we offer you our product - professionally designed, equipped with all possible features, intuitive, and easy-to-use call center software. Based on the VoIP model, offers you many advantages which were mentioned in this writing - third-party software integration, monitoring options, omnichannel approach, and much more. Are you ready to try it? 

Then use the form and get a 15-minute demonstration call where you will discover all its benefits

Contact us to discuss your needs and see Voiptime Contact Center in action!

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