For many larger businesses, it can often be difficult to keep up with the flood of support tickets and customer issues that flood in – even with a powerful helpdesk.
Often, the proposed solution is to hire more support staff to alleviate the extra work, but that’s not always a great solution.
For instance, you’ll have to be able to afford the extra staff. That may not always be a possibility.
You may also only need that extra help for your busy season, especially if you’re subject to the ups and downs of your industry and the economy.
Either of these scenarios could leave you saddled with costs that only make the issue hurt in a different way.
The real solution is much simpler and more elegant. You need to provide proactive customer support. Let’s look at what that means, and then highlight the five steps you can take to implement proactive support in your business.
What is Proactive Customer Support?
Proactive customers support is when you take steps to help your customers resolve issues before they have them. For instance, you may create FAQs, forums, support videos, or use a chatbot that can answer questions before a customer contacts your support team.
This is juxtaposed with reactive customer support1, which is when a customer does get in touch with your support team. At that point, they have an issue that isn’t easy to fix without direction, so they have to wait for your help.
So while it’s easy to dismiss proactive customer support as “thinking negatively” about your organization, there are quite a few benefits.
For starters, it increases customer retention rates by 3-5%2.
As you probably know, retained customers are worth more and cost less than new customers. Proactive support is the fast track to positive ROI on your marketing and service initiatives.
You’ll also be able to field fewer support calls as your proactive support has identified and solved issues before they escalate to your team. Fielding fewer tickets will allow your support team to use their time for more important efforts.
It’s also what your customers both want and expect from you.
95% of online shoppers3 will go with the brand they feel has the best information and support for their product. Proactive support is the best way to accomplish that.
And finally, proactive support allows you to control the conversation about your product or service. If there’s a common issue, it gives you a platform to be public about what you’re doing to fix it, instead of reactively putting out fires.
With all of this in mind, let’s look at how you can create your own proactive customer support.
How to Create Your Own Proactive Customer Support
Implementing proactive support doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. You need to approach it with a plan of action and a willingness to be more transparent.
Here are five steps you should take when building proactive customer support initiatives.
1. Know Your Customers
Before you start anticipating your customers’ needs, you need to spend some time getting to know them.
If you don’t know who they are, what they need, or what issues they experience, then you’ll never be able to proactively support hem.
This means you need to spend some time to gather customer feedback and listening to what they have to say. A recent study4 showed that best-in-class companies found ways to listen to their customers and integrate their feedback across the board.
And here are a few ideas on how you can gather that feedback5:
– Use analytics, see where bounces and churn are occurring.
– Interview your current customers, find out their pain points.
– Use information from your helpdesk to see where common themes arise. Address them first.
Another emerging way to start analyzing and assessing your customer feedback is to start relying on AI. The amount of data available to you may be too much to handle without AI speeding things up.
It doesn’t matter how you get feedback, so long as you get it and use it to help direct your proactive customer support.
2. Build the Right Support Team
The benefits of a good team are unmistakable. Companies with highly engaged teams see an average of 147% more growth6 and revenue than their competitors.
Your proactive customer support is going to work best with a solid team behind it – and not just your support staff. Everyone in your organization has insights and experience that can be used to build proactive customer service initiatives that benefit your customers.
That means you’ll need to focus on building teamwork both in your support staff and in your company as a whole.
A great example of how this works comes from Guidebook7. Their customer satisfaction, net promoter score, and other service metrics are higher than most other brands in their industry, and they attribute that success to the proactive support offered by their team.
But building a great customer support team takes time. You’ll need to assess new hires, train your staff to think proactively and implement ideas from all around your organization.
Then, you’ll be able to gather insights from the people in your organization to proactively provide support to your customers.
From there, you can take your support efforts a step further by building a customer-centric culture.
3. Make Your Company Customer-Centric
Your customer is essential to your growth – but does your company always treat them that way?
Building a customer-centric culture means putting them at the center your vision, culture, and processes. It starts with leadership and needs to involve every person you hire as much as possible.
The key is to focus on eliminating bad habits and building good ones8, like active listening, systematically improving your customer experience, and adapting to customer feedback.
By placing your customer at the center of your universe, you show them that you value their role in your business. This, in turn, helps boost loyalty and retention9, which is better for your revenue streams in the long term.
4. Be Upfront With Your Mistakes
Transparency is the key to your customers’ hearts.
A great illustration of this comes from a recent study that shed light on the fact that customers prefer apologies10 when they’re needed instead of compensation.
If you were to default to compensation – or just ignore the issue – then your customers are likely to remain upset with you.
By being transparent, you can endear yourself to your customers and win back their support with little more than sincerity and a promise to do better. You still need to follow through of course, but it starts with open communication.
5. Build a Content Library That Answers Common Questions
FAQs, forums, and self-help portals are awesome proactive support tools, but only if you populate them with helpful, engaging, and easy to follow content.
In many ways, this type of content is the ultimate proactive support initiative. All your customers have to do is get on your website and access the self-service resources you’ve built.
From there, they can find what they need and be on their way without ever contacting your business.
How do you build self-service content? It’s simple. Take the insights you’ve gathered from the previous four steps, and create short, helpful content pieces that walk customers through common issues.
Make sure that your content is available on your site, and try to avoid these common pitfalls:
1. Don’t restrict access to information.
2. Don’t forget to brand your support forums.
3. Clear out clutter and repetitive, unhelpful topics.
4. Make sure there’s a search option.
5. Don’t let your support become obsolete.
6. Ensure that it’s easy to receive customer feedback.
7. Complement self-help with live support or other channels.
Once everything is in place, you’ll see fewer support calls and emails for common issues. That means your team can stay focused on special cases that matter.
Customer support is a multi-faceted and ever-changing discipline, but that doesn’t mean you have to struggle to keep up.
Proactive customer support is a great way to ensure that service tickets are piling up on your desk and is proven to help boost customer loyalty and their willingness to buy again.
Get to know your customers through your analytics and direct feedback. Their most common issues are the first place to start.
You also need to spend time building a solid customer support team and then spreading their mentality through your business. A customer-centric business will outperform its competitors almost every time.
It’s also in your best interest to be as transparent as possible. Customers want to know what’s going on and why their experience is less than optimal.
Finally, take all of the insights you’ve gathered and work on building a content library that’s accessible to everyone.
When all of these proactive support elements are in place, you’ll see a huge difference in the way your customer support runs. You’ll spend less time catching up, and more time forging ahead.
Main illustration done by Sriram Govindasamy
1 – https://www.nicereply.com/blog/proactive-customer-service/
2 – http://www.gdsinternational.com/events/ngcx/us/
3 – https://postfunnel.com/7-mighty-customer-experience-trends-for-retention-in-2018/
4 – https://www.verint.com/Assets/resources/resource-types/analyst-documents/voice-of-the-customer-how-to-properly-listen-and-act-on-customer-needs.pdf
5 – https://businesstalentgroup.com/expert-insights/voc-data-analysis/
6 – https://broadsuite.com/stats-linking-employee-experience-to-customer-experience/
7 – https://guidebook.com/mobile-guides/award-winning-support-team-back/
8 – https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/is-your-organization-customer-centric/
9 – https://www.livechatinc.com/blog/the-benefits-customer-centricity/
10 – https://coschedule.com/blog/customer-complaints/