Proactive Customer Service is Critical for Success

“We’re taking a proactive approach, instead of waiting or seeing if anything happens.” – Mike Stack

There is no better truth in the realm of customer service than what is mentioned in the quote above. No business can or should remain in reactive mode with regard to service – that is waiting for customers to complain and or leave before ramping up their service – proactive customer service is the need of the hour. Customers are busy people and want to associate with a company that will provide them with service and top quality products without any extra effort or investment of time from them. If a customer signs up for a service, they could forget to use it, and it would be the onus and duty of the company to remind them of the service in order for them to avail it. Not doing so could mean that when a customer does realize the ‘wasted service’ they have been paying for they could cancel their ‘subscription’ to it. Over time, this would result in a dent to a company’s bottom line and could tarnish its image to some extent.

Many companies today, unfortunately still continue to remain in ‘reactive mode’. At the start of the association, companies make a number of promises and imply that they would provide a number of value-added services to the customers. These ‘assurances’ are naturally attractive to the rushed customers, and they end up getting into agreements with a company. However, over time, these promises do not seem to be in ‘force’ – the company fails to stay connected with the customer, customers need to call in order to receive service and or get a problem rectified, customers need to contact the company for anything else they may need – the customer is constantly having to spend their resources to get service. This over time, becomes a lot of effort for customers – who are already extremely busy and preoccupied with running their own company. It is only post complaints or being contacted by customers, that a company ‘reacts’ to them – making the customers feel unimportant and not special. Customers do get extremely irritated when a company makes them work for getting service, and would not only end the relationship but would also write poor reviews about the company over visible social media sites and spread the negative word of mouth in several ways. It is a lot harder for a company to counter such negativity and try to appease these irate customers, than it would be to keep them happy to start with.

A company that believes in proactive customer service would find it a lot easier to build and sustain positive relationships with their customers. Their customers would be happier, more amenable to listening to the company, less price sensitive, and would be willing also to refer the company to others. Proactive customer service is about staying in touch with the customers, anticipating their needs and problems, coming through for them on their current and future expectations, and staying on ‘top of every detail’ that relates to their customers. Proactive customer service is all about showing the customers that your company cares about their needs and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep them happy. Customers tend to trust and like such companies a lot more – two factors that not only keep customers loyal, but make them willing brand ambassadors as well. It may require consistent effort and an investment of several resources for a company to provide proactive customer service, but the ROI is massive and builds a loyal fan base of customers and a solid impenetrable market reputation for the company. Customers begin to view the company more as a ‘go to’ partner than a mere service provider. With all these factors, it is not surprising then that customers renew their contracts and provide more business to companies that are proactive in their approach to service.

Most businesses make the mistake of reacting to customer problems – when the approach actually required is to stay in touch with customers to ensure that most of the problems do not occur. While quickly reacting and serving customers when they do report a problem is important and does satisfy customers, this does not suffice. In today’s cutthroat competition, it is essential to delight customers consistently in order to retain them and or keep them profitable. Staying ahead of customers, and keeping a close eye on any future problems, requirements and needs, will not only keep customers happy, they will be walking advertisements for a company. From the business perspective, proactive customer service reduces the burden and workload on the service agents, since there would not be as many calls, issues to deal with, irate customers to appease, and crisis to deal with. Overall, this would reduce wait times, keep customers happier, and ensure that the service agents remain energized and ready to serve customers at all times. Happy agents make happy customers – thereby increasing retention rates by about 3-5%.

As mentioned, proactive customer service does not just happen. It is a conscious and consistent effort on the part of a company that will ensure customer happiness and loyalty. It would be prudent to ask customers for advice and feedback – consistently and even when everyone seems happy. A company cannot give customers what they want unless they know what it is that customers want – and the best people to tell them are the customers themselves. It would be a display of confidence on the part of the company to proactively ask customers what they believe are the shortcomings of the company, and then put in place strategies to eliminate these weaknesses and emerge as a company stronger and better equipped to provide proactive customer service. Connecting with and speaking to customers must be the top priority across the organization – led by the top people of the company. Regular contact with customers allows a company to identify and address any issues that their customers may have, before they become full-fledged problems – proactive customer service is what customers expect and deserve.

Another crucial aspect of proactive customer service is for a company to accept a mistake and take responsibility to ensure that it is sorted out and does not affect customers in any manner. If customers discover a problem, which the company ought to have spoken about, customers are quick to believe that the company is being dishonest and hiding facts – this ruins the reputation of the company before it even knows the problem. Once customer trust is lost, it becomes near impossible to regain it – and a company would need to put in 10 times the effort to rebuild it. It would be better for a company to instead offer proactive customer service. This would include letting customers know of a problem, offering an apology, making amends through discounts, refunds, other incentives, letting customers know the steps being taken to resolve the problem, the timeline for the resolution, and providing contact details of key people in the company, which customers could use to get any information regarding the problem.

Proactive customer service does not only keep existing customers happy – others are sure to read news items, and hear about the experiences from existing customers, allowing them to see the effort a company may have put in to resolve an issue and or the efforts to keep problems at bay. Existing happy customers would be willing to play ‘brand advocates’ – a great promotional tool for any company, which serves to attract a much larger prospective customer base to the company. Investing small amounts of resources in proactive customer service is sure to yield unprecedented results for any company, making every investment worth more than what it started out.

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