Importance of Proactive Customer Service

“He who gives when he is asked has waited too long.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The quote above amply explains what proactive customer service should be about, and why such service would be important to customers. This kind of service strategy is not new, and is extremely effective in gaining and retaining customers, but still some companies have a problem with implementing it effectively. It is strange that despite significant rise in customer satisfaction and engagement, companies continue to falter with this strategy. Market experts seem to think that problems with implementing a proactive customer service strategy stem from the internal systems of a company – departmental silos leading to lack of collaboration and cohesion within teams. With each team focused only on their own contribution and challenges, identifying, resolving, and supporting customer issues take a back seat, very often becoming bigger problems due to neglect and lack of proactivity.

Proactive customer service is about anticipating customer issues and needs, and addressing them even before customers mention it. Instructional videos, troubleshooting ‘trees’, FAQs, and a consolidated knowledge base are some ways to proactively provide customers with answers to their possible queries and or problems. Diametrically opposite this kind of service, would be reactive customer support wherein the customer would need to contact a company for a response to a question or a problem and would need to wait for the company’s response. The customer service of most companies could be categorized as ‘reactive’, but proactive customer service is required for customers to love, support, and be loyal to a brand. Proactive customer service is important simply because it offers a number of sustainable and tangible benefits for any business.

Any business today not only has limited resources, but also faces serious challenges with attracting and retaining customers today. A report found that by being proactive and taking the initiative to improve service, a company would be able to enhance customer retention by about 3-5% at least, which in turn would lead to an increase in the number of loyal customers and loyalty of existing ones. With companies proactively assessing their needs and providing for them, customers would need to contact a company a lot less, which reduces the number of calls and tickets the customer service agents would need to deal with. This in turn would mean that a company would not need to hire more staff to deal with customer queries and complaints. Today most prospective customers read the reviews of existing customers before making a decision to associate with a company, and existing customers do talk about companies and their offerings to their family, friends, and associates. By offering proactive customer service, a company would be able to enhance its positive interactions with its customers and engage with them in a way that would encourage them to speak highly of the company, its offerings, and its customer service.

It would be safe to say that customers love such kind of service, and research shows that 87% of customers spoken to were favourable towards being contacted proactively by the company with regard to possible customer service and other issues. Proactive customer service offers a company several opportunities to not only meet but also exceed the expectations of its customers, while simultaneously strengthening customer relationships and the value customers get out of the association. As the reputation of a company enhances, it would become a lot easier for a company to acquire more customers. In addition, it would be a lot simpler to connect proactively with prospects, offering them value and benefits in a bid to lure them towards your company.  While acquiring new customers is important, retaining the existing ones is even more critical. Through proactive customer service a company can reach out to its current customers to strengthen the existing relationships, which over time would lead to brand affinity and advocacy on the part of the customers. In today’s business environment, being able to build a ‘force’ of loyal brand advocates from its customers, is a major competitive advantage for any company, and one that cannot be defeated easily by its competitors. We know that the cost of attracting customers is a lot higher than retaining the existing ones. Companies that are forced to replace churning customers especially the ones that leave due to poor service, face serious threats to their reputation along with substantial costs to gain new customers.

Proactive customer service may require some investment of time and resources. However, the ROI is high and worth every effort, and every company must look at ways to shift from reactive to proactive customer service. The first thing to do is create and sustain a focus on customers – this means putting customers first and at the centre of whatever the company does. Since businesses exist because of customers, it would make sense for a company to make itself available to its customers. There are a number of ways to do so – ensure that the contact information of the company is clearly visible both online and offline, ensuring that the hours of operation of the company remain aligned with the needs of the customers, provide service across a wide range of communication channels, have efficient self-service, and other such endeavours. By giving customers several channels and means to connect, a company would be placing control in their hands, and it would be able to service them more effectively. As mentioned, troubleshooting guides, FAQs, and other self-help methods allow customers to find answers quickly – a part of proactive customer service. Placing customers first is a sure-shot way to boost the image and reputation of the company, and ultimately enhance the bottom line. Research shows that by improving customer service a company can boost its sales by about 60%.

A company must spend time understanding its customers in a bid to identify the most frequently repeated queries and problems – not just for a single customer but also across the customer base. By implementing an efficient and proactive customer service strategy a company can root out the most common yet possibly costly and damaging problems that customers face throughout the ‘journey’ with a company. As mentioned, a breakdown in service occurs often due to non-collaborative efforts within the company. Companies fail to leverage the strength of its employees and the existing technology to develop and deliver active and effective solutions to customer problems. Companies that would be successful in delivering proactive customer service would be the ones utilising their resources and technology in ways that would benefit the customers, and allow them to proactively gauge and resolve possible problems.

The aim of proactive customer service is to build trust, dependability, and engagement with customers and internally across departments and teams, such that all those involved can benefit. By putting customers first, the costs and resources incurred in doing so would not only be justified but would also be recovered in a short while, given the many tangible and financial benefits of happy and loyal customers. Customers seek companies that care – and while they may remain satisfied with a company that solves their problems, customer delight would happen if a company can consistently resolve a problem even before the customer realizes the problem or calls the company regarding a problem. Is not this the kind of service, you as a customer would want? Where does your company stand with regard to proactive customer service?

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