Written by Ian Landsman in

Don’t Wait For The Complaint: Proactive Customer Service

We know this: How your brand is perceived, what your reputation is built on, and how your customer service is remembered matters. We know what great customer service means, and we have a pretty good understanding by now that bad customer service doesn’t get your company very far.

But providing a great customer service experience doesn’t just start when you pick up the phone to answer a client question, or when you respond to a live chat message. It’s proactive. How?

What Is Proactive Customer Service?

Proactive service begins at the moment of engagement. It starts when a potential customer visits your website, or comes across your product in the store. It makes it easy for the potential customer to understand exactly what you offer and how they can take advantage of what you have to offer, while ensuring the current customer runs into no hiccups - and if they do, they’re easily and efficiently resolved.

How can you provide proactive customer service?

Provide accurate, comprehensive information.

Are you a restaurant? A walk-in urgent care provider? Proactive customer service means not only saying that you close at 10 p.m., but clearly indicating everywhere that you stop taking new reservations or appointments at 8:30 p.m. (a mother of a child with the flu does not need to argue semantics with you when she arrives at 9:15, thinking she has made it with plenty of time).

Proactive customer service anticipates situations like these, and provides this information upfront, so that there are no surprises when the customer does try to engage you.

Be transparent.

Do you already know you’re most responsive when customers contact you via Facebook or Twitter? Is there a preferred method of engagement that your team is most prepared to manage? Be transparent with that information by clearly communicating your preferred method of customer - business interaction. Sure, you’ll likely need to provide more than one way for customers to connect with you, but this transparency allows them to know they willingly chose the option where response time may take a few hours more.

Amazon Web Services does this well. They let you know upfront that contacting them through the online form will take longer than if you choose chat or phone. 

amazon_web_services_customer_service

Prefer not to get in a live chat or make phone call? That’s fine, fill out the form – you’ve already been warned it might be a bit of a wait, so there won’t be any surprises when they respond in hours, not minutes.

Be upfront and honest.

Every business would prefer to sell the product or service that is both highly in-demand and has the greatest profit margin.

But what’s best for you is not always best for the potential customer, and providing honest and accurate information upfront may in fact mean you should dissuade your interested buyer from your top product. Whether you agree upon a product offered by you or you (gasp!) refer them to a competitor’s service, your potential customer will walk away with a more positive impression of your brand than if you sell them something that will ultimately not benefit them.

Be welcoming.

Provide beginner user guides or tutorials, whether in-print or online, that are comprehensive and easy to understand. These instructional pieces are critical to making good first impressions once your product or service is in the hands and control of your new customer.

At HelpSpot, we offer live training. It gets new customers up-to-speed immediately, while it provides a great way for existing customers to learn about new tools. Our live training also grants existing customers an easy method of training new hires, making them more effective more quickly. As an added bonus, this training means less support requests – saving both the customer and our team time.

Be communicative.

Don’t wait for customers to reach out with questions. Follow up with new customers sharing tips on how to make the best use of their purchase. Follow up with questions other customers have asked or ideas other customers have inspired to educate the new customer on your offering’s potential.

And what about those old, loyal, current customers? They may seem just fine, but proactive customer service means checking in. It means offering them something new. Asking them for ideas or input on future iterations of your product or service. Starting a conversation with them so they know they are heard, and that their opinions and business are valued.

Meet Edgar provides a terrific option for businesses looking to provide proactive customer service. We use this service to post evergreen tips and ideas for our users.
meet_edgar_helpspot

Meet Edgar reposts the same catalogue of social media posts at different times, allowing you to reach customers who are online at different hours of the day and who live in different time zones. If you have a stockpile of Q&As you’d like to make more visible for your customers, you can send your posts out repeatedly – broadening the reach of your information, and increasing your visibility as a brand that consistently seeks to help its customers.

Make answers accessible.

We know you don’t have the bandwidth for endless customer service inquiries. You don’t have time to answer the same questions every day, even if you wanted to engage with your customers one-on-one on daily basis. It doesn’t scale well as your company grows. We understand.

Proactively making answers to your customers’ questions accessible provides a number of benefits. By providing these answers in an easy-to-access, easy-to-digest format, your customers are left with the impression your brand is helpful and immediately there for them - whether their inquiries occurred at noon or midnight, business hours or weekend. Beyond simply lessening the number of customer inquiries you need to manage, these efforts can also help your customers feel assured of their purchasing decision.

You can achieve this through the following methods:

Optimize your website content - and ongoing content strategy: Make your online presence simple to explore and digest. Have questions you already know customers frequently ask? Revisit your website copy to see where you can infuse those answers.

Have very specific questions that you regularly encounter but aren’t universally relevant to your entire audience? Provide FAQs, tutorials, hubs or audience-specific content areas where your customers can find the information that matters to them.

Making your online presence incredibly accessible so that your FAQs are well-sorted, your search feature brings up relevant answers and your customers can find the answers they need is tremendous.

By providing enough of the right information, your customers won’t even need to reach your automated systems.

Utilize the power and knowledge of site search: If your website has a search box, make sure it’s optimized to accurately understand the user’s intentions and provide relevant results.

Don’t just stop there. Pay attention to those customer searches, and learn more about what your customer is looking for. Maybe they have questions you haven’t considered yet. Or maybe their searches indicate where you’re providing an answer isn’t where your customers are naturally looking.

At HelpSpot, we run a report tracking all searches on our support site. We also run a report that shows all searches that resulted in few or no results being returned. We can easily see what people are searching for and finding no results about. Running this report allows us to add content on those topics and lessen the amount of future support requests regarding these questions. Again, we’re not only saving ourselves time – we’re striving to make it easier and more efficient for the customer to find what they need.

Evolve.

Learn. All the time. Never stop. You’re not just striving to provide the same ol’ great customer service. You’re striving for customer service that’s better than ever. That means offering what your customers want before they even know they want it.

There’s an old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Proactive customer service is prevention. It’s anticipating the needs and wants of your customers to keep them happy before they have a chance to be unhappy. But most importantly, it is changing as your customers change and learning to identify potential problems that could occur, resolving them before they ever become more than theoretical.

Presented by HelpSpot

Hit the restart button on your customer service. HelpSpot has everything your support team needs to make your customer service sing.

Don't miss our next post

We publish new posts each week. Get them in your inbox.

Write a guest post

Interested in writing for the HelpSpot blog? We love adding new voices.

About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

Topics