Proactive Customer Service: Definition, Examples and Strategies

Mastering Proactive Customer Service in 2024

Mastering Proactive Customer Service 8 Steps for Success - CX Today News
Loyalty ManagementInsights

Published: April 11, 2024

Rebekah Carter

Today’s customers demand more from companies. Reacting quickly to problems and issues isn’t enough. You need to offer proactive customer service to engage your audience, retain buyers, increase sales, and ultimately outperform the competition.

Customers no longer trust companies to keep their best interests at heart. Failure to understand the challenges your customers face and implement strategies to preemptively overcome them doesn’t help the issue. Proactive service demonstrates a commitment to delivering the best service and support to all customers, giving you an edge over the competition.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to implement. During an interview with the CXToday team, Senior Research Director for Gartner Eric Keller revealed that proactive service leads to a 9% increase in a customer’s value enhancement score. However, when implemented incorrectly, proactive outreach can damage consumer trust and lead to additional costs for companies.

So, how do you implement proactive customer service effectively?

What is Proactive Customer Service?

Proactive customer service is an approach to customer service that involves anticipating customers’ needs before they need to contact you. It can include immediately alerting customers when you make a mistake, informing them about product changes, and recommending products they might like based on their previous purchases.

Examples of proactive customer service include:

  • Ensuring customers can immediately track service outages and incidents as Microsoft does with its service health portal.
  • Connecting with customers to introduce them to products, services, or features that might be valuable to them based on your knowledge of their needs and pain points.
  • Consistently searching for ways to improve the customer experience, like offering onboarding programs that teach users how to use new solutions.

AWS is one company that enables and offers proactive customer service. They ensure companies can access machine-learning-powered solutions to review customer data and design personalized outbound campaigns at scale. They also inform their customers about potential outages, reach out to existing customers about product updates, and follow up on reported issues.

Proactive Customer Service vs. Reactive Service

Reactive and proactive customer service are differentiated by who in the relationship makes the first move. With proactive service, companies initiate the first contact with the customer. With reactive service, it’s the customer that needs to reach out first.

Proactive service can be challenging to deliver. It’s difficult to predict precisely what your customers need in advance. However, waiting for a customer to contact you about a problem is like waiting for your smoke alarm to sound because your casserole is burning.

You might be able to salvage something and stop the problem from getting worse, but the damage is already done. Reactive service means that by the time you deliver a solution, your customer is already frustrated with your brand and potentially looking for alternatives.

Proactive service allows you to anticipate problems before they occur, improving the customer experience and saving customers time and effort. Notably, no company can be completely “proactive.” You can’t anticipate everything. There will be times when you do need to react and respond quickly to unpredictable incidents.

But a proactive approach helps you to cut down on those “reactive” efforts, and differentiate yourself from the competition.

The Benefits of a Proactive Customer Service Strategy

Though it’s easier to be “proactive” in customer service today than it once was, there are still challenges involved in implementing the right strategy. You may need to invest in new technology, workflows, and training processes. So, why should you bother?

Simply put, proactive customer service delivers results. 89% of customers think proactive service gives them a more “positive” experience with a brand. Additionally, 81% of shoppers say it increases the likelihood of buying from a business again.

Gartner survey even found proactive service can lead to a full-point increase in various CX metrics, such as customer satisfaction, effort, and net promoter scores.

A proactive approach shows your audience your business is customer-focused and always striving to deliver a phenomenal experience; it provides benefits like:

Increased Customer Loyalty

89% of customers believe proactive customer service leads to a better customer experience. I prefer to receive a notification on my phone when an app isn’t working as it should rather than trying to troubleshoot the problem myself.

Whether you’re informing customers of problems or sharing insights into new products or features, a proactive approach delights your customers. It shows them you always have their experience and their needs in mind. This leads to an increased chance of retaining your customers long-term, which means you also end up with better profits due to a higher customer lifetime value.

Higher Sales and Revenue

Customers are often distracted when shopping. Around 70% will abandon their cart after adding an item to it. Sometimes, they only need a little extra support to decide.

Reaching out proactively with an offer or deal your customer might be interested in can increase your chances of conversions. Alternatively, having a chatbot or FAQ on your website that allows users to answer any questions they might have about your shipping or return policies can give them the reassurance they need to complete a purchase.

Improved Agent Experiences

As mentioned above, a reactive approach will always be necessary in the contact center to some degree. However, if your agents spend all their time putting out endless fires, they can easily get overwhelmed. Proactive support can reduce the strain on your agents.

If you offer customers FAQs, knowledgebase guides, and chatbots, they can proactively address more issues without seeking agent support. This means less pressure on your employees. This reduces the support tickets agents have to handle, reducing the risk of stress and burnout.

Greater Customer Satisfaction

Being proactive with your support ensures your customers get the most value from your product or service. Think of it this way, if you downloaded an app like Slack and it didn’t give you step-by-step guidance on how to set up your channels, and connect with colleagues, you’d spend more time figuring out how to use the solution, than enjoying its features.

Plus, with proactive customer service, you reduce the number of times customers have to contact your team actively. Ultimately, no matter how friendly and fun your support team is, no one wants to waste endless hours talking to support staff.

How to Implement Proactive Customer Service: Step-by-Step

Building a proactive customer service strategy can seem daunting. Even in today’s digitally transforming world, we don’t have crystal balls to show us the future. However, you can take steps to make your team more proactive.

Step 1: Dive into Your Data

To proactive resolve the issues your customers face, and pre-empt their needs, you need the right data. You need to know what your customers frequently complain about, what questions they ask your bots and customer service teams, and what features they struggle to use.

Some CX vendors, like Dialpad, offer access to tools to help you gather this data, such as “customer experience scorecards,” which give you granular insights into potential pain points. Other CCaaS platforms allow you to track valuable data that can offer insights into friction points.

For instance, using conversational analytics tools, powered by AI, you can pinpoint common terms and topics that emerge during conversations. If you notice many customers struggle with initially setting up their new software, for instance, you can create an onboarding program to address this.

Step 2: map the Customer Journey

Customer journey mapping is a valuable strategy for proactive customer service. It allows you to step into your customer’s shoes and examine the potential challenges they face when interacting with your company.

If you discover that customers spend a lot of time contacting your support team after they first make a purchase, you can create a set of knowledgebase resources that answer the questions they commonly have. If you discover that customers seek help from your wider community on social media, you know you can use social media as a channel for proactive communications.

Mapping the customer journey can also help you understand the different needs of various groups in your customer base. You might find that your enterprise-level customers prefer to connect with you via the phone for step-by-step guidance, while smaller buyers prefer email. This will help you to plan the strategy for your proactive approach to service.

Step 3: Send Out Customer Surveys

Only 1 in 26 customers will complain about a problem they encounter with your product or service. The rest will simply stop buying from you, and look for a better solution elsewhere. Sometimes, delivering proactive customer service starts with proactively asking your customers about their experiences, needs, and the problems they face.

Questionnaires and surveys are a great way to learn more about your customers and what they need most from you. You can use loyalty management and survey tools to create and automatically send surveys to customers asking various questions.

You might ask, “What problems do you face most with our products?” or “What do you wish we offered more of?” Companies like HootSuite even ask customers whether they have enough information to make purchasing decisions.

Step 4: Use Social Listening Tools

Gathering feedback from customers is excellent, but it’s not simple. The reality is only a handful of people will have the time to answer a survey or want to offer their insights. I’ve lost count of the number of feedback requests I’ve ignored in the past.

However, customers don’t have as much trouble sharing their experiences online. We’re all happy to ignore feedback survey requests and then complain about an issue we had with a company on social media, searching for empathy from our friends.

Fortunately, there are ways to listen to your customer’s conversations. Social listening tools like Hootsuite, and Mentionlytics can gather comments about your company from social channels, forums, and even review websites. They can help you track common topics related to your business and even give you insight into customer sentiment.

Step 5: Be Open and Transparent with Customers

Nobody feels comfortable admitting to a mistake. You want your company to seem almost infallible to your target audience. However, customers know companies aren’t perfect. In a McKinsey survey, more than half of the respondents said they trusted companies more when they disclosed information about data breaches and mistakes.

Promptly letting customers know when something goes wrong, whether with your data security or your product, is critical to earning their trust. It’s also an essential part of ensuring you stay compliant with regulations like GDPR.

As soon as you notice an issue, connect with customers on the channel you know they prefer to use, sharing what happened, and the steps you’re taking to address the issue.

You can also make it much easier for customers to keep track of common incidents with a portal where customers can see current outages and status issues, like Zoom does here.

Step 6: Build a Knowledge Base

No matter how intuitive you think your products and services are, there’s a good chance your customers will need help getting the most value out of their purchase. Knowledge bases and FAQ pages aren’t just a great way to help customers address and troubleshoot problems.

They can also help to educate customers and help them mitigate potential issues. For instance, a knowledge base filled with FAQs, articles, video tutorials, and guides can allow customers to access all the benefits of their new purchase without speaking to an agent.

You could even go further, creating online courses, as HubSpot does with HubSpot Academy, publishing videos and product demonstrations, or creating blogs.

Whatever strategy you choose, start by assessing the top questions your customers ask about your product (based on the data you collected above), then make it easy for customers to find the answers to those questions.

Step 7: Use Chatbots for Proactive Customer Service

Chatbots have become increasingly valuable in the customer service industry. They can handle everything from answering customer questions to troubleshooting issues.

generative AI chatbot can guide customers through setting up new technology, accessing new features, and even troubleshooting common problems. These tools can draw information from your business data and LMS systems to help educate your customers.

A similar solution can also engage website visitors and social media followers on your behalf and proactively address any questions they might have. For instance, you could create a bot that immediately welcomes a customer to your site and lists the common questions customers usually ask before making a purchase for them to choose from.

A proactive bot doesn’t have to be pushy to be effective. The Chicago Music Exchange website, for instance, immediately surfaces a bot for visitors that simply lets them know extra support is available.

Step 8: Use AI for Product Recommendations

Another way to use AI in your proactive customer service strategy is to recommend valuable products, up-sells or cross-sells to customers. Creating a proactive customer service strategy isn’t just about getting ahead of customer problems and issues. It’s also about proactively helping your customers to make the right purchasing decisions.

You could take a simple approach here, with a “people also bought” section on your website. However, generative AI unlocks new opportunities. Generative AI tools can analyze customer profiles and purchasing histories and automatically recommend products to them based on their specific preferences.

They can even help you identify which customers are likely to be interested in the new products and services you’re developing so you can reach out with “launch announcements.” Just look at how Netflix uses AI to inform customers about upcoming shows and movies on the platform based on their watch histories.

Step 9: Upgrade Your Employee Training

While bots and automated tools can help implement a proactive customer service strategy, your employees also play a crucial role. Training your employees on how to use tools and techniques to deliver a more proactive level of service is vital.

For instance, you could teach employees how to use internal knowledgebases, customer relationship management tools, and even AI to deliver product suggestions to customers during sales conversations. You can even teach them how to set up automated notifications for SMS and email to ensure customers are informed about any issues in your organization.

Customer service agents can even be trained to leverage virtual assistants to help them identify which customers to follow up and interact with at specific times. For instance, an agent assist bot could remind an agent to contact a customer a few days after logging an incident as “addressed” to ensure they don’t have any additional problems and request feedback.

Step 10: Commit to Keeping in Touch

It’s often difficult to draw the line between staying in touch with your customers and eventually getting on their nerves. While it’s probably not a good idea to reach out and “check-in” daily, communicating regularly with your customers is still valuable.

You can consider setting up automated campaigns to help keep customers engaged and informed. For instance, you might create an email newsletter and divide your customers into segments so that you can send each group updates and information relevant to their interests.

You could use SMS tools to send notifications to customers whenever your company faces an issue. These tools can be aligned with AI analytical and monitoring platforms, so every time you experience a technical problem, you can share the details with your audience.

Additionally, make sure you’re monitoring all of your customer service channels carefully – including social media. Don’t simply ignore customers that reach out for help on Twitter instead of using your chatbot or contact center.

Step 11: Build on Customer Relationships

Notably, developing a proactive customer service strategy isn’t just about staying one step ahead of the issues your customers might face. It’s also about proactively looking for ways to improve every aspect of the customer journey.

Use the data you collect to devise strategies that will help to boost retention and loyalty rates. For instance, you might create a loyalty program that rewards every customer for sticking with your business for an extended period.

You could use your CRM tools to track your most valuable customers and develop new ways to engage them, such as offering free access to webinars and events. Your CRM can even inform you when customers have “anniversaries” with your company or are about to celebrate a birthday.

This gives you a chance to reach out in advance with a great deal or offer that will enhance their experience with your brand. For instance, I regularly look forward to my birthday emails from TGI Fridays, which come with a range of discounts and offers to choose from.

Examples of Companies Acing Proactive Customer Service

A genuinely proactive customer service strategy requires constant work and commitment, but it does pay off. Switching from reactive to proactive service is one of the top ways to ensure you can adapt to customer preferences and expectations in today’s changing landscape.

Here are just a few examples of proactive customer service to inspire you.

1.      Slack and Slackbot

One of the easiest ways to deliver proactive customer service is to ensure you’re onboarding customers correctly. Effective onboarding addresses any potential problems your customers might face before reaching out to your team, and helps them get the most value from your product. Slack is an excellent example of a company that does onboarding well.

You’d think Slack would struggle to implement a proactive customer service strategy with millions of customers. However, that’s not the case.

Slack embraced the power of AI to ensure it could effectively onboard every customer on its platform. The Slackbot assistant can guide customers through everything from adding people to channels to adjusting their Slack settings. Plus, it offers support and guidance to every customer 24/7.

2.      Amazon

Amazon is one of the companies setting the benchmark for excellent customer service today. It’s teaching customers that it is possible to offer instant delivery, proactive service across multiple channels, and access to tons of great offers and products.

The ecommerce giant has an excellent reputation for anticipating questions and concerns about delivery dates and times, which is why it emails customers whenever a delay occurs. They often even offer customers discounts or gifts to compensate for the issue.

Plus, the company is constantly improving its chatbot technology. Recently, they introduced a new generative AI bot that acts as an expert shopping assistant for every customer. The bot (Rufus) has full access to all of Amazon’s product information and a customer’s previous purchasing history, so it can offer highly personalized recommendations on which products to buy.

3.      Netflix

Netflix is another fantastic example of a company with a proactive customer service strategy. First, it helps customers get the most out of their service by proactively recommending shows and movies for them to watch with the help of an AI algorithm.

This eliminates the issue of “choice overwhelm” for customers, and ensures they’re constantly discovering new ways to enjoy the platform.

Secondly, when Netflix encounters problems with its service, it automatically sends information to all its customers through prompt messages appearing on the Netflix app. Netflix is honest and transparent when it faces technical issues, and it actively invests in researching its customers to ensure it can build a more robust customer experience.

4.      Microsoft

Microsoft is one of the companies empowering companies to deliver proactive service through generative AI and automated tools. However, it also uses proactive strategies itself. For instance, it has a status page available to all users that keeps them informed on any potential issues with Microsoft products, such as outages or technical problems.

Microsoft even recommends products to customers based on previous purchases and helps companies get the most out of their apps and tools. For instance, Viva can suggest topics and educational content to users based on their profiles.

Plus, new Microsoft products typically come with onboarding experiences that walk each user through the process of using different tools. For instance, Copilot for Service and Sales come with their own set-up tutorials.

5.      HubSpot

Like Microsoft, HubSpot is a company that both enables proactive customer service, and demonstrates it too. The company’s website includes an intuitive “HubBot” chatbot, which can act as a proactive customer support rep, answering any questions customers have about products, and helping them make the right decision on what to purchase.

HubSpot products, like the HubSpot Service Hub, have their own chatbots too, which combine generative AI with unique data sources for a personalized experience. Users can access the bot for personalized recommendations on next-best actions and strategies.

Like most proactive customer support leaders, HubSpot also constantly keeps its customers up-to-date, sending emails about product upgrades and features. The company even has a fantastic range of online resources, such as the HubSpot Academy for training, blogs, articles, videos, and guides.

Get Ahead: Invest in Proactive Customer Service

Proactive customer service isn’t just the future for contact centers, it’s something every company needs to be investing in right now. While you won’t be able to pre-empt every issue or need your customer encounters, you can take steps to deliver a more proactive level of support.

Proactive strategies allow you to increase sales and conversions, maximize customer lifetime value, and deliver a truly “personalized” experience to your audience.

Use the strategies above to get one step ahead of the competition and ace your CX strategy.


Artificial IntelligenceCCaaSDigital TransformationSelf Service

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