Empower and Excel your Customer Service Strategy with proactive care

Annette Franz

March 21, 20245 min read

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In this article, Annette Franz, CX thought leader, highlights challenges and the need for the right people, data, and technology for successful CX strategy implementation, stressing a commitment to customer-centricity and adaptability.  

Customers’ expectations have evolved so much that they want brands to know them better than they know themselves, including anticipating and addressing their needs and issues even before they arise.   

Seems crazy, right?! It’s not. It’s known as proactive customer service, and it’s a strategy and approach to customer service that businesses are adopting to deliver the experience that customers expect.

Proactive service aims to prevent problems, enhance experience, and build stronger relationships by preempting any issues or questions that may arise.

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What are some examples of how to deliver proactive customer service? 

There are a lot of different ways that brands can be proactive. A few examples of proactive customer service include:  

  • Anticipating needs by analyzing feedback and other customer data to identify potential pain points or questions and addressing them proactively. 

  • Personalizing the experience based on behaviors, preferences, and purchase history to deliver a positive experience. 

  • Monitoring feedback, sentiment, and social media posts to identify emerging issues and opportunities for improvement. 

  • Identifying and resolving potential problems or errors before customers know about them or are impacted. 

  • Educating customers on how to get the most value out of a product to help them maximize the benefits received. 

  • Communicating with customers with updates, usage tips, issue or change notifications, etc., to avoid needing the customer to reach out. 

Why is proactive customer service important?

As mentioned earlier, the goal of proactive customer service is really to improve the customer experience. However, there are benefits for the customer and the business.  

Customers benefit from an enhanced experience because brands have anticipated and addressed their needs before they become (bigger) problems. As customers' needs and expectations evolve, brands are equipped to stay ahead, adapt, and improve their service – again, improving customer experience.   

Proactive customer service saves them time, money, and effort and adds a level of convenience that can’t be achieved in any other way. It also builds trust and confidence in the brand, i.e., that the brand cares about – and doesn’t take advantage of – its customers in the name of profits. Customers feel valued.  

Businesses benefit in a variety of ways, including:  

  • Customer loyalty: they’ll continue to do business with brands that show they care. 

  • Cost savings: if brands are proactive, they’ll ward off the influx of calls from customers because they’ve got ahead of the curve, resulting in reduced costs from handling a high volume of inquiries and complaints.  

  • Word of mouth: delighted (and potentially surprised) customers will become advocates and talk about the cool things your brand does to deliver a great experience. 

  • Efficiency in resource allocation: brands can allocate resources more effectively by focusing on high-priority customer needs. 

  • Competitive advantage: not every brand delivers (or excels at) proactive customer service, ensuring that your brand will stand out in the marketplace by doing so. 

Implementing a proactive customer service strategy not only helps brands retain and satisfy current customers but also positions them for sustainable growth and competitiveness in the long run.  

There are benefits for employees, as well. When they see the impact of this strategy in happier customers and fewer customer complaints, it also makes them feel good. They’re empowered to make decisions that revolve around the customer’s needs, leading to a sense of ownership in their roles. The stress of dealing with customer issues is reduced because problems are resolved before they escalate.  

Culture is the foundation of an excellent experience for both employees and customers. 

Proactive service stems from a culture that puts customers’ best interests at heart; the business shows that it cares about customers.  

As a result, employees feel more aligned with the core values and mission of the business. The environment is also one of continuous learning and adapting, meaning their skills are constantly challenged and evolved. And silos are connected or broken down because cross-functional communication and collaboration are critical to success, given all of the teams that are involved. (See “the right people” below.) 

Are there any downsides to a proactive customer service approach?

This approach certainly has its pros, but there are also a few cons to implementing it. It can be resource intensive (as you’ll see in the next section); customers may have privacy concerns; it can be complex to implement; both employees and customers may initially resist a change in your service approach; and technology issues or glitches could interfere with or disrupt your service, creating additional problems.

It is always best to conduct a premortem assessment to understand the best approach for your business.

What’s required to implement a proactive customer service strategy?

Designing and implementing a proactive customer service strategy requires the right people, the right data, and the right technology. There’s more, but let’s get into the specifics of these three.

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The right people

Customer service is a team sport, no doubt. There’s no better concept to support that than when you’re implementing a proactive customer service strategy. Such a strategy requires input and involvement from across the organization. Think about it: customer issues, questions, and complaints aren’t rooted in the contact center; customers end up there because somewhere else in the organization, an issue was initiated. As a result, all other areas of the organization (besides customer service) must be involved in implementing and executing this strategy.

For example, the marketing team can craft the messaging going to customers; the IT team is responsible for selecting and implementing the required technology; data scientists will identify patterns, trends, and opportunities for proactive service; your L&D team is responsible for equipping employees with the skills and knowledge needed to deliver proactive service effectively; and your insights team conducts research and collects feedback to inform proactive strategies and identify personas, which guide proactive initiatives.

Sales, compliance, change management, quality assurance, product development, and other teams will likely be involved.

The right data

Proactive customer service is a data-driven strategy. The right data is crucial for identifying customer needs, anticipating issues, and personalizing interactions. But what’s the right data?  

Some of the most critical data sources include customer demographics, segmentation data, purchase history, behavior data, communication preferences, customer feedback, customer service interactions data, market research, geolocation data, social media interactions, third-party data, and product and service data. 

The right technology

Given the different individuals/teams and data involved in designing and executing such a strategy, your technology needs will vary depending on your situation.

There are some technology staples that you’ll need to consider and invest in (many of which you may already have): a CRM system, contact center software, analytics or BI tools, marketing automation software, enterprise feedback platform, and customer engagement software. You’ll always want to ensure there are integration capabilities across these platforms.

Automation significantly enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of proactive customer service strategies, so ensuring you have the right technology in place to analyze and automate will be critical to success.

The power of technology and humans when they deliver anticipatory, proactive service

In Closing

Successfully implementing a proactive customer service strategy requires a commitment to customer-centricity, a data-driven approach, and the right technology infrastructure.

It's an evolving process that adapts not only to customer expectations but also to market conditions. Conduct a full assessment of your culture, your data, and your technology before you begin designing and implementing your strategy. 

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