The market has changed. Consumer expectations have never been this high. At the same time competition is constantly increasing. Conclusion: Customer experience has never been more important. In fact, today 89% of businesses compete primarily on the basis of customer experience. One major trend that contributes to a good customer experience is proactive support. But what is proactive support and how can you apply it?

Today's consumers want products, services and support instantly. And without detours. As a result, every single customer interaction can make or break your business. This considered, every chance you have to interact with your customer should be seen as an opportunity. Whether it’s about guiding them through a purchase, helping them to make a return or giving information about stock levels. All these situations have the potential to upset a customer - but not if it’s handled proactively. 

What is proactive support?

Proactive support is all about making the first move. To approach a customer before they get into a situation that requires them to approach you. 

Simply said; help the customer before they are unhappy with your product or service.

Because let's be honest – it's rare that customers approach a company because they're satisfied. More common is that customers reach out when something has gone wrong. It may be a delayed delivery, a faulty product or a vague return policy. Whatever it may be, an approach like this – transferring the responsibility back to the customer – is generally not seen as good customer service. It has however been the traditional way to perform customer service, until now.

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And if we haven’t been clear about this already – this is no longer sufficient!

Today's customers expect more. They want us to GIVE them service – not the other way around. They expect to be informed when something will be delivered, or when someone will turn up to install something. And if something doesn’t go as planned, they expect to be informed about it the minute it happens. And when applicable – be presented with an alternative solution or product. To meet, or rather to exceed, these expectations is what proactive support is all about. 

And the areas of application doesn't stop there. 

Not only has proactive support the potential to remove the risk of a minor problem turning into a major pain point – it can also affect other areas in an organization.

Let’s have look at some hands-on examples:

#1 Improving the shopping experience

Buying things online can be stressful. Especially when it comes to clothes and shoes. How do I know if the product I bought will live up to my expectations? What if the color is not the same as in the pictures or what if the shirt doesn’t fit? With this in mind it is important to offer an easy way to make refunds, returns and exchanges..

Many ecommerce businesses still manage these kinds of customer service enquiries with an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). In the early 2000s, FAQ had its glory days. This new way of gathering answers of the most common questions on a single page was at that time considered to be revolutionary in the field of self service. And for a long time this was the golden standard. But today this wouldn’t even be called self service. The only “service” provided is that the answers are gathered in one place. Despite that, all the effort and time is put on me as a customer. 

Of course, the solution is not to delete all FAQs, but it’s meant to be used in another, more self serviced, way. One example to do this is by implementing a chatbot on your website. Then integrate the FAQ into the chatbot. Then you can provide the customer with information based on the their behavior. For instance triggering a message with information about your return policy if the customer types in “return” in the search field. This makes a much smoother customer experience than putting the burden on the customer to search for the answer by themselves. faq-vs-chatbot

#2 Driving growth & revenue

Like a shop assistant who proactively helps customers with their purchases, you can do the same if you have an ecommerce business. Similar to the example above, you have a lot to win on implementing a chatbot  if you want to improve your customer experience. As previously explained, a chatbot makes it possible for you to proactively reach out to your website visitors and offer help based on their behavior. But not only can you approach the customer with help – you also have the opportunity to guide hesitant customers through purchases as well as to increase additional sales.

A great example of this is when a customer abandons their cart. In March 2021, almost 80 percent of online shopping orders were abandoned, i.e. not converted into a purchase. Consumers fill their shopping carts but stop (and in the worst case leave) if they have questions. It could be about the fabric, sizes or something else. To be able to to proactively answer any possible questions or recommend additional products is a fantastic way to increase the conversion rate as well as the average order value. 

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#3 Saving time, effort & money

This applies for the customers as well as for the company. For the customer, proactive support saves time in the obvious way that the waiting time for support disappears – they get help before they even knew they needed it. This will let them use their time more efficiently and reduce the effort and friction in their customer journey.

As a company, a proactive approach will save time by decreasing the load on the customer service agents. How is that you may ask? Well, when a company starts to proactively reach out to customers they reduce the reasons for customers to contact them. This will lead to a decrease in volume of inbound contact center enquiries. What is left for the human agents is time to focus on the more complex and emotional customer issues where the human touch really adds value. 

Last but surely not least, statistics show that a high-quality customer experience can save up to 33% of customer service cost.  And who doesn’t want to save money?

Final words

Ever heard the expression “there is no time like the present”? Of course you have.

It may be a cliché, but I believe that when it comes to becoming more proactive in your support approach, there’s no reason to wait. Because it really doesn’t have to be a time consuming or costly project. If a chatbot feels too far away, you can always start small with implementing a live chat function and make sure to staff it during hours where you usually have high activity on the website. You will learn a lot more about your customers doing this as well as giving them a better experience. 

All this considered – wouldn’t you agree that proactive support should be your main focus in 2022?