5 Steps to Move from Reactive to Proactive Customer Support

Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper · 5 min read

87% of U.S. adults want to be contacted proactively by an organization or company and find that it improves their experiences.

Right now, your customers’ expectations are at an all-time high. Your support team might also be struggling with spikes in volume or customers with different or heightened needs.

When you’re working reactively, it’s challenging to meet your customers’ expectations while dealing with the volume you’re receiving. Your support process probably looks something like this: the customer reaches out via a contact page, phone call, or email and then they wait for your response while your support team churns through a big queue of tickets.

Conversely, proactive support is one of the best ways for you to wrangle everyone’s expectations and gain control. When working proactively, you pre-empt customer inquiries before they get to you. You can send messages to customers to notify them about product delays, bugs or outages. You can share documentation before the customer asks for it. You can onboard your customers and provide ongoing education so that they are empowered to solve their issues themselves.

People love proactive support too: 87% of U.S. adults want to be contacted proactively by an organization or company and find that it improves their experiences. There are fiscal benefits, as well. Companies using a proactive approach saw an increase in customer retention rates of 3-5%.

The process of switching from reactive to proactive support can feel overwhelming, so we’ve put together five tactics to make it less stressful.

First step: work collaboratively

No support team should ever exist on an island. The experience of your customers is every team’s responsibility. Collaboration is the key to success. Tie together your support, marketing, and engineering teams to make for a world-class proactive outreach strategy.

For instance: create a communication loop where your support team provides customer insights regularly with your product team. Then your product and marketing teams work collectively to make your outbound messages and blogs for customer education. Your sales team can also be a useful source of information for where your customers are running into trouble and what they want.

Without this kind of loop, any strategy or work that you do will not be as effective as it could be with the power of your whole company behind it.

Ask customers for insights

Assumptions that your team makes will not allow you to move as quickly as you would by having real insights from your customers. By asking customers for feedback, you invite them to share their thoughts, rather than just waiting for them to get the energy to do so themselves.

A Forrester survey even revealed that 53% of customers would give up on purchasing all together if it’s too difficult to figure out what they have to do. When you get the same feedback time and time again, it’s a clear sign that something needs to change. Write better documentation or create processes to help customers with tricky features in your product. Or, even better, loop in your product team to be able to fix them.

If you listen to your existing customers, you can also make a better experience for your prospects!

Deliver content where people need it most

Research has found that over 25% of support requests are either unnecessary or avoidable. People reach out to your support team with inquiries that they could have resolved themselves if the answers were easily discoverable. In fact, by making your documentation more navigable, you can drop your support volume up to 30%.

The best way to surface information is to deliver help to your customers in context. If you have a page that people consistently complain about, display helpful guidance right there for your customers to see. In-context help can be incredibly beneficial on pricing pages, account settings pages, and places where people review analytics or in-depth settings for your product. User onboarding is another impactful, important place where you can help people before they even know they need your help. Take, for example, this onboarding in an IBM product:proactive customer support

Outside of creating meaningful content, of course, deliver it to specific customers based on their language, plan type, or company size. If a customer doesn’t have access to a feature, for instance, you shouldn’t be showing them docs about it.

Own up to your mistakes

It always feels better to receive an apology rather than have to ask for one. When someone realizes that they’ve done something wrong and admits that to you, you feel heard and recognized. Give that same feeling to your customers. If you make a mistake that causes your customers issues, reach out to them, and let them know.

For example, Barefoot Wines discovered a barcode error that caused a shipment of their wine to ring up as less than the actual cost. This mistake cost its distributor quite a bit of money. That said, they owned up to their mistake, reached out to advise the distributor while at the same time providing them with money to cover the lost revenue. That is how it should always look.

When you create a problem, own up to it and proactively fix it without your customers needing to reach out first. Here are some steps to take:

  • Alert customers and let them know about the issue.
  • Offer a discount or refund if it’s applicable and the customer could have lost revenue.
  • Tell them what you’re doing to ensure this issue, or something like it, doesn’t happen again.
  • Make sure they have a way to reach out and report if other bad things happen.

Your customers will appreciate the proactive reach out!

Lastly: measure how you’re doing

How are you going to know if you’re successful if you don’t measure it? Your company will have different KPIs that you’re trying to impact, but a few good ones to consider are:

  • Rate of Automated Resolution (ROAR): how many tickets do you resolve without human contact?
  • Conversations closed by articles: how many tickets do you deflect by having exceptional documentation?
  • Customer retention: how many of your customers are you retaining quarter over quarter?
  • Product engagement: what’s the activation rate for some of your key, stickiest features?

If you don’t measure, you won’t be able to understand your successes or failures and iterate on them. An essential part of any business process is taking stock of what you’ve done and making improvements to get better consistently.

Slow and steady wins the race

Proactive support doesn’t need to feel like the Polar Bear Plunge. You can start gradually and build up as you go along.

proactive customer supportStart with the aspects that make the most sense to you or where you have the largest area of opportunity. Build more camaraderie between your teams—work together to shore up any places where communication may be stiff. From there, start communicating better with your customers so you can know what they want and need.

The insights you get from your customers will also help you better serve your prospects, creating a cohesive experience from the start of the buying process to the finish. Create content that supports your customer lifecycle. Make onboarding flows and documentation available in the context where your customers need it most.

Finally, track it. If you don’t have any way to track, how can you see what a fantastic job you’re doing?

How did you like this blog?


Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper

Mercer is the Head of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at mercenator.com and on Twitter at @mercenator.

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