3 Ways to Proactively Serve (and Perhaps Delight) Customers

By Tricia Morris | Small Business

3 Ways to Proactively Serve (and Perhaps Delight) Customers image proactivecustomerservice2proactivecustomerserviceAs brands adjust to the emergence and convergence of both new and more customer service channels, reactive customer service remains the day-to-day norm for most organizations. But taking steps to move from predominantly reactive service and support delivery, to reactively proactive, to proactive can make all the difference in increased customer satisfaction and retention, establishing a differentiator for the brands that can (even at times) delight in this manner.

According to the findings of a recent Harris Interactive survey of more than 2,000 consumers, 87% of U.S. adults are receptive to being proactively contacted by an organization or company when it comes to service and support. Of those surveyed, nearly three-quarters (73%) who have had a pleasant surprise or positive experience with proactive communication from a brand report they had a also positive change in their perception of that organization; 62% said they took action as a result of that positive experience.

Yet Forrester Research’s Forrsights Networks and Telecommunications Survey shows that currently, only 29% of enterprises are investing in proactive outbound communications, even though customer expectations for real-time updates and information are steadily increasing, and new service channels such as social and mobile are making it easier than ever to reach out proactively at scale.

Here are three suggestions for making a move to more proactive customer service:

1. Provide Alerts and Updates. Use channels such as mobile, social, IVR messaging and knowledgebase/FAQ updates to provide reactively proactive (great) or proactive (even better) information and updates about service and product statuses. For example, utilities companies can use the above-mentioned channels to proactively alert and update customers on outages and estimated service restoration times.

Retailers can alert customers as to shipping specials, price reductions, product availability or recalls, and airlines can proactively update passengers regarding delays, cancellations or weather announcements. An example of this type of proactive service and support is Delta’s mobile app which proactively delivers flight notifications and allows customers to rebook without having to call or wait in line at the airport. All of these proactive communications can reduce high call or email volumes as well as social media complaints.

2. Make Money or Time-Saving Suggestions. While predictive analytics have been a topic of conversation for many years now in customer service, the technology to make full use of them is now catching up. A great example of this anticipatory service is Google Now, which combines information that Google knows about you from the devices you use, your location and your online searches to suggest information you might need before you even need it, whether that’s weather, traffic information or the nearest metro station. Brands can apply the same analytics to dramatically improve the customer experience.

Historic analytics can also be used to save customers money, which typically results in delight. Whether it’s an adjustment in utilities usage based on the customer history, or notifying a customer who has placed and then removed a pricey electronics device from their online shopping cart three times that it is now on sale, this proactive customer communication can foster enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty.

3. Reach Out with a Random Act of Kindness.
Where brands can impact the individual customer experience and deliver delight is through random acts of kindness. Provide customer service representatives with a 15 to 30 minute window each day to reach out to at least one customer whether that’s by phone, email, social media or what have you, just to say thanks for being a customer, happy birthday, hope your day’s going well, or to even present them with a discount or small thank you.

The brands that make this extra effort to deliver small unexpected kindnesses with no expectations will master what customers are craving from today’s big brands: authenticity, care and delight created by a small human kindness.

Taking a More Proactive Approach in 2014
While many brands have their hands full with simply providing reactive customer service across the myriad of channels now available to customers, there’s a differentiator to be won through the ability to first be reactively proactive, and then second, delightfully so. Budgeting for 2014? Take the initiative to encourage a brand investment in proactive customer service delivery.

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