Is a shift in how customer service is done actually needed? Certainly. While roughly 80% of companies believe they deliver superior customer service, only 8% of customers believe they’ve received outstanding service.

effective customer service communicationThere is a good reason to start thinking about it. Forrester mentioned proactive outbound communication as one of the top customer service trends for 2013, and this year the trend has been growing and developing even more. According to independent study by Ericsson Consumer Lab in August of this year 83% of consumers would prefer a more proactive approach from their service provider.

Breaking the bad customer service trend

In the current state of affairs, are companies meeting this high expectation? Unfortunately no. And what is even more sad is that companies are afraid to take on proactive approach for the fear of being irksome and losing customers. Most are not completely aware yet of the customer demand for proactive service.

The business world has a long history of aggressive marketing and cold calling. To be sure, meeting customer expectation for proactive service does not mean going back to those old models. New approaches have to be developed. What do those include and what steps can your company take to make this shift from reactive to proactive service?

2 Types of Proactive Communications

There are two types of proactive communications if we take company’s intention for criteria for division. They are preventative and nurturing proactive service.

1. Preventative communication for proactive customer service

Preventative service allows you to address a possible issue or question before they even happen. What does this approach include?

  • Outbound calls

A good example of this shows us the team at Sage North America who are routinely calling their customers and business partners before the busy tax season to see how they can help.

  • Proactive chat

This type of engagement can be seen utilized on many websites today. According to statistics, it yields very good results. 2013 survey of internet shoppers has shown that 64% of them showed receptiveness of sending invitations through proactive chat. For implementation advice and strategies you may read my article on proactive chat here.

  • Proactive social media

At the preventative stage your social media strategy would include monitoring the channels for any feedback or mentions left by your customers, even when those are not communicated to you directly, and engage those clients in an easy non-intrusive manner to see if you can help them.

  • Surveys and polls

Ask customers to participate and voice their frustrations as well as suggestions to get an idea of how your customers see their ideal experience and work out solutions to deliver that experience to them. You could engage them through surveys, polls, ask them to vote on your next big idea, leave a comment about a new product etc.

  • Self-service

Self-service is still going strong, 60% of consumers use web self-service knowledge to find answers to their questions. At this point it is important to invest time and effort into creating a substantial knowledge base with comprehensible and easily searchable information to meet the needs of this category of customers.

2. Nurturing communication for proactive customer service

Nurturing service is aimed at bringing the maximum value to the customer and strengthening your relationship with them. What are the ways you could bring value?

  • Customized service offers

These could be cross-sell and upsell offers tailored for the particular customers considering his purchasing history, his interests, feedback he left. In a word, every piece of information you have about the customer can and should be used to create an offer of maximum value to them.

  • Closed-loop interactions

These can include the ability to do cross-channel interactions. For example, if the customer has filed a support ticket with you and has been changing emails with one of your support reps, he should also have an option to start a chat with the same person right from his mail application, or jump on a phone call.

  • Content curation

Picking the best content in your field of operation and educating your clients is a great way to add extra value to your communication with them. This helps to build not only appreciation and credibility for yourself, but also create stronger engagement and this stronger relationship through comments and likes.

  • Social media limelight

One of the few ways to do this is to feature your clients in your social media posts. You can place them in the spotlight by highlighting their company, their work, or some of their social media posts that will also bring value to your audience.

These are just some of the ideas that you could start implementing into your practice. I’m sure you are already doing a few of them. As this trend is growing and many companies are trying their own approaches to proactive customer service, more and more ideas and solutions will be emerging.

In my opinion, this is the future of customer service. This is the single still relatively untouched area which can give a business a competitive edge. In a way, it is a shift not only from reactive to proactive, it is a shift from consumption to creation, which touches many questions beyond the scope of customer service, including our personal, daily lives. This being said, are you ready to make the move?