Excellent customer service now goes beyond resolving queries and complaints; savvy businesses are anticipating customer needs before they even get in touch. The question is do customers appreciate companies getting in touch with unsolicited information such as user tips or new add-ons? In fact, our experience shows that this kind of proactive engagement increases customer trust and loyalty, but only when it is timely, carried out intelligently and with the intention of benefitting the customer.
To help companies transform their customer service from reactive to proactive, we have put together our top tips for taking the initiative in customer care.
1. Anticipate complaints
Things don’t always run smoothly, especially when you are relying on third parties to deliver your product or service. If customers are made aware of potential problems in advance, it demonstrates your commitment to transparency and customer care, and customers are more likely to be understanding if they feel they are valued enough to be kept in the loop. Unforeseen circumstances also provide businesses with the opportunity to demonstrate to clients that they are able to resolve issues efficiently. Moreover, keeping customers informed means they are able to prepare for any changes in their services, such as a delayed delivery time.
2. Target communications
To avoid wasted marketing efforts and resources, companies should ensure they have tools in place to analyse customer data effectively so that customers receive appropriate materials and offers. Customers rapidly disengage when they receive generic marketing from companies, and this attention cannot easily be regained. Furthermore, contact preferences of each customer should be taken into consideration by contact centre agents, as customers are more likely to take notice when they receive communications via their preferred channel. As customer habits and expectations evolve, there is scope for innovation; for instance, for frequent social media users, it may be more effective for businesses such as health clubs and gyms to send weekly class schedules via Facebook chat, providing buttons for easy sign-up. This ease may be the factor that keeps customers coming back, as there is little effort required on their part.
3. Use data effectively
Data analysis is where companies have the opportunity to really stand out, as it enables intelligent and helpful communications tailored to customer needs and interests. Artificial Intelligence can be used to learn from collated data, determining patterns in customer behaviour and suggesting tailored solutions and products in anticipation of future requirements. A customer who regularly buys the same skincare product may appreciate, for instance, discounts for their next purchase. You can even use technology to integrate relevant data from third party sources to supplement your communications and provide a more complete service.
4. Integrate technology
Contact centre agents can provide optimal services when they are able to access pertinent customer data at the touch of a button. When agents can see previous customer interactions with the company, they can seamlessly pick up the conversation with customers and offer an appropriate service for their stage of the customer journey, whether they are habitual clients or new to your product. Instead of simply reacting to customer calls, they can use the information at hand to offer useful advice or interesting add-ons.
Trained representatives should adapt their service accordingly, engaging with the customer and thereby building a long-term relationship, bearing in mind that 62% of B2B and 42% of B2C customers are found to purchase more after a good customer service experience, according to a Zendesk Study. It is therefore important not only to ensure data is kept up to date and maintained, but also that it is structured and stored correctly immediately after capture so that it can be easily analysed. The task of storing large quantities of information can be daunting, but a ‘tagging’ approach enables your system to link up relevant data at the right time.
5. Go multichannel
Traditional tools should go hand in hand with new technology to ensure that customers can get in touch quickly and easily via their preferred channel. Previous Yonder research found that 84% of customers tend to stay more loyal and increase business with companies that offer a variety of ways of getting in touch. Customers should be able to get in touch via online channels, and find responses to queries via FAQs or automated chatbots. Similarly, being able to pick up the phone cannot be dispensed with, as only a conversation with a real person will do in cases of emergency or confusion. In fact, over two thirds of survey respondents (69%) said they tend to take their business elsewhere when they can't get through to a real person when they have a query with a company. Extremes should be avoided and instead, companies should strike balance between automated and live channels. It is convenient to be able to book a holiday or even a medical appointment via a phone application, but when there is a glitch or an unusual query arises, customers want to be able to speak to someone directly.
Crucially proactive customer service streamlines operations as it reduces wasted efforts. If customers can find solutions easily online, this means contact centre agents can focus their efforts elsewhere. Using the right combination of automated and live services speeds up query resolution, and over time, through increased efficiency and by learning from a range of queries, machine learning leads to greater insight. This insight can in turn be fed back into customer service processes so that there is continual improvement and upgrading of the service provided. Ultimately, such a commitment to optimising customer service can only improve your brand’s reputation, and crucially, your bottom line.
Graham Ede, Yonder Digital Group
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