The benefits of proactive customer service

Guy Chiswick
Managing Director, Northern Europe, Webloyalty
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With customer expectations at an all-time high, a loyal consumer is hard to find. For this reason, it’s never been more important for retailers to implement a proactive customer service that goes above and beyond what’s expected.

A survey by inContact found that nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of customers who had been contacted proactively by a brand said it led to a positive impression of the business. It’s the brands that are experimenting, reaching out to consumers before problems arise and not after, that can drive greater customer loyalty.

The benefits of proactivity

While reactive customer service might be quick off the mark to respond to a question; it’s not nearly as impressive as pre-empting the needs of the customer. Brands now risk damaging customer retention if they don’t offer a proactive customer service that strives to help throughout the whole customer journey. Our Unfaithful Consumer report found that 74 per cent of shoppers are dissatisfied with at least one aspect of the shopping experience.  Topping the list as the main cause of dissatisfaction was customer service, above the price and quality of products.

By implementing a more proactive service, brands can actively seek to minimise potential problems by giving advice, guidance or solutions, before the customer is aware of the issue. For example, a customer will appreciate being notified in advance if their order is going to be delivered late, instead of finding this out when their parcel hasn’t arrived within the estimated delivery period.  

Proactivity doesn’t just benefit the brand by increasing consumer confidence and satisfaction; it also helps to reduce costs and save time. By implementing a proactive customer service model, teams can spend less time on the phone answering customer questions and invest more time in improving other aspects of the customer journey.  A report by Enkata revealed that proactive customer service can reduce call volumes by up to 30 per cent and increase customer retention by 3-5 per cent.

Implementing proactivity: the opportunities and challenges

Running workshops with colleagues is one way a retailer can begin its shift from being reactive to proactive. It might start as a gradual process with something as simple as increasing proactivity across social channels.  For example, fashion retailer Brooks Brothers has been reaching out to all customers that check into their stores on social media. They ask questions about their experience in-store and whether there’s anything else they could be doing to improve their experience. By doing so, customers can feel more valued by the store and consequently more likely to return.

Although proactive customer service is not a new concept, technology is enabling more brands to experiment with it and should be leveraged. Advances in technology mean that systems are starting to not only analyse data but make predictions too. One example is being able to anticipate what other products might be of interest to an existing customer.

Chatbots, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing, and live operators, can provide proactive customer service, sales support and make suggestions for what to buy at a much greater level of detail than ever before. But while the future of customer service might lie in AI, there are still some challenges to be overcome. So far only one chatbot has passed the Turing test - which evaluates a machine’s ability to match human intelligence, and there’s a risk customers could get even more frustrated by the bots if they don’t fully understand their questions.

But despite this, the technology has great potential. According to a global poll by Retale, 86 per cent of millennials said they thought brands should use chatbots to promote deals, products, and services. In addition, a recent survey by PwC found 64 per cent of shoppers would rather have instant access to quality customer service than preserve the jobs of customer service representatives. So while reviews are mixed, with technology constantly evolving and progress on the way, the potential benefits chatbots can offer to enable proactive customer service could well outweigh the limitations in time.

Ultimately, whether its via investment in technology or through simply offering customers a little more guidance, implementing a more proactive customer service can help retailers drive both engagement and loyalty in the long term. After all, if brands are to keep up with the demands of consumers, they must keep one step ahead at all times. 

About Guy Chiswick


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