Reacting to customer needs in a fast, helpful and efficient way is the essence of good customer service. No argument about that.
Providing a proactive customer experience takes customer service to a whole new level, and is the way forward when it comes to keeping your customers loyal and continuing to purchase your products or services. And we all know that the better the customer experience, the more likely it is they’ll become advocates and spread the word. What better way to attract new clients, than this!
Back in 2014, Forrester predicted the growth of three “Proactive Customer Experience” trends for providing competitive differentiation and keeping customers satisfied and loyal:
- Customers expect outbound notifications
- Companies will explore proactive engagement
- Knowledge will evolve from purely reactive to giving advice
The customer life-cycle process
The hardest part of the customer life-cycle isn’t attracting attention or closing the deal — it’s the journey that begins after the sale.
Once you lose a customer, you will most likely never get them back. In the B2B world, if you fail to help your customers solve the issue or achieve the goal you promised in the beginning, you will lose them.
Now, you no doubt have detailed control over every part of your marketing and sales experience.
- Your marketing team creates a variety of campaigns to attract the attention of your ideal clients. Campaigns are constructed using guidelines for media, messaging and calls to action. Ongoing testing of campaign elements helps refine the process so you end up with campaigns that deliver predictable results.
- Once in your prospect funnel, your sales team follows a step-by-step process to qualify and close sales. The process has been refined over time to improve close rates, and you teach this process to your team, so that your close rate is optimal.
It’s worth the time and money getting these right and ensuring your teams follow these processes, because you know they lead to consistent acquisition results.
But what happens after the sale?
What happens after the sale in your organisation?
Once a customer has purchased, they will either be happy, or they will have reservations or be confused.
If it’s the latter, there is a disconnect between the marketing and sales process, and delivery. Their expectations may not have been met or they may not fully understand how to use the product or what to do next. Their first action is often to pursue self-help from your website support area, via chat, or to seek help through your contact centre.
When they reach your contact centre, your staff are immediately put into a reactive situation and need the right skills to turn things around. If the support provided is slow, cumbersome or unsatisfactory, your new customer could quickly become disillusioned and request a refund, or worse – damage your brand by telling the world what they think.
All the time and money spent on attracting and selling to this new customer has been in vain. The post-sale support has ruined the deal.
Alternatively, if you never hear from the customer, you could naturally assume they were happy, and indeed they may be. Or they may have just written the purchase off as a bad decision and decide to never buy from you again. The point is – you don’t actually know.
How can you be proactive?
Your post-sale processes are just as important as your marketing and sales processes. Efficient contact centres have solid technology, systems and processes in place to handle inbound traffic.
But what about proactive processes?
The following proactive support processes will not only help ensure that your customer experience remains positive after the sale; they’ll also reduce the inbound load on your contact centre.
1. Create an onboarding process
Consider how the customer is feeling moments after they’ve purchased. Their excitement might turn to buyer’s remorse if they aren’t sure what will happen next or if they don’t hear from you again.
Here’s a few ideas to help maintain confidence that they’ve made the right decision.
- Send a confirmation email which outlines the next steps:
- Delivery schedule
- Link to a “How to Use” video
- Details of all your support options – during and after hours
- Send a text message when the product has been despatched, with an ETA and tracking details (if available).
- If they’ve purchased a consultation or tickets to an event, confirm arrangements by text and email.
- Call them and thank them for the business and explain the next steps – and do it within 12 hours; 24 at most. This is the action which will surprise and delight them the most.
Of course, the onboarding process will depend on the type of product or service that you are supplying, so simply adapt these to suit your business. We recommend using two or three communication methods – email, phone, SMS – to maximise impact and to demonstrate how delighted you are to have them as a customer.
2. Find out what your customers think
Find out what your customers think of your process as a whole. You could use any of the three popular customer satisfaction scoring systems – Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Effort Score (CES). Each has their pros and cons, as discussed in 3 Ways to Measure Customer Satisfaction in a Contact Centre.
Customer satisfaction feedback is usually obtained through an IVR-based automated post-call survey, or by sending a link for the customer to complete an online form.
To gain the most benefit, consider phoning the customer for feedback. This is the best way to get true customer opinions that you can share with relevant departmental team members. One of the most frustrating things about the design of some surveys is that often the options restrict the customer’s ability to provide the answers they want to.
If staff availability is limited, consider only phoning customers who make a significant purchase, or alternatively phone every nth purchaser.
Your goal is to collect actionable information and if you take too long, the customer will abandon. Keep it short and relevant and focused on the goal – finding out what you need to do to improve your customer’s experience with you. It’s not a marketing survey.
3. Keep customers informed
There are many ways you can stay in touch with customers, yet often businesses fall into the trap of only communicating with sales messages. Once again your communication messages and frequency will depend on the type of business you are in, but if you want to keep customers loyal and active for the long term, then it makes sense to develop a long-term relationship built on helpfulness and value so that you gain trust and loyalty. When you have these, you receive repeat sales and referrals.
Here’s several ideas for staying in touch:
- Program regular “Hello – Is everything okay” customer calls. These may be once a month or twice a year. The main purpose of the call is show you care, and to obtain customer feedback about your products/services and your processes. This is invaluable for identifying aspects of the customer journey that need improving, and will assist with reducing customer churn. The secondary purpose of the call could be to make them aware of new products, addons, or upcoming events that are relevant to that customer. Make sure you have a process for recording and distributing feedback, or the value of undertaking this exercise will be diminished.
- Notify of service disruptions. It’s always better for customers to hear about a problem, change, or potential downtime from your business, rather than encountering the issue on their own. Anglian Water, one of the UK’s largest water companies, uses contact centre technology to proactively notify customers of water issues and planned works in their location. Not only does this help customers, it has significantly reduced inbound calls, saving Anglican Water around £100,000 annually.
- Remind customers of upcoming events. Use Premier Contact Point’s fully hosted Mobile Customer Experience to send automated notifications through text messaging about appointments, deliveries or events. It is helpful to customers, increases appointment confirmations or event attendance, and reduces the administrative workload.
For further proactive post-sale support ideas – see
- Clever Contact Centre Mobile Customer Experience – Part 1
- HealthCare: 3 Tips for Improving Patient Experience
Your future could depend on delivering proactive support
Proactive customer support is about identifying and resolving customer issues before they become problems. Buyers are more likely to trust a company that shows they care and rarely lets them down, over a brand only contacts them to sell them something or to fix an issue.
In the B2B world, it’s critical to stay in touch with customers and be aware of their changing needs as they grow and evolve. These customers need continued education to use your products or services to their full potential, and to be proactively informed of any issues. Providing proactive, helpful post-purchase service demonstrates your commitment as a partner in their success.
Staying on top of customer needs will help you to refine your total customer experience so that you stand out from the competition and create loyal, satisfied customers.
Initiative is doing the right thing without being told. –Victor Hugo