Or Transform Your Customer Experience By Making Your Customer Service Proactive – Part 3
This is the last article in a series of three that that explores proactive customer service in greater depth than I have done previously.
The first post (Why Relying Only On Reactive Customer Service Is No Longer Good Enough) established the business case for proactive customer service. Meanwhile, the second post (Where To Find Proactive Customer Service Opportunities) identified where organisations can find opportunities to be more proactive.
In this post, I will describe a series of steps, based on my research, observations and experience, that customer service and experience professionals can use to kick-start their proactive customer service efforts.
It is true that proactive customer service is not a new strategy. But, given the clear business case and examples of success that many companies are having it pains me that more companies do not pursue it as a viable strategy given the cost and customer engagement and satisfaction benefits.
However, looking more closely the main barrier to it’s implementation seems to be that this type of strategy requires collaboration and cooperation across silo-ed functions.
This is a much talked about and perennial problem, particularly in these competitive and ‘social’ times. Therefore, to overcome these barriers and push forward with the development and implementation of this type of strategy, customer service and experience leaders should:
1. Investigate: Use data tools to identify the most frequently occurring customer questions and problems across the customer life-cycle. Companies that have been successful in implementing a proactive customer service strategy have focused quickly on addressing the mostly common and costly problems that exist across the different Pre-Purchase, Purchase and Post-Purchase stages.
2. Design: Work collaboratively, leveraging technology, to develop effective solutions to identified problems. Given that customer problems exist across the different stages of the customer life-cycle this will require a collaborative approach across organisational functions to ensure the design and delivery of a successful strategy. Successful proponents of proactive customer service understand this and ensure that the design of new customer interactions involve all of the right people.
3. Plan and Pilot: Aim for quick wins to generate momentum and organisational support. Most organisations are still reactive when it comes to the delivery of their customer service. Therefore, in introducing a new proactive approach it is essential that any strategy focuses initially on piloting one or two new solutions to commonly occurring and costly customer issues. These pilots allow the business to test hypotheses, learn, quickly deliver benefits to the business and its customers and help build support for future initiatives. In the UK banking sector, first direct, is a leading proponent of this approach and uses it’s ‘Lab’ initiative as a vehicle that allows it to test new service ideas and concepts.
4. Measure and Adjust: Pilots will allow the business to learn and adjust for maximum return. Starting the implementation of a proactive customer service strategy with pilot projects will ensure that organisations minimise risk and resource requirements and take a learning and agile approach thus allowing them to learn and adjust new initiatives so that they deliver the maximum returns. Like first direct, Brazilian telecom company, Vivo, benefited from taking a pilot-based approach when launching a new mobile bill payment service and through it’s pilot gained valuable insights on obstacles to adoption and scaling their new service.
The aim of these four steps is to build trust and engagement both internally (across functions and departments) and externally (with customers) so that both the organisation and the customer benefits.
I hope that more and more companies take up the challenge and look forward to seeing more and more examples of valuable and innovative proactive customer service.
This post was originally published on my Forbes.com column here.