What this post is about
- Proactive support provides solutions before your customers realise they have a problem
- It requires you to think ahead and to rely on your experience
- Take notes and stay attentive
- Good communication within the team is essential
- With a strong helpdesk system it’s a walk in the park
Pick up the phone. Hold the line. Lounge music. Instant aging. Sounds familiar?
Customer support still has a very bad reputation and many consumers shy away from the burden of such a phone call. After all, who’s in the mood to navigate through endless options only to be served with the same old platitudes?
Luckily, customer support is undergoing some major changes. Most companies have understood that a strong customer relationship is the key to sustainable success - and even major corporations which are notoriously famous for their horrible support are starting to reconsider their approach (more or less successfully).
In order to build a strong and positive customer relationship, there is no way around a great and high-performing Support team. They are the first touchpoint in situations that are already perceived as negative, which makes it even more important that your agents can turn the situation around and create a positive support experience. Over the last few years, a new approach for achieving this has become quite the trend: proactive support.
Whatever you may think about Jeff Bezos, one cannot deny that he made a very true statement: “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.” And that’s exactly what proactive support is all about.
By recognizing the needs of your customers ahead of time you are able to provide them with all necessary resources and solutions before they even ask you for them. This results in a great experience, high customer satisfaction, and - in the best case - even a positive review. And what is more, your agents will save time and receive one less ticket.
How are you supposed to know what your customers need if they haven’t voiced it yet? After all, you’re not psychic. The good news is: You don’t have to be. Just wander around your support world with open eyes and think outside the box. We have some tips and examples to show you how proactive support works.
Take note(s) of preferences to offer proactive support
Even if it seems like an annoying extra task: It pays off to take notes whenever you learn something helpful about a customer. In an IT context, this could be certain system requirements („Everything must be Linux compatible“), in e-commerce it could be product-related preferences („only regional products“), and in tourism certain wishes („only smoking rooms“), to name but a few. This has many advantages: Not only will it be a reminder for you and your colleagues every time you interact with this customer (thus creating a positive experience) but it will also help you to anticipate future support cases.
Let’s stick with the first example for a second, shall we? Imagine you’re working for a software company that has just released a new feature. Your customer Tony can only use Linux-compatible developments, so you proactively send him an email with tips for a workaround that makes this feature accessible for him, too. Surely this is a support moment Tony won’t forget any time soon.
Want another example? You’re a travel agent and your customer Linda stays at the same hotel on a weekly basis, which she has picked since they still have smoking rooms. However, you suddenly learn that this hotel is switching to non-smoking only! So you proactively reach out to Linda and suggest other accommodation options that will still meet her request. As a result, the inconvenience will be much less of a nuisance for her.
If you have several customers with the same requests or preferences, why not keep a list? This way, whenever a situation like the ones in the above examples comes up, you can support them all with just one action.
Proactive support thanks to experience
The longer you’ve been working in Support, the more patterns you’ll notice. This could be that new customers always ask the same questions or require the same help. Be one step ahead and send them a welcome email that includes a link, a guide, or a webinar invitation. This way, all newbies have all the information they need right away without having to ask (and you have saved yourself another ticket!).
Stay alert, think proactively
What is more, attentiveness during customer interactions will create positive moments. After all, who wants to hear „I’m not exactly sure what you want me to do right now“? Exactly: nobody. A cheerful „I think I know why you’re calling“ is much more reassuring. And if you know the causes for problems, you will be able to provide solutions – and to say this very sentence.
Here’s an example. One of your delivery vans breaks down and an entire neighborhood is waiting for their orders. Your phone rings and you can see the customer’s address. Just like that, you can react accordingly: „Aha, Mr Smith, I can see you’re calling from Problemville. In that case, I know what it’s about. You will receive your delivery tomorrow. We’ve already sent you an info email with an apology coupon.“ Surely Mr. Smith will immediately feel better about the whole situation.
All this is only possible if your team learns to communicate. Looking back at the previous example, it’s obvious you wouldn’t have known what to tell Mr. Smith if no one had informed you about the broken van. That’s why proactive support relies on efficient and effective communication.
An internal chat is all you need to give your team members live updates. Daily morning meetings are a great opportunity to share important news and changes.
As you can see, all these tricks don’t just work with the help of telephones and sticky notes. In order to stay on top, helpdesk software like Zammad is a great support as it was developed purely for this purpose. The software turns every inquiry from every channel into a ticket and collects all of these tickets in the same place. Various features help you to stay focused even if things get hectic:
The customer interface
This is where you find all important customer information, such as contact details or ticket history. There’s also space for your notes (like „Linux user“ or „smoking rooms only“).
Online telephony with Sipgate and Placetel
Zammad offers you the possibility to make and receive phone calls from your helpdesk. This way you can pick up the phone even faster and solve problems more quickly. Thanks to the caller log you can track who is calling – and whose call you’ve missed. The caller ID also gives you information on unknown numbers. (For example, if they are calling from Problemville.)
Longer guides, how-to’s, or info material can easily be collected in a knowledge base and categorized for a better overview – internally and publicly.
Merge and split tickets
Do several customers share the same problem? In order to keep an eye on everything, you can merge their tickets. If a customer sends you a message with several issues, you can split the ticket into several ones, and assign them to corresponding agents.
And many more! (You can find an overview of all Zammad features here.)
A few days ago we received the following customer feedback:
"I have to give you and your colleagues a big compliment: The customer service at Zammad is really sensational! That makes it easy for me to recommend the system internally as a helpdesk. Besides functionality and design, customer proximity is the reason why I see a real advantage in Zammad over the competition."
Of course, that means a lot to us, especially because such feedback comes from much more than just a "have a nice day". Our support team works at full speed every day to satisfy every customer - despite the high volume of requests. So what's their secret? We’ve asked our First-Level Support Agent Arturo Sánchez Herrero:
"The balancing act is to read between the lines and get an idea of the savviness and use case of a customer. It’s essential not to get lost in some crystal ball projection of the customer’s situation and knowledge (which might lead to over- or underestimating them)," he explains. "Usually, you have very little information to base your support strategy on, unless you are already familiar with the customer through past experience, that is. Using the appropriate channel for the situation can help. Sometimes a phone call is worth a thousand emails."
"Provide as much information as needed to resolve the customer's inquiry," Arturo adds. "But at the same time, provide as little information as possible, so that you don't have to go back to Adam and Eve and you’ll have time left for other customers’ inquiries. The hero level would be to know your product or service and your customers so well that you can finish their sentence with the correct answer. Because you've been there already and seen it all."
You won’t create a positive support experience by leaning back and waiting for inquiries. Instead, proactive support is the new key to success: By offering solutions before the customer realizes the problem, you will spark excitement. With an open mindset, this is easier than you might think. Oh, and we all agree that endless time wasted holding the line is the polar opposite of proactive support, right? ;)
Interesting topic? We think so, too! That’s why we’ve got another post on it – check out „How Customer Support Works in 2021“.