The rise of social media has fundamentally changed the notion of proactive customer service. What was once considered simply reaching out to the customer has shifted to a comprehensive customer engagement strategy.
Before the rise of social customer service, companies concocted ways of solving customer issues before the customer reached out, mainly in order to reduce call volume. Many of these methods worked: a report from Enkata found that preemptive service can reduce call volumes by as much as 30%, while increasing customer retention rates by 3 to 5% (Enkata).
Traditional proactive customer service can take a number of forms, from FAQs and forums to knowledge bases and instructional videos.
Proactive customer service over social media, however, means something completely different. This is mainly due to the public nature of most social content. Twitter, for example, allows companies to reach out to customers when they’ve directly or indirectly mentioned a brand or used a key term relating to that brand. With Twitter, you’re not just listening or monitoring; you are engaging with the customers who need you most.
Here are five tips for effective proactive customer service that will not just satisfy your customers, they will help you provide service that will strengthen customer loyalty, increase brand awareness and most importantly, drive tangible results.
1See every issue—not just the ones with @mentions of your brand Research we conducted with New York University found that over 37% of all tweets were customer service related but less than 3% used the @ symbol (Guide to Proactive Customer Service). Access to the Twitter firehose is a must-have to gain real-time access to consumer conversations. It’s important to understand how to filter data based on keywords, location, and language to help quickly direct the customer issues to the right member of your team. Simply put, you can’t afford to leave your customers unanswered, even if they’re posting about you indirectly.
2Know there’s a problem? Tell your customers you’re fixing it It’s always better for customers to hear about a problem from you directly instead of realizing the product or service doesn’t deliver. Maintain control of potentially volatile situations by confronting problems head-on, which helps build customer trust and avoid damaging brand recognition. Tell your customers what you’re doing to figure out a solution and ensure the problem doesn’t happen again. Or make sure customers know who to contact if they have further questions or feedback. You can even offer a discount on a future purchase, or provide a refund if the action you take to fix the problem doesn’t completely satisfy their needs.
3Measure success with customer service KPIs It’s important to make proactive outreach accountable with real customer service analytics and reporting. Demand volumes, customer sentiment, issue categorization and response rates should all be measured to glean an accurate picture of the discussion around your brand and your team’s ability to make a difference.
With good social customer service analytics, it’s easy to quantify the results of proactive service, such as increased call deflection and profitability. In a recent survey we found that 14% of tweets that @ mentioned the company directly were sent from in-store, meaning that through proactive listening, companies have the ability to reach out and influence a sale—affecting the most important KPI of them all, the bottom line (Conversocial Research).
4Don’t just reach out when something’s wrong No relationship is sustainable if you only communicate when something’s wrong. When those relationships are with a rapidly growing customer base, social media is an efficient way to stay in touch with a large audience through individual conversations. As Seneca said, “He who gives when he is asked has waited too long” (Forbes).
Companies now need to be proactive, rather than just reactive, over social. They should be calling out to their customers—engaging with them—even when things aren’t necessarily deemed a customer service issue as of yet. This will add an element of ‘surprise and delight’ for customers, turning them quickly into brand advocates.
5Reward Customer Loyalty with Discounts and Offers Speaking of “surprise and delight”, is there anything quite as delightful as a coupon or gift from your favorite brand? Let your customers and community know how much you value them with tangible rewards. This powerful gesture has proven time and again to build customer loyalty and positive sentiment.
Loyalty programs are your goodwill bridge to your customers, and when you take that extra step to proactively offer these special discounts and rewards, you amplify the power of these interactions and build stronger relationships.