Businesses need to being adopting a proactive approach to customer service to better support and retain valuable customers, says Ben Booth, CEO of MaxContact
UK regulator Ofcom recently warned that the quality of service provided by Britain’s
communications service providers has shown no signs of improvement this year, particularly when it comes to customers dissatisfied with complaints handling.
As Britain’s cost-of-living crisis worsens, customers are left wondering how they will manage soaring bills. With household budgets continuing to be squeezed, many will likely begin reassessing whether their current provider is still right for them.
The traditional approach of waiting for customers to contact you with their concerns is not enough as it alienates those who may be too busy or even too worried to contact their provider. To retain customers and ensure they get the support they need, providers must begin adopting proactive customer service.
Why does proactive customer service benefit customers and businesses?
Many providers may believe that the onus is on the customer to reach out for help. However, according to the Financial Conduct Authority, over 40% of the population currently fall within their vulnerable customer category and may struggle to take the initiative.
Instead, providers must proactively contact dissatisfied or struggling customers rather than placing the burden on customers to come forward.
Research by MaxContact found that 90% of vulnerable customers reported that they were struggling to access customer support. Vulnerable customers who did manage to get through to an advisor faced significant problems, with 51% of those surveyed saying their needs were not accommodated.
Waiting for customers to reach out (which is often once they’ve hit a breaking point after months of stress and anxiety) is coined as reactive customer service. It leaves those who are unable to reach out to suffer in silence.
For example, customers juggling a packed schedule with work and personal obligations may be unable to wait long times on hold to get support. Additionally, those who are struggling to keep up with the pressure of rising costs may be too afraid to reach out and speak to someone.
In difficult circumstances, outstanding service can help. Even after encountering issues, 78% of consumers would continue to do business with a company if they received excellent service. A more proactive approach allows companies to identify common issues and tackle them before they become real problems.
This leads to less repetitive support tickets and more time for contact centre teams to focus on meaningful interactions. In turn, this will create happier, more satisfied customers.
Understanding vulnerable customers
Customers who are struggling may find it incredibly difficult to open up and trust an advisor.
Therefore, being endlessly transferred and having to repeat themselves to multiple different advisors can result in unnecessary stress.
Our research found that 51% of vulnerable customers who recently interacted with a contact centre were passed between many different staff and had to re-explain their problem several times.
Additionally, 52% said they abandoned solving their problem because it was just too difficult, with 57% highlighting that their mental or financial health suffered as a result.
Providers must take the time to really listen to a customer’s concerns and ensure all information is captured on one system so that different departments and advisors can easily access it, saving the customer the need to continuously repeat themselves.
To really understand how best to support vulnerable customers proactively, providers should look at the customer as a whole. For example, considering their circumstances in order to forecast cash flow issues when paying for something in the future and working that into customer support conversations and communications.
Now more than ever, it’s crucial that providers are proactive, empathetic and human-focused in their customer service approach. Checking in with customers ahead of their next payment to ask if they’re still able to meet this payment or if they need to have an open conversation about support plans is particularly helpful for those who may have habitual financial struggles. It also reassures customers that their provider cares and wants to support them as best as possible.
Delivering proactive customer service
The most important place to start when implementing a proactive approach is by gathering more detailed insights on customers. Surveys can gather vital insights from customers about aspects of the business that can be improved.
Additionally, providers can get ahead of customer conversations by paying attention to social media and the queries they receive. Analysing common customer complaints to identify frequent problem areas that are leading to a surge in calls provides companies with a starting point to address the root cause of the problem.
When problems do arise, proactively informing customers and keeping them updated on the progress towards a solution is the best way to eliminate any confusion and diffuse anger.
Proactive customer service is key to boosting customer satisfaction and reducing churn. But it’s difficult to do so without investing in smart technology. From speech analytics to measuring and tracking customer sentiment, utilising technology will allow providers to effectively tackle common patterns and act quickly if satisfaction drops.
For example, by identifying meaningful words and phrases that have positive and negative connotations, providers can detect the subtle messages that are hidden in otherwise mundane conversations.
As a result, advisors can determine the emotional character of a customer based on words spoken and speech characteristics such as intonation, pitch, articulation, and speech rates.
By tracking customer emotion, staff can pinpoint unhappy customers before they walk away.
This will ensure that customers are getting the support they need and can reduce complaints by up to 25%.
Providers can even monitor the data around wait times or first call resolution. Then, use that to send an apology or email gift if a customer has received substandard service. This will ensure that customers feel valued and appreciated.
In these increasingly tough times, it’s vital that providers prioritise supporting struggling customers. By anticipating their needs and actively reaching out with a solution, providers can then prove to customers that they can be trusted with their loyalty and guarantee a higher customer lifetime value.