There are many things in life we have to work for – a living, for one, as well things like optimal fitness and healthy relationships. But there are some things in life, such as customer support, that we’d just as soon not put forth much effort toward, and understandably so.
According to recent research from the Customer Contact Council, for 96 percent of customers who have to work for their own satisfaction (find resources, solutions, answers, etc.), their loyalty to the company brand is challenged. And in a time when customer loyalty is critical to business success, it makes sense to make support more predictive and accessible in order to foster greater customer confidence and brand loyalty.
For those of us in the customer support industry, all of this should come as no surprise. However, this kind of support, which I’ll call proactive support, is all too uncommon and requires an added degree of focus and creativity from businesses that choose to embrace it.
Proactive support begins with listening. With effective listening systems in place, which can include everything from comment cards and phone lines to digital, social hubs like Facebook and Twitter, you can gather insights about what your customers are saying, and not saying. It’s critical to make the most of these systems. You might very well pick up on a simmering issue with your product or service that hasn’t yet come to a full boil, giving you the chance to resolve a potential crisis before customer satisfaction is compromised.
After listening to and evaluating what you hear, it’s time to engage. And that doesn’t mean sending a tweet and calling it a day. While social media destinations can be effective vehicles for customer engagement and should certainly be leveraged to better communicate with and support customers, they’re often just part of a comprehensive strategy in reducing customer effort and pain points.
For example, you might use these social hubs to provide tips and best practices related to your product or service, or use the information sourced on these sites to develop additional avenues of support. Once you create those avenues, tell your customers. Frequently. And ask for their feedback. Again, frequently.
At Microsoft, for instance, we learned that complex articles written for a technical audience didn’t always provide an easy path to support, especially for users who don’t consider themselves IT pros. So we began converting these articles into automated Fix it solutions, which are one-click, automated fixes that greatly reduce the time it takes to identify and resolve a problem.
When it comes to proactive support, it’s also important to consider your entire customer base, not just one audience. For example, for those IT pros who need more than just Fix it solutions to resolve IT issues, we’ve launched System Center Advisor, which proactively evaluates server configuration, alerts IT pros of top support issues and gives them advice on fixing those issues.
Another way in which we try to provide proactive support is with our Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP)Award , through which we recognize technical experts from around the world and thank them for helping others maximize their technology investments. We take the initiative with MVPs and ask for their objective feedback so that we can better understand the customer experience and hopefully improve our products and services even before issues arise.
These are just a few examples of how proactive support can create dialogue, engagement and, at the end of the day, help enhance customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. At Microsoft, by no means is our job done. Thinking ahead about how best to support our customers never stops, nor should it for any company vested in exceeding its customers’ expectations.