About time – Intercom puts proactive customer service back on the agenda

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I first started writing about the benefits of a more proactive approach to customer service and experience back in 2013. It seemed to me that the benefits were clear: delivered well a more proactive approach to customer service would both reduce operating costs and also drive higher levels of customer satisfaction.

I wasn’t alone in advocating for this type of approach.

Forrester listed proactive service as one of its top customer service trends for 2013.

In the intervening years, we’ve seen some adoption of proactive tactics, including things like fraud alerts on accounts, appointment reminders and order delivery updates.

But, since then, I’ve not really seen any evidence of a significant movement from a more reactive model of customer service to a more proactive one. This is despite the fact that organizations have access to all sorts of tools and data that could facilitate that shift.

Therefore, I was pleased to hear that Intercom, the conversational relationship platform provider, had recently started advocating for a more proactive approach to customer service via their new The Conversational Support Funnel Starter Kit. This is a framework which they say enables brands to think through how they provide personal support at scale.

In it, they start by saying that the future of support and service is conversational but that it begins by providing proactive service, where ‘known questions are answered pre-emptively using targeted content’.

However, the report goes on to say:

“In many ways proactive support is the Holy Grail of customer support . So why do many of us simply accept this kind of customer interaction should be the sole domain of marketing or product teams? Our conversations with support leaders show there’s a real appetite for that to change. In a recent survey we found that 78% of support leaders want to move from a reactive to a proactive approach with their support, but only 26% are sure they have the knowledge and tools to do so. “

The thing that struck me about this quote was the idea that proactive tactics were the sole domain of marketing and product teams.

This seems like more evidence that siloed behavior still persists in many organizations and is a barrier to the delivery of great service and experience.

I spoke to Paul Adams, the SVP Product at Intercom, about this and asked him why it has taken so long to get here. He told me:

“For years the promise of proactive support hasn’t materialized in real deep change in how support teams work because the products or business impetus weren’t quite there yet. The pandemic has changed all that, with a clear business need to invest in order to reduce costs, and great, easy to set up products finally on the market.”

While the pandemic is taking a horrific toll on many people’s health and working lives, it is also accelerating a lot of change in the way that organizations and brands deliver the service and experience that customers desire. The inclusion of proactive service on that agenda again is long overdue.

This post was originally published on Forbes.com.

Image by DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

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