How to implement proactive customer service, and examples of companies that did

Proactive customer service can help build customer trust and long-term relationships, but what is it and how do you successfully do it?

By Amanda Roosa

Published November 14, 2018
Last updated April 15, 2021

Trust in institutions is at an all-time low. With spam galore, data privacy in question, and common misuses of data, customers come expecting the worst. That’s why to build better customer trust, it’s crucial that companies be proactive—not just reactive—with their customer care.

What exactly is proactive support? And how can companies switch from reactive customer service to proactive customer service? Read on for tips and best practices.

What is proactive customer service?

Proactive service is about getting in front of a customer issue before it escalates or even happens. So, a company spots and offers support for a problem before a customer notices it.

For example, Kohl's sends automatic emails to customers after they place an online order, with shipping times and tracking information. If there's a delay, Kohl's lets the customer know when their order will arrive. This saves the customer the hassle of having to call and ask where their package is.

Proactive vs reactive service

Reactive support means waiting for a customer to reach out with an issue—but even if you have a solution to provide, the customer is likely already frustrated with your brand.

At that point, the problem is probably complex and could be time-consuming for your team to fix.

Waiting for a customer to reach out with a problem is like waiting for your houseplants to start wilting before you water them.

Why proactive customer service is important

proactive customer service benefits

  • Higher customer loyalty
  • When you engage customers, you have a better chance of retaining them.

    In a brick-and-mortar store, a salesperson makes a sale by connecting with customers individually—they use every resource they know, including information about the customer, the types of products they're interested in, and their own sales experience.

    In the age of e-commerce, proactive engagement lets salespeople build a personal connection with customers, creating loyalty online.

  • Improved CSAT
  • 92% of chats receive a positive CSAT score.

    We like attention—it’s human nature. That’s why reaching out to customers, for example via live-chat, is generally well-received.

    And when customers are happy, they’re more likely to make a purchase with your brand.

  • Increased sales
  • With research indicating that 55% of online shoppers will abandon a purchase if they can’t quickly find an answer to a question, proactive support and engagement have become necessary.

    If a customer is hesitating on your checkout page, a simple check-in from a customer service representative could solve a problem they might have, or a question they might need answered.

    According to Forrester, reaching out in real-time and offering proactive support can increase sales by up to 29%.

    The proof of proactive magic is in the numbers: After adding proactive support via automated live chat to their online store via an AI-powered chatbot, Spartan Race saw a 27% increase in retail sales and a 97% customer satisfaction rating over chat.

6 ways to get started with proactive support (and examples of companies that got it right)

Here are six ways to start implementing proactive customer service, and examples of companies that did.

1. Onboard

proactive customer service

Onboarding customers into your product is crucial, but there’s always that initial hurdle to help customers discover what your product can do for them. Delivering tips and recommendations that keep customers excited and educated is just one way to engage your customers and build a better customer experience.

For example, Scoot requires new riders to take a short online class and test before their first rental. They send reminders about the class, plus tips and advice to get new riders over the anxiety of riding a Scooter for the first time.

A knowledge base is a good place for this kind of onboarding information to live.

Another example of killer customer service and onboarding? Slack created Slackbot to proactively engage and onboard their customers

proactive customer service examples

2. Support

The most obvious and crucial way to reach out to customers is to take a proactive approach to customer service, like sending a relevant message to a customer in an identified tricky situation or guiding them through the issue.

Sometimes SaaS products (or any type of product) can be tricky for new users. A good way to provide proactive customer care and improve your customer service?

Send customers an in-product message with instructions and best practices on how to use it correctly. This makes for an exponentially smoother customer service experience—and it can prevent problems by answering common questions before they have to be asked.

3. Mitigate

It’s important to keep customers informed about ongoing operational, product, or customer service issues and updates as they arise.

Let’s say your company just implemented a software update. In an ideal world, everything would go smoothly, but it’s more realistic and beneficial to prepare for any mishaps that might come up.

Keeping your customers in the loop during software updates can save your support team time in the aftermath of a service issue and help reduce customer complaints.

4. Notify

Another way to engage? Send updates about new products, features, integrations, next steps, or new styles.

For example, when Cinemark has a new movie coming out in theaters, they send a proactive message notifying a segmented group of users that might be interested in that type of movie.

At Zendesk, if we’re trying to drive webinar attendance, we use Connect to send proactive, in-product messages to relevant customer segments that might be interested.

what is proactive customer service

5. Nurture

The customer experience is vast and many different factors play into how customers experience your brand. Proactive engagement is one key part of the customer journey.

By engaging customers with suggestions, interesting resources, or best practices on products or trends in the industry, you’re more likely to nurture a relationship and build trust with them.

It’s also an excellent way to gain customer feedback through surveys.

6. Upsell

Once you have built a strong relationship with your customer base, you can proactively extend your customers’ journey by providing gentle nudges with new but relevant offers that relate to past interests.

Based on the customer’s previous touchpoints with your company, it’s better if you offer an upsell that is a solution to a problem, and hopefully, you’ll retain customers longer as a result.

Implement proactive customer care today

Proactive customer support and engagement can help you get in front of a customer’s problem, can ensure that information is easily available, and can even help customers self-serve by simply pointing them in the right direction.

Instead of leaving your customers to fend for themselves, proactive support can help nurture lasting relationships and build customer engagement.

Proactive customer support and engagement can help you get in front of a customer’s problem, can ensure that information is easily available, and can even help customers self-serve by simply pointing them in the right direction.

Instead of leaving your customers to fend for themselves, proactive support and engagement can help nurture lasting relationships.

In the world of good customer service, there are more ways than ever to reach customers instantly: the web, mobile, messaging, in-product messaging, live-chat, etc. Knowledge of proactive customer support is changing as the industry and products evolve—it's time to reconsider your customer service strategy and methods of communication.

Ways to be more proactive in your customer support

Zendesk's new messaging add-on enables your team to have natural and personalized conversations with customers, all through one unified workspace.