When most companies think about the customer journey, they speak in terms of the sales funnel – a combination of awareness, interest, evaluation, and ending with conversion. They might have a process for sending marketing emails meant to inspire a return purchase, but beyond that, most companies make no effort to communicate with customers after they convert.

This strategy does nothing to help build a loyal customer base. It basically means companies are choosing not to engage the customer again until something goes wrong and the customer calls for support.

There are many effective strategies for improving customer retention and supporting the entire customer lifecycle — here we’ll focus on proactive customer service.

Keys to proactive customer service

For many businesses, the default approach to customer service is to respond to problems as they arise. Proactive customer service involves solving your customers’ problems before they have to contact you. Or even better, addressing issues before customers even know something is wrong.

This proactive approach to support is not only possible, it’s profitable. A recent Enkata report found that preemptive service can reduce calls by as much as 30%, while increasing customer retention rates by 3–5%.

Ask customers for feedback

Customer service is about giving customers what they want, but first you have to find out what that is. And there’s no better way than to just ask. Businesses that keep in regular contact with customers can easily identify areas of weakness and correct them before customers become upset.

This can be done digitally with customer service software that automatically send customer feedback emails that ask things like “How are things going?” or “Is there anything we can do to make you happier with us?” Or, in the case of WePay (a company that helps small businesses accept credit card payments via an online platform), their team actually makes regular phone calls and site visits to solicit customer feedback.

  • Tell customers about problems before they tell you
    It’s always better for customers to hear about a problem directly from you instead of realizing the product or service doesn’t do what they need it to, when they need it. If your company identifies a problem, you can build customer trust and avoid damaging PR by simply apologizing and letting them know you’re working on the solution (or even better, offer them the solution in the same communication). You could even throw in a discount, refund or other bonus to soften the blow. Also give customers a specific way they can contact you immediately if they have questions or further issues. (Hint: not a form they send into an ether that prompts an email two days later).
  • Follow mentions of your brand online
    If you’re not paying attention to what customers are saying about you online, you’re missing key opportunities to pinpoint broader reaching issues that you can proactively address. Additionally, you can surprise and delight the customer who mentioned your brand by responding in a way they may not have expected. Social listening software uses keywords to filter out these messages and route them to an agent to respond, but it doesn’t always have to be in response to something negative. Your system could also just send thank you’s and other notes of gratitude.
  • Provide answers to common questions on your website
    Customers won’t always contact you when they run into a problem. They don’t want to sit on hold and talk to 20 different people before their problem is solved. Providing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) gives them another choice for answering their questions, and proves to them that you care about making that process as easy as possible. This is especially important when you consider a Forrester survey that revealed that 57% of customers will give up on an online purchase altogether if finding the answer to their question proves too difficult.

Proactive customer service doesn’t just help you keep yours customers happy. It can also turn your customers into advocates for your brand, which is a valuable marketing tool for driving new business.