Think about the people in your life that can tell what you are
thinking without you saying a word, or know what you are going to do,
even before you do. Those are the people that ‘get’ you. They are the
ones you can rely on and turn to, time and time again.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have connections like that with a
company? I’m not saying a company is going to start finishing your
sentences, but it could start anticipating your needs and taking care
of issues with the products or services you are using before you even
encounter them. That’s what proactive service enables. And it can
change everything for customers, increasing their overall
satisfaction, preference, and loyalty.
What does it take to establish proactive
customer service? In the webinar: “Top
5 Practices: Proactive Customer Service for Digital
Services” John Ragsdale, distinguished VP of technology research
for the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), discusses
what proactive customer service could mean and look like for a company.
While the vision of anticipating and then delivering on a customer’s
needs has always been a goal of companies everywhere, what’s been
called proactive customer service for the past couple of decades was
It’s hard to argue companies were being proactive, when it was the
customer that typically initiated the interaction and reported a
problem to trigger an investigation. Once started, the speed and
effectiveness of the investigation was often limited by the technology
customer service agents or field service technicians had at their
disposal to try to figure out what was going on. Slow, clunky
connections (e.g. Telnet) to a customer’s on-premises equipment was
usually all they had to run basic tests; if those tests failed, they
would be forced to pull and manually analyze the customer’s log files
to look for clues.
When the problem was finally understood and fixed, information on
the resolution remained largely in the silo of that customer’s case.
If another customer called with the same problem, rather than applying
the same fix, the process would start all over again. The reality is
companies were being responsive, not proactive.
What’s changed with the digital economy
Now, John notes, the ability of companies to deliver a truly
proactive customer experience is finally possible, thanks to the
technology advancements that are powering the digital economy. Today,
the promise of truly proactive customer service that can transform
customer experiences and outcomes can finally be realized.
Why? Because there is a lot more information easily accessible that
can be used to understand the customer’s environment, particularly as
more and more organizations move to the cloud. However, more data in
and of itself doesn’t make a difference, if there is no way to make
sense of it. Advances in new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine
learning (ML) technologies are paving the way for real-time analysis
and insights that can help organizations make connections between
customer issues and identify and even predict where problems may
A glimpse at what proactive customer service looks like
According to John, these new technologies have enabled some
organizations to get a jump on issues and start to anticipate what
customers are going to need. These companies are monitoring customer
usage of their products and services, identifying conditions that could cause an
error or failure. Once detected, the company is then either
auto-scheduling a repair or auto-restarting a system to apply a fix
and resolve the issue. All of this is done before a customer even
knows they have a problem-that’s proactive!
And the benefits of this level of customer service are easy to
understand. If a customer feels the company is making the ongoing
operations of their product or service a priority, they are going to
be more satisfied. Plus, it’s good for the business too. Uninterrupted
service and operations not only keep customers happy, but also reduces
unnecessary work in customer service. Taking preventative steps is
generally much more cost effective than having to triage and recover
from an actual problem.
What’s slowed the adoption of proactive customer?
Despite all the potential benefits, only 24% of support teams have a
proactive support or intelligent diagnostics solution in place,
according to the 2019
TSIA Support Services Tech Stack Survey. The 2019
TSIA Support Services Benchmark found that only 3% of new
incidents are created automatically using embedded diagnostics.
Why so low? John explains it has been extremely tough to get
technologies to enable proactive customer service. Typically,
organizations had to piecemeal something together, which required
committing resources to build, manage, and maintain a homegrown
solution. The few solutions traditionally available on the market
tended to stem from technology developed for internal IT use, not
remote customer use—so they too required a lot of tuning and customization.
As we know, when organizations have to develop solutions that are
not core to their business, they can fall by the wayside or end up not
being as robust or effective as they could be.