Featured Image for the blog: How to Build a Proactive Customer Service Culture

Isn’t it true that the best complaint is the one that’s never made?

As customer-company interactions increasingly occur on social media and review sites, the importance of your service experience is higher than ever. Despite growing attention and budgets, most customer service resources remain reactive.

Team members across various departments often predict customer complaints. Most issues fall into a few recurring categories. If I asked you to stop reading right now and write down the five complaints you hear most from your customers, almost all of you could do it within 60 seconds. It. Is. Obvious.

Despite knowing our customers’ struggles, we haven’t proactively addressed these issues.

Certainly, with customer service becoming a spectator sport, handling customer questions and complaints better and faster will have a material impact on your business. If a customer has a positive experience, they’re more likely to become a repeat customer. In fact, customers who are receive good experiences are 34% more likely to purchase more and 37% more likely to recommend according to research from Qualtrics. And, the reward for getting customer experience right affects your bottom line as indicated by research from PWC: up to a 16% price premium on products and service (plus increased loyalty).

Take a look at five steps outlined below to start building your proactive customer service culture.

Step 1. Listen to your customers

If a group of customers experience a certain problem and tell you about it, there’s likely a silent majority of users with the same problem.

Directly ask customers to identify and solve pain points. Use surveys, emails, and post-interaction questionnaires to gather feedback.

Get a pulse on your customers’ pain points, understand the gaps of experience, and solve the problems before your customer needs to complain.

Step 2. Foster a customer-centric culture

Every customer-focused business is essentially in the “people” business. Your team must embody proactive customer service. It needs to be a part of your service vision and overall company culture.

Chat about your customer fanatic values at every all-hands meeting. Intentionally talk through decisions that are made with the customer in mind. Get every department on board and trained to how they’re involved in building a customer fanatic culture.

Those with customer-facing responsibilities will be trained differently than those who might not interact directly with a customer, but every person in your company should get some sort of training about culture and vision. If being proactive is one of those standards that drives the vision, then everyone must understand how their roles and responsibilities can positively contribute.

Step 3. Map your customer journey

Develop a visual map of every customer interaction, from the first engagement to the long-term relationship.

At first glance, a customer’s journey is pretty straight forward. You offer something. They buy it. But once you get into the details, customer journeys are quite complex and come in many shapes and sizes.

To get started, try actually going through the customer experience. Find the touch points where your customers interact with your organization. Look for both major and minor touch points, starting with marketing and followed through with post-sale surveys and communications.

Once you have your touch points mapped, get feedback from your peers. Then use the map to find and address gaps between the desired customer experience and the one actually received.

Step 4. Simplify access to information

A third of customers say they would prefer cleaning a toilet over talking to customer service. That’s unfortunate (and kind of gross), but it says a lot about how your customers want to interact. They want to find the answers to their questions on their own. According to Harvard Business Review, 81 percent of US consumers will first turn to a self-serve channel for simple inquiries.

Create a frequently asked questions page on your site and link to it in your social channels to answer some of your most straightforward questions. And build a knowledge base with in-depth content to address your customers’ most common and specific questions or concerns.

Inside your knowledge base, make how-to videos to teach your customers best practices for using the product. Then create guidebooks and toolkits to offer up actionable tips and advice on your services. The easier (and faster) it is to find a solution on their own, the happier your customers will be.

Step 5. Own up to mistakes

People actually like a little imperfection every now and then. It shows a level of authenticity and vulnerability that resonates at a human level. If your company finds a problem, you can build customer trust and avoid damaging PR by owning up from the get-go. Plus, it’s really hard to be angry with someone who says, “Yeah, you’re right. I messed up.”

If you find a problem, inform your customers and offer an apology. Give them a discount on a future purchase or offer up a refund if the action you take to fix the problem doesn’t satisfy their needs.

Give your customers a clear explanation of what you’re doing to find a solution and how you’ll avoid another similar problem. And provide a contact in case they have more questions.

You may remember pizza delivery service Papa John’s came under fire for racial profiling and discrimination during a training on how to deal with racially sensitive situations for its founder and former CEO and chairman, John Schnatter.

Schnatter resigned as chairman of the board as a result of the insensitive and offensive comments and the popular pizza chain wasted no time in proactively addressing their customers. They started with an open letter from the newly appointed CEO Steve Ritchie.

Ritchie quickly took responsibility, apologized, and detailed plans to eradicate racism within the company’s culture. The plan includes an audit to find where Papa Johns is falling short and what they’re doing to fix the problems.

Read more on improving your proactive customer service and improving your experience here!