If you’re a small business owner, how hard is it to name your top three clients? Not difficult, is it? Unlike business to consumers (B2Cs) who have hundreds or thousands of customers, a small business to business (B2B) usually has far fewer clients. If you’ve been in business for even a short time, you know the importance of each customer to your company’s bottom line; losing a single customer can take a big bite out of your revenue. To have a successful business, you must use every available strategy to retain loyal customers.
One of those strategies is to shift from reactive to proactive customer support. A proactive approach emphasizes heading off problems before they begin, as opposed to an approach of solely reacting to customers’ problems and questions. Proactive customer support is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors and to build customer loyalty. And as a small business, can you afford to provide anything less than game-changing, proactive service?
Proactive or Reactive: what’s your style?
Take a look at these scenarios. Which ones resemble your company’s approach?
New legislation dictates a change in your customers’ reporting requirements. Though your software can handle the reporting change, your customers must go in the settings menu and make a few changes for the report to meet the new requirement.
Make sure your CSAs are familiar with the change so they will be ready to deal with any problems that come up. Don’t worry about notifying your clients, though; they will know about the changes in their own industry.
Don’t assume your clients will know about the change in reporting requirements, even though it’s likely that many are already aware. Take time to carefully craft an email to send to all client accounts to ensure they’re aware of the change and its impact on reporting.
In addition to sending an email to alert clients, post a notice about the change on customer portals and in your knowledge base.
A client calls with an urgent issue: she is unable to finish month-end reporting because her accounting system software (your company’s product) is returning an error. She’s in a panicâ€”the CFO is waiting on the report
A CSR assures her that her that tier 3 support will look into the issue immediately, and provides her with an issue tracking number.
In addition to giving her a tracking number, the CSR shows her where she can go to track the status of her issue. The CSR sets an alert to immediately notify tier 3 support of the issue and also flags the account manager. He also sets an alert to remind him to follow up within 20 minutes to assure her that the problem has support’s full attention.
Tips for implementing proactive support
Hopefully your approach to customer support more closely resembles that of the proactive approaches in the table. But if not, you can become more proactive with just a little effort. Here are just a few ways to do so:
- Take advantage of alerts and automated notifications.
Be smart with alerts. With a tool like Tracker, you can configure alerts to let you know when there is a spike in activity from a single customer (for example, multiple open tickets, ticket escalation, or an upward trend in high-priority tickets). This is a sign that a customer may need some extra care from their account manager or from the business owner (if your company is really small). Also, use alerts will notify agents if a customer issue is approaching a deadline so the agent can call or email the customer to keep them up-to-date on the progress.
- Share helpful content in your service portals and website
Post beneficial articles, blogs, or videos on your service portal and website. In general, people would rather find the answer to an issue themselves than to call support. And it goes without saying that your knowledgebase must be easy to search and to update with fresh content.
PhaseWare’s Self Service Center provides a highly configurable platform for creating a content-rich portal for your customers to find helpful forums, documentation, and notifications. It features a robust search engine so customers can spend more time reading and less time hunting for answers.
- Address common issues before customers call.
If you’re aware of an issue with your software, don’t be afraid of losing face by proactively addressing the problem. Customers will appreciate your honesty and it saves time in the long run, especially if you are able to provide a temporary workaround until the problem can be corrected.
What have you implemented to move toward proactive B2B support? We would love to get your insight into this hot topic. Share your comments below.
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