A man standing on two chalk-drawn arrows, one says proactive, the other says reactive
PHOTO: Adobe

Creating incredible customer support experiences is challenging today. Your customers are apt to remember negative emotional experiences longer than they do positive ones and consumers expect brands to respond to customer service tickets quickly and efficiently. So, rather than simply reacting when customer complaints and problems arise, how can brands be proactive and take care of customers' issues before they even realize there is a problem?

Proactive Monitoring and Virtual Assistance

According to Leroy Farrell, vice president and general manager of Engineering Services and Solutions at Canon U.S.A, Canon is proactive about customer service. It works to ensure that its equipment is working properly using the latest technology — in this case, Augmented Reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI). Even during the pandemic, it was no different for Canon and its customers. “As an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), Canon prioritizes customer service and has a team of field agents that are actively monitoring for issues and helping with on-site problem solving,” said Farrell. “To offer a seamless, painless experience through Canon’s Customer Solutions Center, Canon agents have adopted AR and AI assets to see what customers are experiencing in real time and tailor solutions from afar — often before customers know they have an issue. Canon uses remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance solutions that process and directly deliver device status, parts, and metering information to service providers in real time. This allows us to spot issues before the customer encounters an issue, so we can proactively get ahead of them to deliver device parts and necessary information before it becomes a full-fledged problem.”

Canon provided its customers with a virtual tool that enabled Canon's support to assist them throughout the pandemic and its associated shutdowns and lockdowns. “Our Virtual Presence Tool has played a major role in assisting our customers during the current pandemic due to AR capabilities which allow our support team to virtually assist users via a real time video link,” explained Farrell. “Through a simple text which includes a link to a video conference (accessible via mobile devices), customers are able to share exactly what they are looking at, and then Canon’s agents can be virtually hands-on by assisting and directing the technician on the screen being viewed, often resulting in a faster resolution time. Features such as freeze images and telestrator allow for the Canon expert to draw or physically reach in and identify a specific area to focus in on. These virtual connection points also provide an opportunity for our field agents to look proactively for other issues without requiring a separate service appointment.”

Often, it’s a combination of technology and interpersonal skills that facilitates a positive customer service experience. “This combination of seamless tech with the soft skills and expertise of the team has been well-received, helping to reduce call time and increase customer satisfaction,” said Farrell.

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Identifying Pain Points and Bottlenecks Before Customers

The end-to-end customer journey map follows the touchpoints of customers as they move through the different phases of the customer journey. The customer journey includes the initial interaction, then brand awareness, to consideration, purchasing, retention, and finally, brand advocacy, and it occurs across all of the brand’s channels. It touches on all of the interactions that a customer has with a brand, and includes every aspect of a brand’s touchpoints with its customers. End-to-end customer journey maps are very useful for locating some of the potential pain points in the customer journey.

By focusing on removing the pain points in the customer journey, brands are able to proactively ensure that the interactions their customers have with the brand are positive, and emotionally satisfying. 

Brands are under extraordinary pressure to deliver exceptional customer service, and are searching for ways to interact with customers in a more social setting, outside of traditional social media outlets, according to Chris Tranquill, chief of strategy at Khoros. "Sixty eight percent of consumers note they would stop purchasing from a brand after a bad experience. But surges in contact center volumes are adding new challenges in meeting these rising expectations. Leveraging peer-to-peer interactions is one way brands can proactively address customer concerns and needs and see around corners when it comes to customer service. Encouraging peer-to-peer engagement in branded communities can help consumers solve many challenges on their own and deflect a large percentage of calls and queries for customer service agents. These online communities can also be a place of candid and at times creative feedback on a customer’s experience and interactions,” Tranquill said. 

Many brands are using online communities to more fully understand what customers like about the brand, as well as the problems they may have encountered. “Today, we’re identifying that more and more consumers are putting their trust in online communities and reviews before ever taking that first step to engaging with your brand, so the more you can lean on communities as a direct line to customers’ pain points and praises, the more personalized your solutions can become. Lasting customer relationships start and end with ongoing personalization,” said Tranquill. 

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Allow Customers to Help Themselves

A report from CGS, a global provider of business applications, enterprise learning, and outsourcing services, revealed that customers would rather take care of more tasks themselves that are traditionally handled by customer service agents. 

Customers are actually interested in the top two consumer motivators: convenience and speed. Research from SOTI showed that U.S. retail consumers prefer speed and convenience when shopping with limited human interactions, and 73% of those who participated in the study were in favor of self-service technologies that improve the retail shopping experience and reduce interactions with staff.

Customers want solutions to their problems, or answers to their questions. During the process, they do not want to put forth much effort, nor do they want to spend a lot of time doing it. When it comes to customer service, a study by SuperOffice indicated that 88% of customers want a response within an hour, while 30% expect a response within 15 minutes. Brands that provide a way for customers to immediately obtain answers to their questions, in real-time, will gain loyal customers that leave feeling emotionally satisfied following an almost effortless experience. This is largely being done through the use of online knowledge bases, FAQs, and AI-based chatbots. A Forrester survey showed that customers prefer knowledge bases over all other self-service channels because they provide instant solutions to their problems and answers to their questions.

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Final Thoughts

By proactively monitoring and assisting customers before they even know there is a problem, finding and eliminating the pain points in the customer journey, and enabling customers to help themselves, brands are able to improve the customer service experience, while enhancing and increasing customer engagement and loyalty.