What is proactive support?

Main illustration: Sergiy Maidukov

For years, customer support was seen as a cost center, not a value driver – a necessary response to inevitable customer questions or frustrations.

But now that customer experience has become a critical differentiator for modern consumers, this reactive approach to customer support is no longer good enough. That’s why forward-thinking businesses are turning to proactive support: so they can anticipate customer needs and deliver support when, and where, it’s needed.

Proactive support is a crucial part of any good conversational support strategy, empowering you to pre-emptively deliver targeted, personalized support via messenger-based channels. Using clever features like outbound messages, banners, product tours, and more, you can provide customers with the help they need before they have to contact your team.

Not only does this create a better customer experience, it also helps to reduce inbound conversation volumes for your support team so they can focus on answering more complex, high-impact questions.

“59% of support leaders and decision makers find a lack of proactive support is a barrier to conversational support at scale”

For many teams, making the switch from reactive to proactive customer support can be tricky – but it’s a necessary element of any support strategy. According to a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Intercom in April 2021, Drive Conversational Experiences For A Future-Ready Customer Support Strategy, 59% of support leaders and decision makers find a lack of proactive support to be a barrier to conversational support at scale.

So how can you keep up with higher-than-ever customer expectations and deliver the exceptional support experience customers deserve? Here’s what you need to know about proactive support – and why it’s so important.

What is proactive support?

Proactive support is a strategic approach to helping customers before they need to contact a support team – and possibly before they even realize they have a question.

Proactive support isn’t any one tool or feature; rather, it’s an overall approach that incorporates your support strategy, mindset, and technology, so you can anticipate customer needs and deliver the right support, at the right time, through the right channel.

What is proactive support?

Proactive support is a strategic approach to anticipating and delivering on your customers’ support needs, where they are, before they ask for help.

That means sending targeted messages with relevant content or help articles; using banners to announce key information (like delivery delays or service announcements) upfront; and using product tours to improve new users’ understanding, so they have fewer questions for your support team in the first place.

The benefits of proactive support

Proactive support empowers you to set your customers up for success and protect your team’s time, creating a better customer experience and a better employee experience all at once.

Sound good? Here are three major benefits of proactive support.

1. It reduces inbound conversation volume without sacrificing customer happiness

By preemptively answering customer questions before they’re even asked, you can reduce the number of queries that hit your inbox, saving time for everyone.

Learn how TrueCommerce has used proactive support to reduce inbound conversations about temporary issues by 80%

2. It frees up your support team’s time for more complex queries

Proactive support is about using the right tool to enhance the customer experience, not about using technology to reduce conversation volume at any expense. There will always be some questions you can’t predict, and some conversations that need a human touch. One of the core benefits of proactive support is that you can use it to effortlessly address those known issues, freeing up more time for your team to focus on the complex queries that only they can handle.

Win back more time for your team with these 4 proactive messages

3. It improves long-term success metrics like customer retention and satisfaction

By providing help before it’s needed, you’re setting the foundations for a long and happy customer relationship. Proactive support helps you to show that not only do you understand your customer’s journey and their pain points, but also that you’re committed to improving their experience every step of the way.

See how proactive support can contribute to business growth across your entire organization

Why be proactive with support?

It’s a tale as old as time. Customer meets business. Customer and business hit it off. For a while, it’s all roses and rainbows. Eventually, the customer has a problem or a question, so they take time out of their day to compose an email outlining their issue. The customer’s query is marked as ticket #78942 and sent into the unknowable void. Finally, the customer gets an answer in 3-5 business days (if they’re lucky).

“By preemptively identifying and addressing your customers’ needs, you can provide the fast, efficient, personalized customer experience that people are looking for”

This story has a sequel: customer gets frustrated and finds a business that actually cares about their time and needs.

Proactive support allows you to change the narrative so you can avoid an unhappy ending. By preemptively identifying and addressing your customers’ needs, you can provide the fast, efficient, personalized customer experience that people are looking for.

But as we’ve seen above, it’s not just great for your customers – proactive support is great for your team, too.

By leveraging the right features to deliver proactive customer support, you can ensure that your support reps don’t get overstretched or burnt out answering an endless stream of repetitive questions, while still having full confidence that your customers are getting the fast, useful, tailored experience they deserve.

How to implement a proactive customer support strategy

To create a meaningful proactive support strategy, you need to deeply understand your customer’s journey, their best next steps, and their pain points. This is where the right conversational support solution can help, by giving you meaningful insights that you can then use in ways that feel conversational and non-intrusive to your customers.

By identifying recurring trends and answering common questions in advance, you can reduce your inbound conversation volume, allowing you to optimize your team’s time and resources while still ensuring a delightful customer experience.

Then, with all of this data and context in mind, you can identify key moments where you can preemptively help those customers by serving up targeted messages or help content via a business messenger.

Get started with proactive customer support

Ready to create a more customer-centric support strategy? Here are some of our top resources to help you design and implement a proactive customer support strategy that helps and delights your customers every step of the way.

Want to learn more about how to combine proactive support with self-serve and human support to create a powerful strategic framework (a.k.a the Conversational Support Funnel)? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Conversational Support.

Ultimate Guide to CS horizontal