A recent survey by InContact of more than 2,000 people, to see how they felt about proactive support, produced the following findings:

87% of the customers they surveyed said they want to be contacted proactively by a company; and
Nearly three quarters (73%) of those who had a pleasant surprise or positive experience with a proactive customer service call, said that they had a positive change in their perception of the business calling them.

Usually when we think of customer support, we think of the act of reaching out to a company that provides some type of service when things go wrong. For a long time, that has been the mindset of both the Service Companies and their customers.

But things are changing , and have been for some time now. We have to realize that our support organizations are our greatest customer loyalty asset. The concept of PROACTIVE support should become an expectation for your support organization rather than a random practice.

When we talk about Proactive support, we are not really talking about foreseeing and preventing every single problem your client might experience at one time or another. That is impossible. Nor are we talking about the traditional “heads up” automated email to customers when, for example, your server goes down, which is fine as a start of a proactive process. We are also talking about more than acknowledgement. Think about doing things like:

  • Following up after an automated email with a MANUAL email, call, txt message, etc.
  • Acknowledging the problem but providing most if not all of the following:
  • Details of what the exact problem is
  •  The status of our troubleshooting or fix
  •  If possible, sharing the plan or steps required to fix it
  • And, most importantly to the customer, giving him an ETA for the fix, whenever possible

Proactive Support is many times about how you REACT. It’s about truly caring for your customers and the impact they feel when there is a service interruption or an unscheduled event or failure which affects the full availability of the product. It’s about anticipating what they want to know and how they want to be treated, depending on the situation.

You will not always be able to provide all of the things mentioned above, in which case, KEEP IN CONSTANT CONTACT with your client. Letting them know that your support or engineering team is working on finding a solution is many times more than enough (within and up to an acceptable time frame of course), even if it’s with a simple “we just want to let you know we are still working on it”. It’s always amazing to me how support organizations don’t even do that many times.

There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than being left in the dark when problems occur, this creates the sense that the service provider (YOUR COMPANY!) is not knowledgeable about the services, technology or product they are selling, OR (which is worse) doesn’t care about the impact of a service failure on their customers.

Another form of Proactive support would be one NOT associated with an ongoing problem. What about calling a client just to ask: “Hi, just wanted to check if things are running smoothly”, or “we just wanted to make sure that the problem you experienced last week, month, quarter, has not reoccurred.”

Imagine the impact that would have on your client! And the way they would perceive your company’s level care for them.

This type of support is what can transform a customer support/care/service organization into the brand advocacy and customer loyalty machine it can be.

A question we get a lot is: “What is the difference between support for cloud products vs. traditional software products?” This question always amazes us, because at Infolink, as product support specialists, we believe the difference is vast.

Customer Experience is Key to the Saas/Cloud Business Model

To explain the difference between support for on-premise or perpetual license software applications vs. cloud-based software, let’s first draw the distinction between the two business models.

Traditional software vendors sell a perpetual license with a 3-year or less support contract. Sometimes customers will not renew the support contract, or after a period of time the vendor stops supporting the product because they have released a new version. Their previous version is now obsolete and it’s more expensive to support it.

The customer experience is not critical to the business model. There is no incentive to delight the customer. Once they buy the license(s), they own it, and that’s it.

Support for Cloud Products is Key for Customer Retention

But for SaaS software vendors, the user experience is a critical part of their business model. The distinguishing factor for the SaaS model is Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR). Most SaaS vendors have no long-term contracts (with a few exceptions). The customer can choose to end the relationship at any time, and the monthly revenue the vendor was relying on could be gone – forever.

Customer retention is baked-in to the SaaS business model. So key to cloud-app customer retention is driving great customer experience through all key touch points, or moments of truth.

Customer Experience and Moments of Truth

Jan Carlzon, CEO of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) from 1981-1994, introduced the term Moments of Truth in his book of the same name. Carlzon describes turning around the the flagging airline by focusing on delivering an above average customer experience through all their customer’s moments of truth. The lessons Carlzon introduces apply perfectly to SaaS companies.

But what are Moments of Truth? They are: “…any time the customer comes into contact with any aspect of a company.”

In the case of an airline, they could be when a consumer makes a reservation, checks their bags, checks in at the ticket counter, or when they board at the gate.

What are the Moents of Truth for a SaaS product? They are:

  • Sign-up
  • Onboarding
  • Provisioning
  • Training
  • Tech Support

Deliver A Wonderful Experience at Each Moment of Truth

Each one of these touch-points provides the SaaS vendor the opportunity to either make an awesome first impression, or lose the customer.

The customer care team now has to be trained to go beyond the break-fix model, and to comprehend their function as critical to user adoption and satisfaction.

In the SaaS model there are no significant consulting/professional services anymore. The customer care or support organization, starting with Tier 1, now becomes central to a high volume, high touch customer experience delivery situation, which directly drives revenue retention and growth.