seven tips for training your customer service team proactively
Training & Learning

7 Tips to Train Your Team to Proactively Handle Customer Service Issues

Consumers expect a seamless experience when interacting with brands, from initial contact and purchase, to after-sales service. That means how you handle customer service issues can make or break your business. And nothing frustrates consumers more than unsatisfactory service or lack of solutions when problems arise.

It's important to have a clear process in place when customers encounter a problem with your product and contact your support team for assistance. Can your CS team resolve the issue efficiently, while ensuring high customer satisfaction?

The best way to create positive, helpful, and memorable customer experiences is to train your customer service team to handle problems proactively. Here’s what that means and what essential steps to take.

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5 simple steps to stronger client relationships

What is proactive customer service?

Proactive customer service involves identifying problems before they occur to efficiently and effectively resolve them. It also means anticipating customers’ needs before they become aware of them or reach out for your support.

Proactive customer service is an effective strategy to differentiate your brand from competitors, by consistently providing superb customer experiences.

In reactive services, the query delay is ignored and resolved only after receiving customer complaints. Being reactive means acting only after a problem has occurred and a dissatisfied customer has voiced a complaint. This method does not focus on exceeding customer expectations. Here’s an example of reactive customer service:

Amazon reactive customer service example
Image source:

Taking the initiative to reach out to customers proactively enables your CS team to prevent many common issues before they arise. Allowing problems to surface on their own, or ignoring and covering them up (e.g., security problems on your website) only escalates matters and hurts your business reputation.

Here’s an example of proactive customer service:

Outdoor voices proactive customer service example
Image source:

In an increasingly competitive market, proactive customer service experiences make a brand stand out and support business growth with increased brand loyalty. Proactive customer service is now one of the deciding factors for customers when choosing a company to support. According to a study by Microsoft, 67% consumers preferred a proactive customer service approach over a reactive one.

Proactive customer service experience data chart
Source: Startup Bonsai / Microsoft

7 ways to train your team to handle customer service issues proactively

Customer service inquiries are bound to occur, no matter how well your teams work to prevent problems and maintain exceptional customer experiences.

The realistic goal isn’t to prevent problems entirely, but rather reduce their frequency while ensuring top customer satisfaction. Be aware that proactive service helps reduce problems, but how your team resolves them is even more crucial.

Here are seven essential tips for training your team to become proactive customer service experts that provide superb experiences, even when dealing with frustrated or angry customers.

1. Establish clear customer service protocols for specific scenarios

Customer service teams should avoid improvisation when dealing with complaints or other issues. The lack of a standardized process can escalate problems and cause confusion further down the line, for example if customers are given different solutions in response to the same kind of problem.

Your team should follow predefined rules, as consistency is crucial in providing superior customer service and trust. Establishing protocols for various scenarios will help everyone stay on the same page and resolve problems without a hitch.

Develop a game plan for all possible real-life situations and walk your team through each protocol. It’s all part of a solid process improvement strategy for higher efficiency and accountability through consistency.

Delayed deliveries are a common scenario that customer services teams need to handle. Your team shouldn’t wait for a customer to ask where their package is once it's already passed the expected delivery date. Instead, they should send a proactive email that informs the customer of the issue with any additional details (like updated delivery time), apologizes for the inconvenience, and offers solutions like real-time location tracking, or a discount code for future orders.

customer service response example shipping delay
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2. Know when and how to de-escalate an issue

Giving your customer service team the skills and strategies for preventing situations from escalating can help solve problems more effectively while ensuring customer satisfaction. Create a de-escalation plan using flow charts for every team member’s role to ensure each team member understands what to do and who to reach internally in various situations.

Your team should always try to de-escalate issues, however if this is not possible, they should know how to handle the situation properly. A common method is routing the conversation to a more experienced agent or department who can effectively resolve it. For instance, a live chat agent can transfer a complaint to the customer service manager if it goes outside their customer service duties, or if a customer explicitly requests to talk to upper management.

de-escalation flow chart
Example of a de-escalation flow chart

3. Use the right customer service tools for your needs

Equipping your customer service team with adequate tools will streamline their daily duties and help them deliver excellent customer experiences.

One essential tool is a CRM (customer relationship management) system that stores customers’ contact details, behavior, needs, interests, and interactions, including their order history. You can integrate it with a cloud contact center or help desk software to organize tickets and ongoing requests.

Live chat software is crucial if you need to offer 24/7 customer service. Chat bots can be programmed to handle frequently asked questions, before transferring a conversation to a live agent, if necessary.

A useful tool for internal development and growth is an LMS (learning management system). These platforms are used to develop and deliver employee training courses and L&D programs. You can use knowledge tests, videos, gamified learning activities, and more to create engaging and collaborative learning experiences for customer service team training.

Your LMS can store all training materials, track your team’s training progress, and generate real-time learning reports. Knowledge base software is also important for creating, organizing, and storing internal resources. You can use it to make a customer self-service portal where they can find tutorials, how-to guides, and answers to FAQs.

The 360Learning platform offers features like in-course discussion forums and learner feedback to create engaging collaborative learning experiences.

Need help creating a course inventory?

4. Use a multichannel approach to optimize communication

Every customer is different and the way they choose to interact with a brand can vary. Some consumers prefer reaching out via social media, email, website live chat, or phone support--while others may prefer resolving their issues independently using resources they can find online (like FAQ or troubleshooting pages).

Being able to meet these different needs is critical to providing excellent customer service, and this is where a multichannel or omnichannel approach comes into play.

Your customers should be able to easily contact you on their preferred channels, but that doesn't mean that your support team needs to jump through hoops to keep tabs on all communications. Customer service software can help them streamline these interactions by centralizing all communication channels, including support tickets, emails, social media messages, live chat queries, and call center conversations.

This multichannel hub can make your team more productive and efficient, decrease response and resolution time, and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

5. Understand how to deal with common customer service issues

Protocols for different real-life situations will give your customer service team a blueprint for dealing with common troubleshooting issues that arise. However, you must ensure they understand how to resolve them quickly for a better customer experience.

Your customer service training program should teach your agents to be empathetic, attentive, calm, polite, and patient. Customer service representatives should ask open-ended questions, use positive language, and offer a solution (or find one together). Thanking customers for their feedback and following up after resolving the issue is crucial for better experiences.

The best way to help your team learn and develop is with practice phone calls, chats, and email templates for multiple situations. Interactive and engaging training sessions will prepare everyone to best handle common customer service scenarios, such as long hold times, ordering out-of-stock items, or requesting a refund for a defective product.

6. Strengthen internal communication between departments

Seamless internal communication between departments is crucial for creating an information flow that keeps everyone on the same page.

Your HR team, L&D professionals, general managers, C-level executives, marketers, product designers, and customer-facing teams (to name a few) must work with up-to-date information.

Strengthening their communication through cross-team collaboration tools such as GitHub will improve productivity, knowledge sharing, performance, and business growth. GitHub is a code hosting platform that enables teams to share issues, documents, notes, and other processes in a secure environment. This flexibility makes collaboration between teams more efficient regardless of time zones or remote work locations.

Once they work as a team, they can break knowledge silos, eliminate miscommunication, and work toward the same company goals. That includes boosting customer satisfaction and retention through better service and product quality.

Source: GitHub

7. Discuss crisis management and have a plan

Crisis management is another vital element to include in your customer service training. Your customer-facing team must know how to answer worried consumers’ questions and resolve any conflict.

An internal and external communication plan is vital for successful crisis management. It will prepare your team to act swiftly in times of crisis, reassure customers, and eliminate uncertainty.

Whether you encounter an organizational emergency like a data breach, recalls, or experience crisis like the pandemic, training will ensure your team knows how to respond from a customer-centric perspective. The key is to be transparent and align all teams.

Proactive customer service drives better business outcomes

Proactively resolving customer service problems can drive long-term business growth. It stems from anticipating consumers’ needs to take a customer-centric approach and providing an exceptional experience.

Here are the top benefits you can expect:

Ensuring high-quality customer support

Addressing problems before they occur will improve your customer support quality. It will reduce ticket volume and support calls and shorten response and resolution times.

That will reduce the pressure and stress of high-volume tickets, making your agents happier and more productive. Their increased satisfaction will enable them to serve customers better.

Improving customer experiences

Better customer support translates to improved customer experiences. Focusing on their needs and pain points, to reach out and resolve problems before consumers are aware of them will increase their satisfaction and prevent complaints.

Boosting customer retention

Proactively engaging consumers shows you care about them, which is critical for building trust and loyalty. This is an integral part of your overall retention plan. It can help you maintain brand awareness, strengthen relationships, and hold onto customers.

Increasing ROI

All these benefits eventually lead to higher revenue. For instance, an agent reaching out when a consumer hesitates on your checkout page, or using an AI-powered bot to help, can all guide that customer to purchase. Enhancing your customer service will also get you more referrals, increasing your customer service training ROI.

Your customer service team interacts with consumers daily. This makes them one of your most significant assets, responsible for demonstrating company values and driving its growth.

Training your customer service team to deliver fantastic customer-centric experiences every time will improve your company’s overall success and boost long-term customer loyalty and retention.