You Don't Have to Be Psychic to Prevent Customer Problems

Reactive customer communication comes at a high cost. Use proactive communication to head off issues before they happen.

Written by Eva Roethler
Published on Jul. 26, 2021
You Don't Have to Be Psychic to Prevent Customer Problems
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Everybody has one: a customer service experience so horrendous they’ve sworn an oath they will never go back to that company. We all have a service we won’t use, an airline we won’t fly or a brand we won’t buy, and we often come to this decision after having to reach out to a company that waited until a problem arose before addressing a larger issue.

Unfortunately, reactive customer service is all too common. In a survey of more than 6,000 customers by research firm Gartner, just 13 percent of respondents reported any type of proactive customer service. But reactive problem-solving is a disservice to the client experience and can lead to some ugly outcomes, such as brand bad-mouthing and churn. 

Meanwhile, Gartner showed that proactive customer service has benefits such as improving satisfaction, value enhancement and the likelihood that a customer will recommend that brand. Proactive problem-solving vastly improves the user experience and the company’s bottom line.

Predicting and preventing problems is easier said than done, so how does one achieve this without psychic abilities? 

The answer is straightforward: proactive communication. Built In Chicago asked FourKites Strategic Customer Success Manager Kayla Anderson, who uses this method to head off issues before they become a problem. FourKites is a supply chain visibility and logistics tech platform, so it’s important for Anderson to see several steps ahead, especially with delicate cargo such as chemicals or food on the line. According to Anderson, this type of proactive communication is built on a solid understanding of clients’ needs and circumstances, and keeping a detailed project plan. Read on to find out more. 

Kayla Anderson
Strategic Customer Success Manager • FourKites

What’s one habit you’ve adopted that’s helped you be more proactive in your communications with clients? 

I create structured project plans specific to each customer. When it comes to being proactive in communication, the only way to be successful is by having a strong understanding of your customers’ initiatives and the various tasks that will need to be completed for that initiative to be successful. By having a clear project plan, all stakeholders can be clearly aligned on objectives, the order of priority on tasks and a strategic understanding of who owns each action item. 

For one of my large global chemical customers, I might include one overarching global initiative along with several region-specific action items. This is not an uncommon scenario; we often have multiple initiatives and company go-lives occurring at one time, with project owners all over the world. A structured project plan creates clearly defined roles and tasks, which allow for streamlined communication. I can be extremely proactive with my customers since deadlines are clearly defined, and this allows us to know ahead of time if an item needs to be adjusted or restructured.

By having a clear project plan, all stakeholders can be clearly aligned on objectives, the order of priority on tasks and a strategic understanding of who owns each action item.” 


What role does data play in helping you and your team provide more proactive communications to customers?

Given that FourKites is a software company, data gives us a great opportunity to understand and analyze how our product is being used so that we know where customers are finding value. Therefore utilizing data is imperative to ensure that we are being strategic in proactively communicating with our customers and helping them extract the maximum value from our solutions.

One example of this would be our product that monitors where a truck actually travels and alerts a customer if the product on that truck is at risk based on the route taken. Specifically for one of our food and beverage customers, products sealed a specific way can pop if they go into high-altitude areas. By using the data we have on historical loads, we can tell our customers the exact number of loads being impacted by a driver's route and the potential dollar savings they would have by monitoring routes and receiving a FourKites Alert if a truck deviates from that route.


As a team, what’s a system or strategy you’ve put in place to get ahead of potential issues before they arise? What other teams, if any, help support this strategy? 

A strategy that we have put in place to get ahead of potential issues is having subject matter experts (SMEs) within our team. Given the scale of our platform and the many solutions we offer, our team will designate SMEs to a particular product to work cross-functionally in our organization. This allows specific individuals to be liaisons for our team and ensures that we anticipate any potential issues before they arise. It also makes us better prepared to clearly communicate to customers any potential future risks. 

An example of the SME role in action would be the launch of our Dynamic Yard or Appointment Manager features. Given that these were new product lines for our organization, the SME can better help customers understand the value a new product can bring to their organization, as well as best practices for rolling it out.



Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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