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Beyond Satisfactory: Why BetterCloud Introduced Proactive Support

Michael Stone

October 29, 2015

5 minute read

Proactive Support

When customers interact with BetterCloud support, they expect a great experience.

But when does a great experience turn magical? Micah Solomon, author and customer support expert, says in a 2014 Forbes article that the “step beyond satisfactory is where the magic happens, where you bind customers to you and create fierce loyalty and true brand equity.”

For many software companies, support is an afterthought. At BetterCloud, we want support to be our customers’ first stop, not their last resort.

IT administrators typically spend the majority of their day working in our application. These admins are the heartbeat of their organizations, tasked with keeping employees online and data secure. So when our customers encounter errors, they need to be addressed quickly, which is why we are constantly looking for ways to solve problems faster.

That’s the motive behind our latest support initiative: Proactive Support.

“I’ve worked in IT for over 25 years and have never had a vendor/partner support person proactively reach out to check if I was having a problem. After having a series of issues with BetterCloud as I was trying to provision and edit a couple of user accounts, I was just going to write it off as a bad day and get on with something else. Your proactive support engineer, Justin, contacted me to ask what was happening… and he resolved the issues as quickly as he could. I am very impressed. Thanks.” – Bruce Till, Network Administrator at Incognito

Reimagining the Support Experience

ProactiveChat

Support for software and even SaaS follows a very typical pattern. A customer encounters an issue and submits a ticket. Maybe the customer calls in for phone support, or even chats a support agent inside the application in some cases, but each time the customer must initiate the support interaction.

Think about how many issues never get addressed because of the time-consuming task of submitting a ticket. Instead, customers will attempt to diagnose and fix problems themselves, or even worse, spend hours looking for an alternative solution.

With Proactive Support, we’re starting to put an end to that type of support experience. Every week, a higher percentage of our support interactions are proactive, rather than reactive. When customers experience issues, we’re reaching out to them BEFORE they can even submit a ticket. Customers may submit tickets at times, but we are doing everything we can to prevent that.

“I didn’t even file a ticket, and Justin reached out after noticing I’d had an error while trying to complete a task. Great customer service!” – Carly McHale, Human Resources Manager at Relay Foods

Building a Proactive DNA

Implementing Proactive Support isn’t something we were able to do overnight. It’s an initiative made possible by the team we’ve built and the technology that we’ve deployed and integrated over the last four years.

Zendesk is the foundation of our support infrastructure. On top, we’ve incorporated tools like Jira for logging and tracking progress with bugs and enhancements, Google Hangouts for face-to-face customer support, Slack for internal team communication, Splunk for error logging, and Olark for in-app chat. Together these tools have given us the technical capabilities we need to implement Proactive Support.

Historically, our error logs were monitored, but never left our servers or our Splunk instance. But as a support team, we saw a huge opportunity to use our error logs to create an experience that far exceeds customer expectations.

“One of the best areas for enhanced e-listening and for creating anticipatory magic is where the lines intersect between electronic systems and human service, provided you have the two working in harmony.” – Micah Solomon, High-tech, High-touch Customer Service

With the help of our engineering team and many man-hours from the support team, we were able to do the following:

  1. Identify actions or error messages within the BetterCloud app that we wanted to track
  2. Work with our development team to configure logs into easily digestible chunks and feed them into our error log management system, Splunk
  3. Configure Splunk to email our proactive support team once an error alert is triggered

Before a customer can even submit a ticket, our team will reach out promptly using in-app chat (Olark) or via email with Zendesk. We are literally opening tickets on their behalf.

This concept goes against how traditional support organizations operate–many deflect tickets at all costs. BetterCloud’s CEO David Politis sums this up nicely in a recent interview: “[Proactive Support] has been a competitive advantage because most people are running [support] the old way. For [traditional support teams], things like adding chat and opening more tickets are viewed as very very bad. They refrain from doing it, thinking they need 20 more people to do it, but for us, it’s become part of our DNA.”

The BetterCloud Customer Promise

Proactive Support is helping us do something we’ve never been able to do: address issues as customers encounter them, not afterward.

This all ties back to the BetterCloud Customer Promise. A key component of that promise is our commitment to providing our customers world-class support. To do so, we must continuously innovate and push boundaries.

“Thank you for your proactive support! IT is one of many things I do at my job and often when I run into issues I just keep going. With this support I was able to fix an issue via email without wasting time on the phone or setting aside time to address the issue. Thank you!” – PJ Dunn, Singles & Connections Minister at Wedgewood Baptist Church

Every Response Has Been Positive

This is brand new territory for customers and support professionals alike. Very few companies have introduced Proactive Support–or even experimented with the concept (I only know of one other, Square).

When we first discussed implementing Proactive Support, we wondered: “Will customers even respond to this? Will they just shrug it off and go about their business?”

The response has been overwhelming and the answer is clear: Customers don’t expect Proactive Support, but when they experience it, they love it. After more than 1,000 Proactive Support interactions, every response has been positive.

“Chris was super proactive and reached out to me before I even noticed I had an issue. Super Badass customer service!! Keep it up guys.” – Kren Castro, IT administrator at Stumptown Coffee Roasters

A Perfect Storm of Company Characteristics

The decision to provide Proactive Support was a company decision, not a support team decision. Beyond technical configurations and software, it takes a perfect storm of company characteristics to make Proactive Support possible.

  • A Customer-centric Company Culture: Our entire company believes in providing an amazing experience for our customers. Proactive Support isn’t something that can be half done, it’s certainly not cheap, and it requires time to implement.
  • A Support Team That Believes in The Vision: Our support team was completely on board with our Proactive Support initiative. The team truly believed it would make a substantial difference in our customers’ experiences. Now we have a full-time team–led by Justin Chud–monitoring the app and proactively reaching out to users that run into issues.
  • An Executive Team That Understands the Value of Great Support: Our executive team invests an incredible amount of time and energy into ensuring our customers receive unprecedented support. They provide us the freedom to experiment so we can constantly deliver a unique support experience.

“Wow, proactive checking with customers! Role model service/support.” – David Lu, Workplace Support Manager at Eniro

A New Standard in IT Support

Proactive Support requires little effort on the customer’s end. That’s the beauty of it. We now reach customers who never intended on submitting a ticket, even when they’ve encountered an issue. We tackle issues before customers have time to submit a ticket, and long before frustration bubbles to the surface.

“Very quick and unexpected so it was a nice surprise! It’s a wonderful service that you’ve developed with your Proactive Support. I was just chatting with one of my Techs about it and he agrees wholeheartedly.” – Vicki Willcocks, Systems Administrator at YMCA

Today, customers don’t expect proactive support, but they should. The world around support has changed, technology has advanced, but support has remained stagnant for too long. It’s time support evolved.

It’s time Proactive Support became the new standard in IT support.

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