The opportunities and possibilities with proactive web care

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Web care in the Netherlands of the year 2016 is a fully valuable communication tool to communicate with customers. Customers expect to be assisted in a fast and good manner through social media channels on which they are active. However they also talk outside your channels about your organisation, services and products. Unfortunately many organisations leave many opportunities in this untapped, by solely responding to messages that are directed to their accounts. Web care is both reactive and active, but how do you go well at proactive web care?

This article is written in cooperation with Estelle Wienk from Arvato CRM Solutions and appeared before on Emerce.

Web care has matured

Customer care on social media has become increasingly more professional in recent years. Organisations are better accessible, even outside office times, and strive to increasingly faster response time. Moreover a strong focus is on quality by offering personal service and measuring customer satisfaction. This can be seen back in the march of new customer contact channels like WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Proactive support

Web care can be defined as ‘’the monitoring and engaging in online interactions to signal and take care of feedback from consumers or other stakeholders (questions, remarks and complaints’’(Van Noort & Willemsen, 2012). This includes the monitoring of all interactions surrounding your organisation, not only the messages that are directed to your organisation. An important choice made by many organisations is whether these react to every message that is about them. The earlier mentioned research from Van Noort & Willemsen demonstrates that a proactive web care could opposingly lead to less positive brand evaluation. However this is dependent on more factors, such as the type of platform and presence of a human communication style. They state in their research that proactive web care only becomes accepted on platforms that already belong to an organisation, such as customer forum, because as a consumer you expect the organisation to read along. On a ‘customer-owned’ platform this is not desired. Recent research by Charlotte van Hooijdonk and Christine Liebrecht on web care dialogues on Twitter however brings forward a different picture: proactive web care is regarded by customers as positive to experience. By the public character from Twitter and the maturity of web care at organisations, it is no longer a surprise for the consumer when they are approached by a web care account.

Take for example the proactive web care at TU Delft. They respond proactively as well to messages about the university and in particular through Twitter. This becomes appreciated and people tend to like it whenever their messages are being picked up. In this way they show that they are involved, compassionate and considerate.

The added value from responding proactively lies inside the offering of information or a helping hand at the moment that customers need this, without having to contact you first. By that, organisations indent fast in a problem before it escalates and can therefore change a negative sentiment into a positive experience. This positive experience then makes it possible that the connection with customers becomes tighter for the longer run. These advantages of proactive web care are brought forward in the previously mentioned research by Van Noort & Willemsen.

The difference in outcomes from both researches can perhaps be explained by that Van Noort & Willemsen particularly examined proactive web care in response to complaints, whereas Van Hooijdonk & Liebrecht also examined proactive web care in response to questions and positive messages. To test this statement there is new scientific research needed, whereby the effects of proactive web care in reaction to complaints can be put in contrast to the effects with reaction to questions and positive messages.

How Proactive web care supports the business vision of Schiphol

From all conversations which take place on social media channels from Schiphol, more than a quarter is proactive. By that, Schiphol is the most proactive account on social media, measured under 400 organisations with an active web care account. Proactive web care is an integral part of Schiphol’s vision on Europe’s preferred digital airport. In the Customer Contact Center, a cooperation between the Schiphol Group and Arvato Bertelsmann, a team of Social Media Specialists is daily monitoring coverage around Schiphol with the web care tool from OBI4wan. Aside from solving customer questions, they strive to give passengers as much as possible a welcome feeling by proactively engaging in personally relevant conversations. And with success: the number of interactions on social media has grown with almost 250% and in 2015 the reach has been to more than 25 million people.

‘’As an airport we find it important that passengers feel safe with us. Therefore we want to approach them with a personal and proactive manner’’, says Martje van de Kamp, advisor social media at Schiphol Group.

Practical tips for proactive web care

1. Be personally relevant, but not a detective

by making use of information that the consumer has in his or her public profile, you receive as a web care employee a better picture of this person. From there you can find valuable information to pick up such as language use, interests but also events that recently took place, such as a visited event or an amusement park day. A link from the social media profile and the customer profile in your CRM system, can offer a larger source of information. Next, it appears from experience that a proactive response from that is more often appreciated. However be careful in your investigation! You do not want to appear stalkerish, like Schiphol has learned in the example below:


2. Take different channels into consideration

an important factor is the channel on which the conversation takes place. A reaction on a public tweet is for instance experienced different from a reaction under an Instagram photo from a personal profile. This applies in particular for channels as fora and review sites. These platforms are namely the domain of users, where you as an organisation can be an uninvited guest. Seeking proactive contact on a public form as Tweakers is only successful when you know for sure that the receiver is open for that, but the estimation of it appears to be practically difficult to make. With reviews and ratings on platforms as it is self-evident that you as an organisation get into questions and complaints.

3. Determine the desirability of a reaction

aside from context and relevance it is crucial to survey the information need. The receiver is not always waiting for a reaction and it can in some cases feel like a violation of privacy. Every message becomes shared from a specific need, in which wishing for a good handling of a complaint or question is an example (Willemsen, 2013). Therefore try to determine which information need the receiver has. Listen online and engage in the conversation at the right moment, preferably with the right information, a solid solution or another valuable addition to the conversation.


4. Full overview through online monitoring

Have you ever tried to mingle in a conversation, without knowing what it is about? That only delivers more uncertainties. What you need is an overview, preferably as complete as possible. Thus, listening starts with signalling of messages about your organisations and all that happens around it. Therefore try not to stare yourself blindly at your brand name, but also search for messages about events, board members, product slogans, unique services, names of office buildings and advertisement campaigns. For example in the dashboard below it is visible where, what, and when there are conversations taking place around the topic ‘vacation’. This offers insights in the market, competition and perhaps even (new) leads.



  • Van Noort, G., & Willemsen, L.M. (2012). ‘Online damage control: The effects of proactive versus reactive web care interventions in consumer-generated and brand-generated platforms’. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(3), 131-140.
  • Van Hooijdonk, C. & Liebrecht, C.C. (2015). ‘Kijk, de consument praat terug! Strategie en toonzetting in webcaredialogen op Twitter’. Tekstblad 05/06.
  • Willemsen, L. M., Neijens, P. C., & Bronner, F. A. (2013). Webcare as customer relationship and reputation management? Motives for negative electronic word of mouth and their effect on webcare receptiveness. In S. Rosengren, M. Dahlen, & S. Okazaki (Eds.), The Changing Roles of Advertising. Advances in Advertising Research IV, pp. 55-73. 2 Wiesbaden: Springer.
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