OK, so everyone's talking about proactive customer service these days. Which is - helping a customer before they actually ask for help.
While this sounds very nice and all, in reality you're mostly annoyed by all these stupid overly excited intrusive canned messages.
Yeah right. Thanks for wasting another 2 minutes of my life. Was that the goal? How about some real, helpful proactive customer service?
Like, for example:
When things fall apart, start tweeting, start blogging and emailing. Communicating is as important as fixing the damn server. In real time. "Here's what went wrong, here's what we're doing about it". Even if you don't yet know what went wrong - it's OK, just say it. "We have no idea what's happening but the whole team is on it". Proactive customer service is all about communication.
Even if your customers haven't noticed something was down you can still let them know. Admitting your mistakes really builds that connection.
Popups, onboarding tips, alerts in the UI can be great. But keep it short, don't overdo it and make it easy to bail from tutorials. Balance is really important here - things like that can disrupt the user experience and can even turn things backwards - increasing the learning curve instead of smoothing it. Use it only for the most crucial parts of your app.
Another great tip is showing in-app version update notifications. Sometimes customers simply don't see every new feature or bug fix, which might make them think the app is stagnating and no one's working. This helps with the metrics too,by the way, the churn rate has reduced drastically when we started doing this.
But just like with the above - don't overdo it. Once a week is fine. And don't pop it up automatically, show a little "unread" icon ⓘ that the user has to click.
Help customers help themselves: make sure that your knowledge base and FAQs are up-to-date. Create new help articles as soon as same question has been asked twice. All this effort will pay off soon enough. There is a wide-spread belief that people do not read manuals - that is not true at all. A lot of people prefer to search support docs before contacting you, especially if you're serving an "introvert-ish" audience.
Modern help desk apps can even offer relevant support articles to users automagically. Shameless plug: our app - Jitbit - does exactly that, offering help docs as customers type a ticket or even when they send an email or start a chat.
I don't mean faceless birthday cards over email. "Hey Merry Christmas %USERNAME%" won't make anyone happy. Send them a branded t-shirt instead. OK, a pen. There are startups that can help you with that. Yes, it's not free, but, hey, that company's LTV is getting close to $6k, have some respect.
Sometimes they don't report anything and turn into twitter jerks right away... Or even cancel their account afterwards. Send them a note explaining what happened and saying you're sorry. By the way, it's a great opportunity to win the cancelled clients back. We've brought back multiple customers by replying to tweets and app store reviews and figuring out what their issue really was. Set up alerts for new brand mentions or product name mentions and go through these alert once every couple of days.