Monday, July 28, 2014

Proactive Customer Engagement is the Highest Level of Responsive Service

By Shep Hyken
Chief Amazement Officer
Shepard Presentations

The value of responsive customer service cannot be overstated when a customer has a problem or complaint. Handled correctly, it can even be considered an opportunity – you have a situation placed before you in which you can show the customer that you care, that you are willing to do what is necessary to make things right.

But, no one should be waiting or hoping for problems to arise for an opportunity to impress the customer. If you are intuitive and observant you can take a proactive approach – providing great service even before you are asked to do so. A simple example of this would be a waiter filling your glass of water before you ask for more, but there are many ways to anticipate customers’ needs and meet them before they even have to ask.

Recently I was on an evening airline flight, and they served a pretty nice dinner. The flight attendant was serving warm chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I made the comment, “I love it when you serve these cookies. It’s too bad there’s just one per passenger.” A few minutes later she came back with two more for me to enjoy.

This may not seem like a big deal – the flight attendant heard my comment, had some cookies left over and decided to take care of one of her passengers. But, there’s more to the story. I fly a lot – at least once or twice a week. And I make the same comment to every flight attendant who serves me the cookies. Do you know that this is the first time a flight attendant has ever offered me an extra cookie? Most of the time there are extra cookies. I know because I see the flight attendants throw them away at the end of the flight.

To deliver proactive service, you have to be paying attention. Listen. Observe. You shouldn’t wait until a customer asks for something. If possible, do it before they ask.

There are different levels of customer service, and a proactive approach is at the top. Consider three possible scenarios:

  • Proactive – You see a problem coming and head it off – before it becomes a problem. Or even better yet, you spot an opportunity to make something better and take the initiative to make it happen.
  • Reactive – When a problem, complaint, etc., comes your way, you deal with it. And hopefully, you deal with it well and the customer is satisfied with your response.
  • Avoidance – This is the person who ends up having to deal with a complaint or problem and doesn’t react. This only escalates the problem into something bigger, and guess what? They don’t react to that, either. You keep trying to give them chance after chance to make good, and they just keep blowing it. This has happened to me, and probably to you too, and it is so frustrating!

In today’s fast-paced world, the speed of customer service can make or break a business. I recently had the privilege of working with Busey Bank and heard its CEO, Van Dukeman, share a concept he referred to as the Velocity of Business, which had to do with how quickly business moved. As I listened to his presentation, I realized the importance of how this applied to the customer service experience. And what’s faster than addressing an issue before it even becomes an issue for the customer? Proactive customer service trumps even the best response time – you are solving customers’ problems even before they have to ask. Talk about creating confidence.

Proactive service has always been a good strategy. Many times people won’t tell you if there is a problem. You have to know. The way to know is to listen to people’s comments and ask them questions.

Good people have the ability to deal with problems after they happen, but the best people have the ability to head off problems before they happen. Be attentive – to the customers and their reactions and comments, and to the product or service that you are presenting to them. If you detect a problem anywhere in the process, don’t wait for a complaint – take the initiative to make it right now!

About the Author:

Shep Hyken is a customer experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more articles on customer service and business go to

Copyright © MMXIV Shep Hyken – Used with permission.

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