I met with a client last week who mentioned that he’s figuring out the best way to implement a proactive service solution for his call center organization. That got me thinkin’…

Regardless of product type or relationship type (B2B, B2C), interactions with your call center or your customer care team are probably the primary moment of truth. While a support experience is only part of the overall customer experience with your brand, it is certainly a touchpoint that allows you to build a relationship with your customers. Often, it is the only opportunity to set a first – and a lasting – impression.

If you engage in proactive customer service, which in my client’s instance (and the angle I’ll cover here) means solving a technical issue/breakdown before his customers know it exists, you need to be able to balance communicating to customers that issues were fixed proactively with not freaking out customers that your product has so many issues.

I did a little research on proactive customer service and was surprised how much has been written about it. For example, wrote an article that outlined seven reasons proactive care is important.

  1. Increases customer satisfaction
  2. Reduces operational costs
  3. Increases employee efficiency
  4. Gives you an edge over the competition
  5. Makes for better-managed call centers
  6. Provides for more up-sell and cross-sell opportunities
  7. Improves service
To provide proactive customer service, you need (and you’ve heard me say this before) the right people, the right tools, the right data… all at the right time. You have to be committed to this. It’s not just a passing fad; it requires a dedicated team whose focus is proactive service 24/7.
Bruce Temkin attempted to elevate proactivity to something greater by defining the six levels of proactive support, though I would debate why Ignore, React, and Alert are considered proactive. By definition, proactive means “creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.” (Google dictionary)

The whole point of proactive customer service/support is to resolve an issue or to get information to the customer before he/she has to initiate an interaction with you. Get out in front of it.

A great example, at least when it’s done right, of proactive customer service is when airlines rebook you on a flight when you’ve missed your connection as a result of weather or airline-related delays.

Southwest Airlines has a team called Proactive Customer Service (in existence for 10+ years now) that works with 14 other departments to ensure operational efficiencies, effective communications, and better customer accommodations. Their job is to evaluate flight disruptions, determine the customer impact, and reach out to customers proactively so that the customer doesn’t have to reach out to them. This type of service needs to be consistent, meet or exceed customer expectations, and be on 24/7.

Now, going back to my second paragraph and thinking about the relationship-building aspect, it would seem there are some pros and cons to this type of service, though I believe the pros far outweigh the cons. The con, I believe, is that it removes that human interaction that becomes a relationship-building moment… or is that a con, afterall?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?