Why Customer Service Should Be About Expecting the Unexpected

When you hear the term “customer service,” what comes to mind? I bet you usually think of a time when you contacted a company’s service operations department in order to receive assistance or advice.  This type of service is reactive in nature: The company waits until a customer experiences an issue, and then reacts. Customer service leaders know this type of service will never be eliminated.


But, standing by for the telephone to ring or the emails to arrive is not the only way to provide “great” customer service. More and more, companies are looking for opportunities to deliver proactive service – assistance prior to failure. Last year, the Forrester report titled  “Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service” identified many cases where companies were adopting proactive service “to speed customer time-to-completion,” and the recent Forbes article, “Ten Customer Service And Customer Experience Trends For 2017”, also put proactive service in the spotlight for the year ahead.

By monitoring trends in service requests, companies can provide service proactively that reduces the demands on their service center. They can positively impact brand perception by demonstrating their attention to the customer’s overall experience.

Consider three approaches that can help with delivering proactive customer service:

Find Patterns Early

Your customer service center is inundated daily with a flow of calls, emails, chats, and other communications. Look for ways to sift through the noise and identify patterns–the “high call generators” creating the greatest volume of work. Finding these patterns as early as possible is your first step in getting ahead of the curve.

Next, scrutinize the issues based upon their impact to the customer and the likelihood the customer will experience them. Consider, as well, what the solutions are and how they might be delivered (we will revisit this in a moment).

When the issues don’t affect all customers, it’s important to narrow your focus to make sure you only notify the impacted customers. Unless every one of your customers will experience the issue, a shotgun approach may result in several negative outcomes, such as unaffected customers taking steps they don’t need to take, or uncertain customers contacting your service center to get more details – creating unnecessary work in the contact center.

Keep it Simple

Once an opportunity to provide proactive service has been identified and the solution has been determined, craft simple instructions that your customer can easily follow. Additionally, look at ways of simplifying the actual delivery of the desired result; conveying the instructions via email or a telephone call is always possible, but other methods such as automating the solution or offering online self-service will further simplify the customer’s path to resolution. Regardless of how the solution will be delivered, test your instructions thoroughly, both internally and with a small test group of customers. There should be only the smallest margin of error, as you don’t want faulty directions causing additional problems for the customer or generating calls, emails, and chats–that’s what you’re trying to avoid with proactive service, after all!


Prior to informing customers, always notify contact center agents of the proactive outreach and to insure consistency in communications. You need your agents to be aware of this communication and understand the goal: to reduce or eliminate customer contact regarding the issue. You also need to ensure agents are well versed in the solution, because not all customers will take the steps you ask. Some will prefer to reach out for assistance.

Delight Your Customers

How often does interacting with your company’s customer service department surprise and delight? Reaching out to your customers to help them save time can prove to be a pleasant surprise, perhaps even delight your customers if that outreach avoids a potential issue.

Don’t stop there. Follow up and ask your customers if it worked. This serves two purposes: Not only does it show you are closing the loop with them, but it also helps you determine if you targeted the correct customers, and provided a clear and useful solution. Learn from their responses and refine your process as necessary.


In Conclusion

Proactive service is not a new concept, but it can be challenging to deliver efficiently and effectively. If you are already delivering it, congratulations! If you are new to it or just getting started, start slowly, develop your methods, and learn from your results. Done right, it can save time and effort in the service center while also leaving a positive, lasting impact on customers’ perception of your service and brand.

Continue the Conversation at Call Center Week

If you are attending the Call Center Week conference this week in New Orleans, join the moderated roundtable discussion “Redefining CRM: From Reactive to Proactive Customer Service” to hear more about proactive service. You can also stop by booth #313 to learn more about how ServiceNow Customer Service Management has the capabilities you need to make proactive service delivery a reality for your organization.

To learn more, check out the infographic: Secrets to Providing Excellent Customer Service.

Holly Simmons
Holly Simmons is Senior Director, Product Marketing, Customer Service Management at ServiceNow.

One Response to “Why Customer Service Should Be About Expecting the Unexpected

  • Anonymous
    2 years ago

    Great article and I agree with initiating a proactive approach verses taking the reactive stance.

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