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Retaining Customers Through the Proactive Customer Experience

When I attended C2 in May, one thing stuck out beyond the incredible creativity of the conference. Many of us commented on the fact that the staffing was so pro-active. What does that mean? I’ll give you an example. It was a large space, sometimes confusing and challenging to figure out where different activities were taking place. A staff member approached me as I was looking… well, confused… and asked, “do you need assistance? You look lost.” At other times if I was staring at my phone, which had the C2 app on it listing multiple activations, a staff person would be at my side asking if they could help me find something? At mealtimes with various places to get food, I might hear “if you are looking for the food trucks …etc.”  It happened for three days, and all of us experienced it. We didn’t have to wait to ask even though there was a friendly information desk; staff anticipated what we might need and came to us rather than us looking for them.

Shep has addressed this in a specific way, and it’s not only a good read; it’s a good lesson in customer service.


Just last week I wrote about the concept of predictive customer support. Now, we take a slightly different angle with the concept of proactive customer support. The concept is simple. The company reaches out to the customer before the customer has a chance to reach out to the company. More often than not, the customer may not even know they have a problem.

As an example, when does a typical customer find out their cable TV is out? Usually when they turn the TV on. Then there’s frustration and even anger. Typically, the customer will pick up the phone to report the problem and hope the customer service agent can help them restore their cable TV. However, before the customer can even ask about the problem, the support agent must ask the standard questions to confirm the customer is who they say they are. All the customer wants to find out is when they can start watching TV again. That’s an example of friction – the antithesis of convenience.

I was working with a client in the cable TV business. When they know the cable and Internet is out in a certain area, they proactively reach out to the customer. They use every communication channel available to them. They know the customer’s cell number, email address, Facebook handle, and more. They broadcast an announcement to their customers across every channel, hoping customers will see that they are aware of the problem and actively trying to fix it. They also provide updates so the customer doesn’t feel compelled to repeatedly call and ask when the service will be restored. That’s a waste of time – for both the customer and the customer support rep.

When a company knows about a problem before the customer does, it can let the customer know before they call the company. Another way to be proactive is to take care of a problem before it’s even a problem.

If we know a light bulb has a life expectancy of 1,000 hours, and there’s a way to track how many hours the bulb has been on, be proactive and just replace it once it hits 1,000 hours. The option to wait until it burns out (which would probably happen at an inopportune moment, forcing you to stop what you’re doing to replace the bulb) is not worth the extra few hours of light.

My favorite example sums up this idea perfectly. A server at a restaurant is carrying the water pitcher, looking not for empty glasses to fill, but for almost empty glasses to fill. In other words, get to the customer before the customer realizes they need you. That’s what proactive customer support is all about.


Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

Andrea Michaels is the founder and president of Extraordinary Events, and the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life. She may be reached via amichaels@extraordinaryevents.com.