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What Is Reactive Customer Service?

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Reactive customer service is an approach in which companies wait until a customer or client experiences a particular problem before taking action. It is a traditional approach to customer service that has largely gone by the wayside among successful companies, according to a May 2014 article on the Business 2 Community site by sales and marketing strategist Peter Rabbage.

Reactive Basics

If a telecommunications customer contacts his provider because his television service is out, for example, a reactive strategy leads that provider to handle the problem without any clear process in place. Typically, the customer is told that the company will "look into the problem" or contact him soon "with more information." A company service rep is not able to offer a clear timeline or plan for follow-up communication, because a reactive strategy means these elements don't exist.

Reactive Advantages and Problems

A reactive strategy has few competitive advantages. You may not have to allocate as many resources with a reactive approach, because some companies don't develop significant infrastructure or processes to deal with problems. However, the reactive service strategy is also inefficient when it comes to resolving customer problems. Customers may feel alienated by the approach, and the company may lose customers. Dissatisfied customers often spread negative messages about a company's brand. It can be difficult to compete with a reactive approach in a marketplace where other providers provide proactive service.

Differences With a Proactive Strategy

A reactive approach is internally-driven, while a proactive approach is often based on input and feedback from customers, according to Rabbage. Proactive service involves pre-planning of systems and processes that spell out how a company responds to various service issues. Additionally, many proactive service strategies include automated alert systems so the company knows a problem exists at the same time, or even before, a customer does. Companies also maintain ongoing contact with customers during the entire service resolution process, rather than leaving them hanging in open-ended uncertainty as with a reactive approach.

Implementing Proactive Service

Switching from a reactive service strategy to a proactive one is critical, but it is more difficult than it sounds. The first challenge is for company leaders to change the orientation of the organization to be customer-centric. You must put customer satisfaction at the top of the priority list, which then compels you to listen and garner feedback. Customer surveys are a great tool to figure out what your customers expect of your service and how they currently perceive your offering. From there, identify gaps, collaborate with internal teams to build service resolution processes, and train all staff on their roles. Identify what technology and communication channels must be developed and prepare to invest, as needed, in technology infrastructure.