How Proactive Are You?

How Proactive Are You?


Every employee is in some way or another a supplier to either an internal or an external customer (sometimes they serve both). One of the best ways to improve your customer service levels is to consider how you can give your customers what they need, even before they have to ask for it.

Let us start with the example of an internal customer – your direct supervisor or line manager.

The best example of this that I can think of is the working relationship between Colonel Potter and Corporal O’Reilly in the television series M*A*S*H. Before Colonel Potter has even been able to start to express what he is looking for, Corporal O’Reilly already hands him the completed forms or purchase orders and confirms that his instructions have already been actioned or conveyed.

Answer unasked questions

In the series this is portrayed very comically, but it actually illustrates an important lesson in customer service. If you are working on a report for your supervisor or manager, do you consider what questions they may ask when reading it? Do you attempt to answer these questions even before they get asked?

By doing so, you not only illustrate that you already know the right questions to ask yourself, but you are also saving your supervisor or manager precious time from having to go back and forth trying to get clarity on the numbers that you have reported.

If you already know that something is not as it should be, why not include some suggestions of what can be done about it or even better yet, what you have already done about it and what improvement you have seen as a result?

Make sure that the information you provide is accurate and professional enough so that your supervisor or manager can forward it as is to other stakeholders if necessary.

By providing a better service to your internal customers, you are enabling them to provide a better service to the customers that they deal with directly.

Related: Extreme Customer Service Makeover

Delight your customers

For your external customer the same principle applies.

  • What questions may your customer ask?
  • What information may they require?
  • What options do they need?
  • How can you surprise and delight them?
  • How can you exceed their expectations?

I saw an excellent example of this at my local Pick n Pay just a few days ago, where a customer accidentally dropped a bottle of coffee as they were lifting it from their shopping trolley to the payment counter. Immediately after the glass broke, the manager was at their side, reassuring them that they do not have to worry about cleaning up the mess or about paying for the broken bottle.

Within seconds he took off to go and get them a replacement bottle. This is quite contradictory to the “you break it, you bought it” signs we see in most shops.

Although this incident had no direct impact on me, observing the actions of that manager impressed me to the extent that he has now made a lasting positive impression on me.

Above and beyond the call of duty

We so easily get caught up in doing the absolute minimum to just get through the day, but the minimum unfortunately will not make you stand out from the crowd.

This single example of customer service excellence may have left a lasting impression on me, but I am only one of many clients that that store depends on for its existence, which means that that manager continuously needs to display this type of valour to consistently impress all of his customers and maintain a reputation of excellent customer service.

How are you going to make a new start today? Which needs can you anticipate and answer even before your customers can think of them? Are you ready to stand out from the crowd and become an irreplaceable provider of excellent customer service that continuously and consistently exceeds the expectation of all those that deal with you?

Related: (Slideshow) Managing Growth Over the Long Haul

What tips can you give for outstanding customer service? Tell us in the comments section below…

Su-Mari Du Bruyn
Su-Mari Du Bruyn is co-founder of Adapt To Change. She is a qualified HR practitioner and logistics specialist and is passionate about Continuous Improvement and people development. Through Adapt To Change she assists businesses to improve their business performance and better engage their staff. Su-Mari also recently launched her e-book business guide, The Power to Ignite. Available exclusively on for Kindle, The Power to Ignite is a practical guide to the powerful art of Continuous Improvement, sharing proven methodology and highlighting important dos and don’ts in engaging staff and improving business results. Find her on Google+