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Did you know that in addition to all of the components and skills that go into making exceptional customer service experiences, there are also three different categories of customer service? Delivering above-average customer service involves much more than meets the eye. Understanding the differences between these different tiers of customer service will enable your employees to ensure they’re always operating at the highest level: proactive customer service.

What are the three types of customer service?

The three types of customer service are:

  • Passive
  • Average
  • Proactive

Imagine this: you need help understanding your account statement sent to you by the bank. So, you call up the bank’s customer service line to ask for clarification. Instead of getting help, though, the bank employee is rude, low-energy and puts in the bare minimum effort. They answer your question without much detail, don’t check to see that you’ve understood what they’ve told you or verify that you have no further questions, and they hang up.

That’s the end of the interaction. You’re probably left feeling like maybe you got an answer (though it might not be the right one and it may have left you with more questions), but you weren’t treated very nicely, and you’d prefer to avoid having that type of experience again. You might go so far as to file a complaint with the bank or, in some cases, look into changing banks altogether.

This is an example of passive customer service. Passive customer service can barely be considered customer service at all since it’s certainly not helping the customer very much. Customers will go out of their way to avoid receiving this type of treatment; in fact, according to a report from Microsoft, 58% of consumers will switch companies completely after a poor service experience such as this.

This means that passive customer service – otherwise known as poor customer service – can cost you over half of your customer base. This lowest tier of customer service is detrimental to businesses.

Customer Advocate

Your customers deserve better than average

The next step above passive customer service is average customer service. Average customer service can be described as the level of service that most people have come to accept. It’s not great and it won’t leave you feeling better than before the interaction started, but it might get the job done. While average might be okay in some situations, customer-facing jobs are NOT an example of a situation where average is acceptable.

You might think that average sounds admissible. After all, average service likely means that the customer isn’t experiencing any rudeness and their problem might actually get solved. However, customers deserve better than average service. Plus, when customers are spoiled for choice of where to spend their money, average service just won’t cut it. This is particularly true if there is a comparable company providing similar products or services for a similar price. The deciding factor when choosing between your company and the competition, then, will be the quality of the service.

Performing Proactive Customer Service

Proactive customer service earns brand loyalty

Proactive customer service will set you apart from the others. Exceptional proactive customer service involves:

  • Being obviously friendly
  • Exceeding customer expectations
  • Being helpful and interested in solving the customer’s problem


These seem like basic descriptors of a customer service representative’s job, right? You’d think this would be obvious, but average and even passive customer service has become so normalized that proactive service is no longer synonymous with customer service in most cases. By emphasizing the need for proactive customer service in your organization, your company will earn the repeat business of the 60% of consumers who reported to Zendesk that high-quality service makes them feel loyal to a particular brand or company.

Why should we aim to provide proactive customer service?

According to Qualtrics XM Institute, 90% of customers say that they trust companies who deliver ‘very good’ customer service. What that statistic doesn’t tell you is that ‘very good’ customer service is the equivalent of proactive customer service. If your company has been aiming to provide above-average or, even better, excellent customer service, then you’ve been striving to provide proactive customer service – whether you knew it by that name or not!

How can we provide proactive customer service?

There are several ways to ensure that your company is providing high-quality proactive customer service to your clients. These include:

  • Learning the six proactive service techniques
  • Identifying rapport-building opportunities
  • Using soft questions to cross-sell and upsell

For more information about these techniques and to be sure that your employees are always providing proactive customer service, contact a ServiceSkills representative and request a complimentary demo today.

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