• November 4, 2010
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Act or Be Acted Upon

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When you’re putting out fires on a regular basis, it’s too late to think about fire prevention. Unfortunately, that’s the position many executives believe they are in. Deadlines, budget cuts, changing customer demands, changing competitive landscapes, and the overall need to do more with less are forcing many professionals and organizations to be reactive. A reactive culture, however, very often derails even the best strategic plans. 

What if we could change the way we approach our work so that we’re not constantly being acted upon, but, instead, driving action? I’m not suggesting that we stop listening and reacting altogether; our jobs will always require this—some more than others. However, where there are instances in which we can take the initiative to save money, time, and resources; lower risk; and improve our bottom line, why not do it?

I’m sure many who read this are thinking, “Who has time for this? I’m still too busy putting out fires!” But this is reactive reasoning. To think that you or the people in your organization are too busy to see the bigger picture is a mistake. It will secure your organization’s fate as one that continues to be acted upon and unable to influence others. 

A more constructive analogy would be to think of the people in your organization working together to blaze a path forward. As your colleagues do so, though, someone must rise above the trees to see if it’s heading in the right direction. There may be danger or opportunities ahead, but if no one is looking for them, your organization will consistently be struggling to face them.

In Stephen Covey’s best selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he encourages people to become more proactive and less reactive. “Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values—carefully thought about, selected, and internalized values.

“Proactive people are still influenced by external stimuli, whether physical, social, or psychological. But their response to the stimuli, conscious or unconscious, is a value-based choice or response.” 

Being proactive enables organizations to not simply pick the best path, but to also be prepared for opportunities and obstacles along the way. 

Associate Editor Lauren McKay provides examples of how organizations can benefit from being more proactive in her cover story, “Take the Initiative." One company, Southwest Airlines, created a “Proactive Customer Service Communications” group to follow up with customers who have endured a bad customer experience, apologize for any inconveniences, and offer a voucher if appropriate. This simple act of kindness has significant results. According to the article, “70 percent of Southwest customers who receive proactive communications return to the airline and bring others with them.” 

Additional examples of how proactive CRM can empower your organization to support and influence customers are in the feature “How Can I Help U?”  by Editorial Assistant Juan Martinez. The feature gives some great examples of how proactive chat can help an organization attract and retain customers on the Web. The reality is this: Being more proactive is not merely a nice thought, it’s essential. If you don’t act when it comes to supporting existing and potential customers, you will be acted upon or worse—ignored. 

David Myron is editorial director of CRM magazine. He can be reached at dmyron@destinationCRM.com.

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