Reverse Customer Service Strategy

I recently had a fascinating experience with my cellphone service provider that was a great example of reverse customer service. And it went a little something like this. . .

upset customer cell

My children and I started experiencing call and text interruptions over a couple of days. These breaks in service were happening in my house. We’ve had this service for many years and have never had a problem like this.

Over a two day period I texted, visited and called the provider about this situation. Apparently they were working on a tower in my area and this was causing the problem. I mentioned to several people what I thought was a common sense customer service tactic that would have helped:

“Since you have all of our cell numbers, why not text us when you are going to be working on a tower? Then we’d know what was going on in the event we had reception issues.”

No one I spoke with thought it was a good idea. Frankly, I don’t think they understood what I was trying to tell them.

Guess what happened a day later?

I received a text message telling me I’d be receiving a text survey about the customer service I received.


They could use the text messaging feature to find out how my experience was with their customer service department but they couldn’t use it to keep me informed about the use of the product I was paying them for?

We Can Learn A Lot From This Experience

It shows that companies often spend more time thinking about what THEY need instead of what their CLIENTS need. That’s backwards. I know it may seem like they care when they want to be sure the customer service experience was good.

However, if they would focus on how their clients are experiencing the product or service they’d have fewer problems to handle.

Put Yourself In The Client’s Shoes

At the beginning, not at the problem stage:

  • What might they want to know?
  • What might they need to know?
  • What information do you have that if shared with them, would make their experience better or not bad?

I think we are trained to offer our product or service in its most basic form. Then we establish a system for dealing with issues when and if they arise. We consider ourselves stellar if we then add in a follow up to that customer service experience. See, we really care!

Hold the phone! If you really cared you’d make sure my experience with the product or service was stellar; not the follow up to the complaint.

You can work on this backwards and implement a strategy that will prevent the reverse customer service experience described above. Think about your own business. Think about any and all situations when clients called or emailed your customer service department:

  • What was their issue?
  • Was it something you were aware of?
  • Could you have avoided the call by sharing information?

If so, implement a communication strategy for reaching out to your clients. Don’t be afraid to tell them something if that knowledge will help them understand their experience. In all honesty, they’ll love you for thinking about them instead of yourself.

That is true customer service.

Upset Customer Photo via Shutterstock


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

15 Reactions
  1. “It shows that companies often spend more time thinking about what THEY need instead of what their CLIENTS need. That’s backwards.”

    This belongs on a corkboard somewhere! Such an important lesson for businesses to learn.

  2. Very good point, I guess prevention is still better than cure. Telling consumers that there is something wrong with the service and assuring them that it is being worked on is more customer service and customer retaining. 🙂

  3. There is a simple reason for this… If there is a network fault stopping texts coming through then how can they send the text?

    Also as someone who works in this field the logistics and expense of doing this is not worth it. It was looked at in the UK a while ago.

  4. Diane, some companies don’t get it. There is someone in the upper echelons of these organizations that DO care, it just doesn’t filter down to the people who are close to the customer.

  5. Peter,

    If the cause is the actual work on the tower, as she mentioned, then a preemptive text works. Send the text, then work on the tower. However, if the tower were damaged in some way, a preemptive text wouldn’t be possible. As long as the event can be foreseen, it can be communicated to the customer.

  6. Brandon, that’s right. It was a planned event so they could have texted us about it.

  7. I like to know what the customer has already tried, and then see if I can think of anything different.

  8. Yes, the 90’s buzz about customer-centricity didn’t seem to take complete hold. Always baffled by the age of phone system menus and on hold ads. Haven’t talked to a consumer yet who has a great experience with them, yet few companies still have live reception.

    Great example of asking what customers want before answering with what you have.

  9. “It shows that companies often spend more time thinking about what THEY need instead of what their CLIENTS need. That’s backwards. I know it may seem like they care when they want to be sure the customer service experience was good.”

    BRILLIANT statement. So depressingly true. I recently blogged about my headache with an internet provider (linked above) and the bottom line was I could not get over the fact that the company didn’t CARE that they were acting untrustworthy. They weren’t following through on their value proposition, they went back on promises, and they wanted me to pay for the consequences.

    I used to work in a customer service department and it doesn’t HAVE to be backwards. Well-managed and thought-through customer service departments CAN help customers, and I used to work for one. This is why it’s even more aggravating when CS departments are inept.

  10. Unfortunately, over the past week I’ve been overwhelmed with bad experiences. A retail store increased the price of a dress from one day to the next by moving it off of one rack and onto another one. The clerk and the store manager saw no problem with this.

    Then, just yesterday I had another experience that was less than satisfying. I realized that the real problem lies with the leadership. They don’t empower their frontline people to think like the clients. We were flying home from Chicago and they put the three of us in different rows. My 13 year old has deep flying anxiety and really can not fly without my husband or me. When I spoke with the person at the gate, they told me I’d just have to wait until we boarded the plane to see if someone would move. So, now it’s my job to fix it? They didn’t assign us seats when I booked the flight – which would have prevented the problem at the beginning.

    ANd then once the problem occurred they couldn’t be bothered to find out who was next to each of us and ask them if they would move. Nope, it was my problem to try to solve. And to top it off they put my daughter in the exit aisle even though she’s only 13!

    Now I know they have her birth date in the system because these days they have everyone’s. They just don’t think about connecting the dots and making the experience as good as they can for their customers. It is obvious that they don’t care. And it’s a shame so many companies are like this.

  11. Sometimes I wonder if the people running certain customer service departments have ever been customers themselves. So many of the policies I have run into AS A CUSTOMER just lack common sense. It’s infuriating. Honestly, all it takes is a little insight — putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, or just thinking back to a time (or two) when YOU were not helped by customer service. Why is it so many companies forget this important step?

    In order to help ME remember how to conduct my business, I tend to blog about bad customer service experiences from my end. I always make sure the lessons learned are applicable to my business, as well as to other small businesses.

  12. Too often business owners are focusing either on long-term, projected goals or immediate “fires” instead of finding solutions to make their product or services better today. This is a great example to highlight that mentality.