Posted January 10, 2024

Fix it before it’s broken

By Kate Zabriskie

While a fix-it-the-first-time approach may be the gold standard of customer service, addressing potential issues before they materialize is the true mark of an exemplary user experience.

Consider the pace of our modern world; customers today want instant solutions, and any hurdle might be a reason for them to jump ship to competitors. By ensuring their path is clear from potential obstructions before your customers encounter them, you can retain customers and create advocates for your brand. Let’s look at a few examples of forward-resolving in action.

Scenario: A customer signs up for a new broadband connection.
Forward-Resolving: The service provider sends an email with tips for optimal modem placement, a list of helpline numbers, and information on how to upgrade or modify the plan in the future.

Scenario: A customer books several rooms for a group event at a hotel.
Forward-Resolving: The reservation agent proactively reaches out to the customer, offering services tailored for groups, such as distributing welcome gift bags, arranging group transportation, setting up a special check-in desk, or organizing group tours.

Scenario: A user signs up for a new software application or a technical platform.
Forward-Resolving: The company sends tutorial videos and starter guides to ensure users can efficiently use and navigate the software from the start.

As those examples illustrate, strong forward-resolving skills differentiate great from good providers. Organizations that get this right realize multiple benefits:

A Better User Experience – Whether it’s high-functioning internet, a great event, or software with a condensed learning curve, organizations that forward-resolve deliver a better experience than those that don’t.

Enhanced Customer Trust – Organizations that deliver smooth experiences build trust with those who use their services.

Positive Reputation – People who experience great service tell others. Over time, those experiences form a reputation.

Operational Efficiency – When problems or challenges don’t have a chance to materialize, call volumes decrease, freeing customer service providers to focus on other tasks.

Adopting a Forward-Resolving Approach

How does an organization move toward this way of operating? To forward-resolve, service providers must know their business and think critically about what comes next for the customer. The following ten ideas suggest actions for getting started and the impact those activities can have.

1. Encourage Curiosity
Action: Cultivate a culture where team members constantly ask questions about processes, products, and customer interactions.
Impact: A questioning mind is more likely to spot potential challenges or areas of improvement.

2. Develop Empathy
Action: Encourage team members to regularly place themselves in their customers’ shoes.
Impact: An empathetic approach allows one to predict customer pain points and address them preemptively.

3. Start Scenario Planning
Action: Conduct regular brainstorming sessions where teams discuss potential “what if” scenarios.
Impact: Imagining possible future situations helps teams prepare for them, fostering an anticipatory approach.

4. Empower Employees
Action: Give team members the autonomy to make decisions, take initiative, and offer solutions.
Impact: Empowered employees feel a stronger sense of ownership, pushing them to think ahead and act proactively.

5. Invest in Training
Action: Regularly train your team on the latest products, services, and customer feedback.
Impact: A well-informed team can better anticipate potential questions or customer issues.

6. Use Data Analytics
Action: Leverage data analytics to study customer behavior, feedback, and purchasing patterns.
Impact: Recognizing patterns can help anticipate recurrent issues or predict future customer needs.

7. Feedback Loops
Action: Create mechanisms where team members can share their insights and observations from customer interactions.
Impact: Collective knowledge makes teams more alert to potential problems or needs.

8. Stay Updated with Industry Trends
Action: Encourage teams to keep abreast of industry news, emerging technologies, and competitor offerings.
Impact: Understanding the broader market helps fend off obsolescence.

9. Celebrate Proactive Behavior
Action: Recognize and reward team members who showcase an anticipatory mindset by spotting potential challenges or suggesting proactive solutions.
Impact: Positive reinforcement encourages more forward-thinking behavior among the team.

10. Iterate and Learn
Action: After implementing a proactive solution, review its impact. Understand what worked and what didn’t.

Impact: Continuous learning refines the anticipatory mindset, making it more accurate over time.

Forward-resolving is not a static process. It requires constant innovation. The methods and strategies used today might become obsolete tomorrow. Organizations should integrate it into every department, not just customer service, to cultivate a forward-resolving culture. Product development, marketing, and sales — every team should have an anticipatory mindset. When the entire organization operates with this proactive approach, it becomes a seamless, efficient machine geared toward optimal customer satisfaction.

Forward-resolving is not just a strategy; it’s a philosophy. It’s a commitment to ensuring a customer’s smooth, enjoyable, and hassle-free journey. In the long run, businesses that adopt and perfect this approach are the ones that stand out, thrive, and lead in their respective industries.

Kate ZabriskieKate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team provide onsite, virtual, and online soft-skills training courses and workshops to clients in the United States and internationally. For more information, visit