How Organizations Can Improve Customer Service

When customer service professionals follow established protocols and scripts during their interactions with customers, they are engaging in general service performance. Successfully meeting these standards is the mark of a good employee. Still, employees can do even better. One way to exceed expectations is to engage in proactive customer service performance. Employees who do this think about the future and have a long-term-oriented approach to anticipating and solving problems. They are also self-starters who do not wait to be told what to do. Instead, they take initiative to make decisions and do things that will help satisfy customers.


How can you get employees to engage in proactive customer service performance? New research (Raub & Liao, 2012) has provided some clues. After conducting a large study involving dozens of service organizations, they found a positive relationship between initiative-climate and proactive customer service performance. What is initiative-climate? This is when an organization’s culture rewards and supports employees who show initiative. By doing so, they encourage employees to engage in behavior which is proactive.

The researchers also found that employee self-efficacy is positively related to proactive customer service performance. Why would this be? Employees with high self-efficacy, or the belief that they will be successful at work-related activities, are more likely to take a chance and be proactive. After all, they believe their actions have a high chance of leading to a successful outcome. Employees with low self-efficacy who do not believe they will be successful at work-related activities are less likely to be proactive. The researchers also found that the relationship between self-efficacy and proactive behavior is strengthened in an initiative-climate.

What happens when employees use proactive customer service performance? The authors found that this behavior is related to customer satisfaction, above and beyond general service performance. This means that it’s the extra, proactive behavior that is associated with the increase in customer satisfaction.


This study is important because it suggests a method for managers to increase customer satisfaction. It’s both the organization and the employee that make for a proactive environment. Organizations can create an initiative-climate that supports and rewards proactive behavior and recruit employees with high self-efficacy. Taking these steps can create an environment which is ripe for proactive service performance and customer satisfaction. And even if we are not in the service industry, don’t we all have customers whom we would like to satisfy?


Raub, S. & Liao, H. (2012). Doing the right thing without being told: Joint effects of initiative climate and general self-efficacy on employee proactive customer service performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(3), 651-667.