How does your business handle challenges? From system malfunctions to customer complaints, every business needs a specific plan of action that details how particular situations should be managed. Choosing the appropriate strategies will determine how successful your organisation can identify and eliminate risks. 

Companies should consider if a proactive or reactive approach best fits their operations, customers and workflow. Sooner or later, many turn towards a reactive strategy purely out of laziness, but is this truly advantageous? Whilst, of course, there are benefits to each method, there are also some significant downfalls that you should be aware of before implementing one of these approaches. 

What is a reactive strategy?

Problems before solutions.

In terms of business strategy, being reactive means responding to an event or change in circumstances through audits and evaluations to discover the route cause of the problem. This approach is completely dependent on an incident and can only begin once this occurs. Simply put, it’s a reactive action! 

However, to successfully implement a reactive strategy a business needs to quickly identify their customers, define their brand and determine how to appropriately respond to an incident. By defining this from the off-set, an issue can be promptly addressed without any future repercussions. 

So, whilst this reactive approach can save a business time in terms of preparation, it poses a series of risks as a response only occurs once a problem has already happened. 

When should you consider a reactive approach?

A reactive strategy allows a business more freedom to react – specifically if it is currently thriving and the market is on the rise, the reactive approach can be highly effective. Whilst not overly popular, reacting once an incident occurs does have its benefits and allows for growth. However, it is not without risk! But, particularly for companies specialising in technology and manufacturing industries which are in a constant state of change, including the unexpected. Here, unadaptable plans may actually hinder development. 

No two businesses are the same nor is any situation, so there is no rule to say a company cannot succeed at any given stage utilising the reactive strategy particularly one that has a robust, established foundation behind it. But, it is perhaps not as ‘fail-safe’ as it’s counter proactive approach. 

proactive or reactive approach

What about a proactive approach? 

Recognising issues before they become problems. 

In contrast, a proactive strategy requires research and preparation to eliminate specific risks before they occur. This enables businesses to control a situation rather than relying on a reaction after the experience, which often proves to be inadequate as there may already be consequences and significant delays. 

To successfully execute a proactive strategy a company must identify potential issues, create multiple plans of actions beforehand and determine the best times to execute the plan. 

So, what’s the main distinction between these two methods? The difference between a proactive or reactive approach is preparation and accountability. Being proactive requires extensive preparation, a business must anticipate and address problems before they occur, taking full accountability to avoid consequences down the line. For example, a marketing team may notice a surge and plan a specific campaign, hitting the peak of the trend whilst a reactive approach may launch their content too late. Effectively, this provides your business with a competitive advantage. 

Think, how can you improve your reactiveness to a situation? Could a proactive approach or reactive approach be the solution? 

Tips on how to be proactive

Should we have a proactive or reactive approach? As I’ve already touched upon, proactive approaches require significant investment in terms of time and energy. So, I’ve popped together this list to help you be more proactive and build a solid plan of action that you’ll be able to depend on when a situation arises.  

Invest in data analytics

If you can gain access to insights such as customer preferences, needs and areas of concern, you will have an invaluable opportunity to interpret and detect any potential problems ahead of time. With data analytics, your employees will be able to track emerging patterns and trends which, as a result, can allow them to form a plan that not only avoids potential pitfalls but also one that gives you the competitive edge!

With so many tools now available online, it would be a mistake to not utilise one or more. Gaining a thorough understanding of how your customer interacts will enable your team to refine customer service processes, improve operational efficiency and significantly reduce response times. 

Allow for open communication

The success of a business relies heavily on how well a company can communicate with employees, customers and stakeholders – after all, it’s the people behind an organisation that propel it forward. If the company is experiencing a system malfunction, an emergency process needs to be in place that immediately alert all staff and clients rather than leaving them wondering why your service or product is not functioning correctly. In fact, leaving them in the dark can have a detrimental impact, damaging your future relationship. 

Your business should be able to contact customers through a variety of channels – from direct email and text to en masse social media. This enables employees to inform loyal clients of any issues and updates on how they are working to resolve it. Addressing the issue directly will portray the transparency of your brand, even giving it a human touch. Communication is crucial for a proactive approach or reactive approach. 

Resolve issues immediately

Saying you’ll resolve a customer’s issue and failing to give a timescale is simply not enough. If you can, you should look to immediately resolve the problem at hand and if this isn’t viable, provide a clear estimate of when operation should return to normal. 

Clearly outlining timescales will see your customers return as they’ll understand this is just a temporary problem – a quick update certainly won’t take you long but can make all the difference in terms of customer retention.

Train employees correctly

If an employee receives improper training, they’ll be unable to detect and resolve minor issues before they create larger problems. Your company should hold training sessions as part of the employee onboarding process, but this is not the only instance in which training is essential. Whenever a new technology or system is introduced, workers should be provided with thorough training allowing them to successfully handle specific scenarios with this plan of action now in place. 

It can be beneficial to provide en masse training, so that across departments to ensure all within your business have a thorough understanding of how they work together. This will prevent confusion and should streamline the systems you have in place. A reactive approach, on the other hand, may cause frustration to all involved as they face major delays and concern surrounding an unknown problem.

Remember, training employees will boost morale and see their productivity levels soar as they are able to instinctively follow trusted procedures upon recognising an issue. 

So, should you use a proactive or reactive approach? 

When handling incidents, your business must decide whether a reactive or proactive strategy is best suited to the nature of these problems. There are certainly benefits to each method; of course, every business is unique and therefore, requires a tailored approach to be most effective. 

Simply, it comes down to whether you would rather act once the problem has arised, or have a solid plan in place already to deal with common scenarios. There is no one size fits all, so you should carefully consider how your business tends to perform best – are you quick to react under pressure or do you want to dedicate time now to prepare for future challenges? And, are you in a stable position to experiment with rapidly reacting to ever-changing scenarios? 

Certainly for businesses looking to grow, taking a risk can have a significant impact and result in quick development. But, it could also have dramatic consequences, frustrating loyal customers and employees. So, perhaps you should look to blend these two approaches. There is something to be said for creating a solid process plan for common issues, yet a reactive approach can hand itself highly effectively to unexpected situations such as the pandemic!

Unsure of where to begin? We can formulate a solid plan together, tailoring our approach to best suit your business. Ready to transform your organisation today? Click here to discover more about what I do, or click here to get in touch today and discuss how I can help you and your business grow.

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