"All too often companies think of Customer Service as a reactive process that gets involved only when a problem arises. "
Infowhse, so true. And the reality can often be that the customer service group has not been included in the formation of knowledge ALONE on a particular topic (product/change/thing) let alone how to react to a problem, foreseen or not. Sometimes left out of things that are so crucial and also so basic that it boggles the mind.
I have seen many cases where a process map included tons of geometry devoted to groups of people that don't have to respond to questions and, in the same process map, which tells little about how Customer Service activities feed into processes, a small box at the "end of the street" called "Questions to 1-800 number" or something along those lines. It's just somebody calling.......Even after having gone through experiences where no process map was designed, for whatever reason, and there are lots of them.
I'm not really sure why professionals in varying roles put Customer Service into a lonely box on its own, without seeing all kinds of linkages between this and that and him and her, literally or figuratively. Over the years, I have had different leanings on the answer, from abject stupidity (when I was at out of school age) to arrogance (random, recurrent) to laziness (lately). I'm not old enough to have a good enough opinion, to me, nor young enough to enjoy the search for the answer.
Any recent time I can remember a customer experience I didn't like, it had to do with the amount of information possessed by the person handling information. And any time I see that I am the one who needs to contribute to an effective customer experience, it's the information I have and the way I handle it that determines how much good I am to somebody (that's how I see it). If I am in a "box" called "Oh, and also questions," and not tied to all the other pieces to the puzzle, I am offering a customer an opportunity to do extra "homework," and people don't like that.
Well worth it to see Customer Service functionS (plural) as pieces to a larger picture.
I've embarked beyond the original question (and I have inserted myself beyond that point too), but I guess I would say that customer service begins once you have begun to shed light on something. I believe in all the usual techniques to present oneself as customer-oriented and courteous, and even believe in ways to enhance the delivery with style and not just substance (the voice, the body movements, etc). But if you have rubbish for information to start with and do a rubbish job at delivering any kind of information, you have little to offer. At this moment, I can only say customer service starts with knowledge for me.