Contingency Model Explained

It’s funny, because I’ve been talking about the contingency model ever since I started writing these, without calling it that. I bet if I had a nickel for every time I’ve mentioned “have a series of contingencies for most of the rationally predictable scenarios your customers may bring up” in one of these, I could play a lot of Pac-Man let me tell you!

In fact, I kind of feel a bit unmotivated talking about the contingency model now that it’s getting its own discussion, because I’ve already said all there is to say about it over a series of previous pieces, and there’s not that much to really explain or say to begin with.

So, while I actually love this model, forgive me if I seem less energetic in my explanation at this point!

The Explanation it Really Doesn’t Need:

Honestly, I don’t think I should be insulting your intelligence by explaining what you already understand quite well. Many different departments and disciplines use a contingency system for making decisions where possible, for the obvious reason that it works.

Contingencies are often initially put into place by educated guessing of everything that could possibly, and likely come up. Then, steps to be taken depending on which stimulus is encountered are put into place.

As the contingencies are in effect, and observations of things in action are made, alterations to the contingencies, as well as new ones altogether, are added to the big book of cause and effect everyone follows in order to operate.

But that’s Robotic:

So? Sometimes just being a good employee and following a set of rules according to the situation at hand, without having to think of a solution, or bothering to question why, is actually a good thing. The truth is, if these actions in a specific circumstance work, and work better than any other actions one can think of to take, then you may as well just do what it says, and encourage an environment where everyone does the same.

The Benefits:

Well, the biggest benefit is going to be the quick reaction and potential resolution of a call (or however contact is handled), as the agent can look at the situation, consult the contingency for that very scenario, and just follow the instructions put with it.

They don’t have to ask a supervisor, or spend a long time deducing what to do or what a problem is. It also provides a more cement set of things to train and enforce.

The Downsides:

Well, you can’t have a contingency for everything. So, while you want your agents to be complacent in their adherence to the contingencies worked out, you still need to nurture creative thought and initiative in them, for the times that there is no such contingency relevant to the situation.

It also reduces the personalization of individual cases, though it’s easy to mask this in the eyes of the customer if you’re just capable of more than basic social skills.

Still, the contingency model is popular, and should be used, but not by itself. Customer service and support is a field where you just have to pick and mix models.


Amy Clark is the Lead Author & Editor of IWantItNow Blog. Amy established the Customer Engagement blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to customer service, support and engagement.