Anticipation. It’s a fine song by Carly Simon. She talks about how it (anticipation) is making her late, and it is keeping her waiting. The song is also the theme for the cheesy Corey Feldman 1970s Heinz Ketchup commercial. But that definition of “Anticipation” talks about the feeling you have while you’re waiting for something to happen.
In customer service, we often talk about the other definition of anticipation. This definition relates to trying to identify a potential customer need before it’s ever voiced to you. You anticipate that they have an issue. You anticipate that they’re about to run into an obstacle. You anticipate that they have a particular need that they want to share. In this sense, anticipate suggests you are almost predicting what is going to happen, and the benefit of the anticipation is you can be proactive.
So how do you anticipate? Since the action isn’t yet occurring, you’re looking for cues. You’re looking for that look of frustration or hostility or confusion on the part of the customer. You’re listening to the hesitancy in their voice, or you’re noticing the change in their mannerisms. You’re thinking about customers who’ve been in a similar situation who started to go down a direction that this customer may go as well. You’re relying on your history and knowledge to serve as a predictor of the future in the moment with this customer. And you’re looking at the cues that they provide or their emotions or the direction that they’re starting to head.
To be great at customer service, it’s not always about reaction. Oftentimes, it’s about proactively identifying what steps you can take even before the customer realizes their needs and voices them to you. It’s about you reading the situation and getting ahead of the curve.
To be great at customer service, be a great reader of that customer in front of you or on the phone with you. Think about them in light of all the different customer interactions you had in the past, and anticipate their needs.
Anticipate in order to offer exceptional service.