Anticipating Customer Needs – the Difference between Ordinary and Exceptional Service

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“Brands and individuals who offer radically superior customer service stand out because they anticipate the customer’s unexpressed needs or wishes” –

Human beings bring a plethora of needs, wants, and requirements into the modern world. From conception and the subsequent nine months in the mother’s womb, doctors and health professionals must monitor the health of the unborn child. After birth, the infant thrives within an ecosystem of various needs and wants. Similarly, clients and customers have a variety of preferences, wants, requirements, and desires. Therefore, the purveyors of commercial businesses must be active in anticipating customer needs with a view to serve their clients better. In the ensuing paragraphs, we will examine some of the critical aspects of servicing client requirements.

Listening for “unexpressed needs” forms the foundation for a healthy business relationship with clients and customers. This is achieved when brands and businesses bring their commercial expertise and skills to bear on every customer conversation. For instance, a real estate consultant can leverage his or her professional work experience in anticipating customer needs. This entails a study of the stated preferences of a business client, closely listening for cues in client conversations, processing the information, and presenting a good choice that matches client requirements. Further to this, brands and businesses must cultivate the art of subtly extracting customers’ thoughts with a view to decipher their possibly ‘unstated’ requirements. This technique hinges on expert listening skills and the use of brainpower to construct a winning business proposition.

The intent to create and uphold top-notch customer service standards on a consistent basis forms the crux of exceptional customer service. In light of this, we note that high value business customers have the potential to create significant surges in the revenue streams generated by an enterprise. Business consultations with such clients can often create significant opportunities for business expansion. However, certain scheduling conflicts may prevent a high value client from connecting immediately with a business enterprise. The astute business operator may succeed in anticipating customer needs and go out of his or her way to schedule an emergency consultation. This may lead to a profitable business partnership between the client and the enterprise, boost earnings for the business, and spark a magnificent instance of achieving total customer delight.

An attitude of total customer-centricity helps businesses learn the art of anticipating customer needs. We note that businesses can invest corporate resources to create and operate business IT systems that enable total customer-centricity in daily operations. Customer-centricity also implies “knowing the personas behind the purchases”. For instance, a regular customer of a business retail outlet may frequently shop for smartphone batteries and other gadget accessories. The customer-centric mindset encourages associates at the business to offer the customer the best available products in line with his or her preferences. This very action depicts anticipation at play. The delighted customer would be more than happy to recommend the outlet to his or her friends and colleagues, resulting in a potential boost for the business. In addition, the customer would be less inclined to ‘shop around’ for his or her gadget requirements.

Anticipating customer needs also means that a brand or business should be positioned to deliver over and above the average customer’s expectations. This is vital in modern business because modern customers have access to a broad and expanding range of brands, products, and services. An intelligent anticipation on the part of a business operator presumes a certain modicum of knowledge on the mind sets of average customers and the ability to guide a customer’s brand experience. For instance, a business that introduces a new personal hygiene product can expertly position the new product to attract customer attention. The sales spiel should be pitch-perfect, but the value-add emerges when the customer faces the ‘freshness’ attributes such as a brand new perfume triggered by using said product. We note that this instance clearly demonstrates that the manufacturer was successful in anticipating customer needs and directed that knowledge into new product development.

Thinking like a customer empowers modern business operators in the task of anticipating customer needs. Brands and businesses need to think ‘out of the box’ when they wish to boost traction for their products and services. This approach also enables businesses to create enduring brand relationships that have the potential to elevate the dictates of exceptional customer service. For instance, the commercial airline operations industry has put in place multiple methods that ease the ingress of fliers into the correct terminal after undergoing a seamless check-in experience. Web check-ins, self-service kiosks, text alerts, preferred seating, and custom food menus represent some of the outcomes when businesses think like the customer. Airline operators that excelled in anticipating customer needs helped create these mechanisms. The efficacy of these systems is borne by the fact that they represent modern best practices in modern commercial aviation.

The use of the ‘next-best-action’ approach enables modern businesses in anticipating customer needs in a variety of industries. This technique employs pure logic and some knowledge of customer behavior. The next-best-action can be an offer, a recommendation, or a business proposition designed to enhance the customer experience with a brand or its products. For instance, a provider of commercial wireless telecommunications services may “focus on developing and analyzing churn and propensity models, evaluating customer lifetime value, determining changes in customer revenue and profitability, and changes in behavioral patterns” in a bid to arrive at a ‘next-best-action’ recommendation. This sequence of actions enables the service provider in anticipating customer needs, reduce the number of customers that move to competing operators, improve the end-user experience, and upgrade existing customer service guidelines and practices. In light of the above, we note that business operators should analyze customer data and meld these with operational frameworks to improve the customer experience.

Observation plays a critical role for businesses that are interested in anticipating customer needs. This assertion stems from the fact that individual customers may interact differently with a product or a service. Therefore, business operators must create enough room to accommodate the proclivities of various customers. For instance, families that travel together on airline journeys may require additional legroom and their own trash bag for the duration of the flight. In response, airline operators may put in place policies that empower flight attendants and flight pursers to deploy special treatment for travelling families. In a similar vein, certain island nations may face space constraints in terms of building landing strips and airport infrastructure. In response, airplane designers may create custom airplane designs that can accommodate specific operational requirements proffered by said nations. These actions enable airplane makers to win lucrative contracts from these clients; this is significant because the competition may not offer special models of aircraft that answer to said constraints.

In the preceding paragraphs, we have examined some of the outcomes that flow from an intelligent anticipation of customer wants and requirements. We note that creating the perfect customer experience essentially remain ‘work-in-progress’ because businesses are in the process of evolving the perfect template. However, a single template or delivery mechanism may not fit every industry or business; hence, the possibilities of anticipating customer needs are truly humongous in modern commerce. That said, we note that various combinations of the aforesaid tactics can help businesses to refine existing customer service standards.

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