Anticipate Your Customer’s Next Move

May 7, 2013

customer service experience

What makes for the best customer service experience? How can you provide proactive customer service? Actively hone your employee’s ability to recognize and respond to customer needs by anticipating customers’ experience and what they will want most. “That is the difference between providing ho-hum service by merely reacting to customers’ requests and building loyalty through true anticipatory service,” says Leonardo Inghilleri, one of the architects of The Ritz-Carlton’s peerless win of two Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards and the coauthor of EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE, EXCEPTIONAL PROFIT. Anticipatory service depends on taking a systematic approach to improving the customer experience.

Amplify the Customer Service Experience to Improve Customer Loyalty

Here are four steps to anticipating customer needs:

  1. Be the customer. Make it a company-wide goal to learn what customers want, need, and enjoy. Test your own services or products regularly and systematically by encouraging employees to experience your product or service the way the customer would. Offer deep discounts or comps for employees, but ask them to take detailed notes and to be anonymous. You want the employees to experience the same services other guests would.
  2. Reduce waste to add value. Think like a  manufacturer and adopt systems such as Total Quality Management and Lean Manufacturing. You can increase value by continually trimming waste. Waste can come in the form of excess inventory, overproduction, inappropriate processing, unnecessary transport, waiting, and defects.
  3. Don’t eliminate value. People form emotional attachments to not only your products, but also to your employees, your procedures, and your service-features. Place a priority on paying attention to details that add value and make the customer feel special. Don’t eliminate crucial value from your service offerings in the name of efficiency.
  4. Use anticipatory programming to observe customer browsing patterns. Offer solutions the customer is likely to want. But beware of crossing the line from functionality to creepiness. Do your customers want to have their behavior tracked?  Are they aware of it? Combine anticipatory technology with interactive tools. For example, an on-site, three-to-seven question “quiz” is a non-invasive way to gather useful information about your customers’ experience. Because they are conscious of providing information they are less likely to find it creepy.

Adapted from EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE, EXCEPTIONAL PROFIT: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon (AMACOM)

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About The Author

Micah Solomon, hailed as a “new guru of service excellence” (Financial Post), is a popular keynote speaker and respected corporate adviser and strategist on customer service issues and their bottom-line impact. He is recognized for his hands-on knowledge of how to improve the customer experience—in banking, hospitality, healthcare, financial and insurance services, law practice, retail, technology, manufacturing, and other fields—and transform business results.

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