Anticipating Customers’ Needs

A reader’s question:

My supervisor asked me to go above and beyond for customers more often. What strategies can I use to anticipate customer needs?

Response from the editors:

Your ability to surpass customer expectations will become second nature over time. Create a mindset for surprising customers—and your supervisor—with the following tips:

  • Look back to anticipate needs. Review past transactions for clues. Example: You notice that a customer orders an egg-white omelet every Sunday morning. Your restaurant just introduced heart-healthy French toast. On the customer’s next visit, you offer a sample of the new dish.
  • Take initiative. Commit yourself to enhancing customers’ experiences. Example: You notice a frustrated customer standing at the automatic checkout counter in your store. In addition to assisting with the checkout, you demonstrate how to execute the transaction and bag the groceries.
  • Follow good examples. Emulate other reps who anticipate customer needs well. Study the way they approach customers and write down some of the phrases they use. Example: Your co-worker checks with customers before closing their food and drink tabs. That courtesy allows customers opportunities to order additional items. It also demonstrates that customers’ needs come before your desire to move on to another table.

Tip: Having a knack for anticipating customer needs makes you a valuable employee. Record specific instances and use them as examples of your performance at your next review.


“One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.”

— Lewis Caroll


Watch your subject lines

Change the subject line in e-mail messages when a new topic is introduced. That makes it easier for you and for customers to reference information later.

Example: A series of e-mail communications with a customer started with the subject line “Follow up on your recent order.” After three e-mail exchanges, the customer asked about a new product. The subject line in your reply should read “Info you requested on XYZ model.”

—From the editors.

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Each issue of the First-Rate Customer Service Forum offers you tips for improving your customer service skills. Plus, you have the opportunity to request advice on your most vexing customer service problems—and receive feedback from your peers and our panel of editors!

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