Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Proactive and Anticipatory Customer Service: Do and Know Before Your Customer Does


In the past I’ve written about proactive customer service. The example I always like to use is when a server in a restaurant notices that the guest’s water glass is about half full, the server refills the glass before the guest drinks it all and has to ask for more. Being proactive raises the perceived value of what you offer. Your customers feel you’ve really are paying attention and focused on them and their needs.

Recently, I’ve seen a phrase that I believe takes things a step further: anticipatory customer service. It’s a step above proactive customer service, but there’s a gray area between the two. Being proactive is noticing something and responding to it—like refilling a glass of water that’s half full. Anticipatory customer service, however, is about being one step ahead. It’s intuitive. It’s not just noticing something. It’s anticipating something. For example, you call a customer and he responds by saying, “I was just getting ready to call you.” In other words, you were one step ahead.

When I was a teenager, I had a thriving birthday party magic show business. My dad used to tell me that I always had to be at least 20 minutes early for the party. He said that the parents would start looking at their watches about 10 to 15 minutes before the party was about to start, and if I wasn’t there, they would start to worry I wouldn’t show up at all. It didn’t matter that I knew that I would be on time. It was about them. So, anticipating that they might start looking at their watch 15 minutes ahead of the show, I made sure I was always there at least 20 minutes before the party started.

Anticipating your customer’s needs is like a game of chess. The best players don’t just think of the very next move they have to make. They visualize what the next four or five moves are going to be, anticipating how their opponent will react to each move. Similarly, you should always try to be at least one or two moves ahead of your customers, anticipating what they might want or need.

Anticipatory customer service is about being in tune with your customer, getting them what they need before they ask for it – or even before they know to ask for it. It shows that you are customer-focused and strive to deliver an amazing customer experience.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXV, Shep Hyken)


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