Anticipating Customer Desires Is A Customer Success Differentiator

Great customer service has become more of a rarity.  When you experience great service, it really stands out.  Having designed and conducted customer service training in several organizations and helped companies to hire hundreds of employees for customer service roles, I have created some tips and tactics that help to identify customer service success factors.  During a recent breakfast meeting with colleagues I gained some new customer service insights.

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A few weeks ago I met two colleagues for breakfast.  We have a bi-monthly coaching circle breakfast where we provide each other with insights and advice on our different businesses.  We meet at a hip and eclectic breakfast spot named Zada Janes in Charlotte, NC.  My colleague, Calvin and I sat ourselves down at a high top table a few minutes after the restaurant had opened that morning.  A minute later the waitress came over with two coffees and menus.  I was impressed that she came with the coffees without us even asking.  We are far from regulars at Zada Janes.  I thanked her for bringing us the coffees proactively.  Her response was that it is her job to anticipate the needs and desires of her customers.  If we didn’t want coffee it would have been no problem to bring them to another table or even to pour them out.  She went on to explain that she had worked in financial services in customer service for several years.  The financial services job was maddening because she was not in a position to make things right with her customers.  All she could do was triage their issues and then rely upon someone else.  She said that waiting tables was empowering.  She makes a daily habit of trying to anticipate what her customers want and then meet or exceed their expectations.  She definitely exceeded our expectations and her explanation exemplifies the difference between ok customer service and great customer service.

Great customer service begins with anticipating the customers needs or desires and then meeting or exceeding them. 

While this is a skill that can be taught, it tends to be more an issue of will than skill.  This brings me back to what I have found to be an effective interviewing tactic when hiring customer service employees.  I always ask the question, “Tell me about a place that you like to shop, eat or do business because they offer great customer service? What specifically do they do that sets them apart?”  I firmly believe that if you cannot identify what great customer service looks like, you stand no chance of ever delivering it yourself.  Therefore, this question helps me to determine if the candidate knows what great customer service looks like.  It surprises me the number of candidates that struggle answering the question. 

I know have an additional example of a place I like to eat because they offer great customer service.  It is Zada Janes because the waitress anticipates my desire for coffee.  Can you recognize great customer service and do you have a good way to screen candidates for it?