Customer Service Software

Anticipatory Customer Service: How to Meet Unknown Customer Expectations

Published by in Customer Service Software

Does your customer service team respond promptly to customers? Congratulations, you’re winning!

In 2008.


Today, customers expect to have their needs not just met, but anticipated. As Henry Ford famously said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Anticipatory customer service is exceeding expectations your customers don’t know they have.

Customers aren’t satisfied if their expectations aren’t met. And satisfaction drives repurchase decisions, loyalty, and NPS. But just as disappointment will make a customer head for the exits, exceeding customer expectations will have them coming back for more, refusing other suitors, and telling their friends how awesome you are.

“But my customers expect so much!” Yes, 24/7 live chat support isn’t cheap. But if that’s what your customers expect, you have to make it available.

The bottom line is this: If you can’t afford to meet your customers’ expectations, you can’t afford to be in business.

So how do you figure out what customers expect?

Understand your customer

It’s easier to surprise your husband with something he loves than a stranger on the street. When you know someone, you know what they want. When you really know someone, you know what they want before they know it.

Anticipating needs starts with paying attention.

Who are your customers? What do they care about? What thrills them? On the flipside, what annoys them and wastes their time? What are their most common frustrations?

Buyer personas are generally seen as a marketing and sales tool. But, as we know, customer service and sales should be BFFs. And BFFs share. First, familiarize yourself with your buyer personas. Then, start comparing what you learn through customer service interactions with what you know about your customers. If you are hearing something again and again that doesn’t jive with any of your personas, create a new one or amend an existing one. Remember, personas are hypothetical. When theory conflicts with facts on the ground, amend the theory.

Don’t have a buyer persona? No problem. You can create one specifically for customer service, and then let sales and marketing add to it with what they know.

The main question you want to answer is: What do you expect from me?

Now, asking this outright is like asking your wife what she wants for her birthday, or Henry Ford’s customers how they want to get around. If people knew, they wouldn’t need you.

The purpose is to get to the information based on what customers do know. So, for example, instead of just asking at the end of an interaction if the customer is satisfied with the service they got, ask them what you could have done to better meet their expectations. What channels

do your users expect to be able to use to get in touch with customer service? Listen to customer service calls, read customer service emails, look for patterns. If customer after customer asks the same question, start volunteering the information.

For example, Wells Fargo asked whether their customers prefer to do business with a teller. They found that 60% of banking transactions are made by people who still want to do business in person.

More examples of customer expectations

In e-commerce, customers expect instant answers to their shopping questions. And if they don’t get them, almost half of them will leave your items in their cart. Sadface. To meet that expectation you’ll need to provide a way to access immediate-response 24/7 support, whether it’s live chat, SMS, or a toll-free phone number, in the shopping cart or otherwise prominently displayed so customers don’t have to work to find it.

When it comes to travel, people have vastly different expectations around customer service depending on the perceived “tier.” For example, even with superior facilities and service, a luxury resort might receive a lower satisfaction rating than a budget motel because customers expect more.

Sales and marketing will always be tempted to write checks customer service can’t cash. This is one more situation where you need to work together, because a foundational step to anticipatory customer service is to never set expectations you can’t meet.

It’s a good idea to regularly review your sales, marketing, and advertising materials to get a better idea of what customers expect from your brand.

While many customer expectations vary according to product, industry, and tier, there are some expectations that seem to be pretty universal. People expect a seamless customer experience. Customers hate having to repeat themselves multiple times to multiple people via multiple channels more than anything else, including not getting any issue resolution at all, according to a new study from Aspect Software. Unlike customer service teams, “Customers don’t think in terms of channels,”Aspect explains, “They think in terms of finding an answer to their question or a solution to their problem.”

They also expect non-sales contact from brands. I recently got a great example of this from Hyperbiotics, a probiotic company I’d ordered from for the second time. This morning I got an email from “Hyperbiotics – Amazon Marketplace.”

The subject line was “Got your Probiotics? Our Tips…” This is an excellent subject line. In five words it communicates:

  • They want to be sure the probiotics were delivered to me
  • They want to be sure I’m getting as much value out of their product as possible

It shouts, “I wrote this email to make your life better because I care about your well-being!”

So I deleted it. JK. I totally opened it immediately.

Hi Cathy,

A big hearty thank you for choosing Hyperbiotics PRO-15!

Your bottle should have arrived safely by now. If you haven’t received it, you can check the status on your amazon page.

I’d like to share some Tips for Storage & Use to make sure that you are getting the full benefits from your new power-packed bottle of PRO-15, they are listed below.

They already have my money. This email is about making my life better. Not only did the subject quickly communicate a clear value proposition, which is to get more out of my purchase, but the email lets me know right away that it’s going to actually deliver on that promise.

Next come “Tips for Storage & Use” which I’ll excerpt because you probably don’t take hyperbiotics (yet).

  • It’s good for at least one year. We use a patented manufacturing process called LiveBac that increases the stability of PRO-15 without refrigeration and enables us to guarantee the shelf life until 18 months after the date of manufacture (which is on the bottom of your bottle).
  • etc.

An additional tip is to eat a whole food diet, high in fruits and vegetables. Studies show that the microorganisms in our gut change relatively quickly based on the food we eat. Foods that are rich in prebiotics will also help your probiotics colonize and “set up shop” in your GI tract. As a bonus, I am attaching a simple guide to prebiotic foods.

When you combine a clean, whole diet with probiotic supplementation, you are giving your body the tools it needs to find its balance again. Make sure to stay hydrated and to stay as active as you can so that your body can move out the unnecessary as your probiotic colonies are being repopulated. And finally, for some, it can take 2-4 weeks for your body to acclimate to the new flora that is moving in, making a home and possibly doing a bit of remodeling – so be patient and enjoy the road to a better you!

At Hyperbiotics, we are 100% dedicated to your complete satisfaction and optimal health. If you have any issues or questions, please be in touch. And just so you know, this micro pearl really is the world’s most perfect probiotic.

This email delivers a lot of unexpected value, including a free guide with a perfect value proposition for the brand.


Enjoy the goodness!




P.S. Please take a couple seconds right now and add Hyperbiotics PRO-15 to your Amazon Wish List to be notified of any future promotions. You can find the gray button under the Amazon order button here.

Of course you want to include a call-to-action in every communication with your customers. This one comes at the end, literally a P.S. This is good because it takes advantage of people’s natural urge toward reciprocity by offering lots of value before the ask. It’s also not a bad idea to include your ask at the end as a natural next step after reading the email and the guide.

Your wife might tell her friends if you get her the blender she asked for. She’ll definitely tell her friends if you surprise her with the trip to Bali she’s always dreamed of.

But what if she told millions of friends? Michael anticipated that customers want a more fun live chat experience. So he introduced himself as “Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix.” Michael then asked which member of the crew he was speaking with. “Lieutenant” Norm took the bait, and responded as if he were a ranking Starfleet officer. Norm then posted the five-minute successful conversation to social media sites, where it soon went viral.


When you understand what your customer expects, then go above and beyond by anticipating what they need before they do, you win a customer for life, and a portion of their friends as well. What are your tips for anticipatory customer service and exceeding customer expectations? Let us know in the comments!

Images by Abby Kahler

Looking for Customer Service software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Service software solutions.

About the Author

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a former Capterra analyst.


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