The Ritz-Carlton is famous for anticipating the needs of their guests, winning dedicated lifelong customers in the process (and getting some pretty great press). How do their employees achieve the impressive task of providing guests with what they need before they ask for it, or even think of it? By making it a priority: “Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs” is part of their Three Steps of Service.
Although Ritz-Carlton’s legendary service certainly sets a high bar, there are many ways for businesses big and small to fulfill unexpressed customer needs, without the aid of a Ritz-Carlton-sized budget. At Ruby® Receptionists, we call it Giving Them What They Don’t Even Know They Want, and it’s the second-highest level of our Ruby Service Pyramid. (If you missed our recent blog posts detailing each level of the Ruby Service Pyramid, you can catch up by starting here.)
Just like Ritz-Carlton, surprising and delighting customers is an achievable goal for any business that makes it a priority. Here are three ways to start enriching your customer experience with the unexpected:
Pay attention to subtle clues
Listen to what your customers tell you, and what they don’t tell you. A pause, a change in tone of voice, a facial expression, a sigh, or a casual-seeming “Hmmmm” can all be signs that your customer wants something they aren’t asking for. Take hesitation as your cue to proactively offer solutions. No mind-reading necessary—if you’re not sure, take a guess!
I’d be happy to see if we can expedite your shipping time—would that be helpful?
Why don’t we finish these forms later—how does that sound?
How about I meet you before the presentation so I can answer any last-minute questions?
Even if your guess misses the mark, it’ll provide a jumping-off point for a deeper conversation, and encourage your customer to disclose a bit more.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
What does your typical customer journey entail? Walk yourself through it, and as you do, ask yourself what you’d like to experience if you were a customer. What could make it easier, more efficient, more pleasant? It may be as simple as providing water and coffee in your break room, including driving directions in any correspondence, or keeping tissues within customer reach during cold and flu season. Don’t underestimate the power of little niceties—the comfort they provide can make the difference in your customer’s day.
Live and learn
Use common requests as an opportunity to refine your customer experience. If there’s something new customers often ask for, start delivering it proactively. Pay attention to seasonal trends, and use them as opportunities to show customer appreciation. An uptick product sales around the holidays might prompt you to offer a discount, for example. As you develop relationships with customers and learn more about them, use that knowledge to guess their next steps, and provide them with what they’ll need before they get there.
When you make it a part of your standard customer experience, anticipating the needs of your customers gets easier over time—and it never gets less fun. Giving customers what they don’t even know they want is one of the most rewarding aspects of being on the Ruby team. As excited as our customers get when met with a well-designed surprise, we’re just as thrilled, if not more so. Nothing feels better than brightening someone’s day, and nothing goes farther in building a strong customer relationship. If you invest the effort to fulfill unexpressed needs, prepare to be as delighted as your customers.