You’re probably wondering, “If they don’t even know they want it, how can I venture to guess?” Anticipating needs isn’t a shot in the dark — and it isn’t magic either. Simply look for the signs!
You can start by recognizing these five common cues:
1. The pause. We’ve all been there; you call someone and introduce yourself, and immediately there’s a pause. Don’t get disheartened; oftentimes, their hesitation simply means they’re in the middle of something or you’ve caught them at a bad time. When you hear a pause, ask proactively, “Is now a good time to talk? I’d be happy to call you back a little later!” You may get a relieved, “That would be perfect!” or a surprised, “Now works!” Either way, it shows the other party that you respect and care about their time.
2. The sigh. In most cases, this sign’s pretty clear: Your customer is reluctant. Thankfully, there’s an easy fix. Offering an alternative solution is a great way to take the pressure off and brighten their day!
3. The Speedy Gonzales. If your caller is speed-talking their way through your conversation, they may be in a rush (or just from the East Coast). Respond by matching their pace, being concise, and wrapping up as soon as possible. Though your interaction may be brief, using short, expressive words like “gladly” can warm up any conversation!
4. The tremble. Is your caller soft-spoken and sound a bit emotional? Give them a little extra attention and care. Virtual receptionist Kimberly C. recommends matching their serious tone, noting, “Their unexpressed need is to have their call handled as delicately as possible, not pressuring them for information in the same way as other calls.”
For example, if a caller declines to give you a bit of information such as their last name, don’t press them; you’ll likely have another opportunity to gather it once your caller is more comfortable. If you need this info in order to help them, acknowledge their concern and explain why: “I’m sorry to hear that, Megan! May I have your last name so that I can look up your file? I’ll do everything in my power to help you get this straightened out.”
5. The follow up question(s). Did your email prompt several more questions from your client — or do you have a hunch your client will be confused even before you hit “Send”? Now may be the time to pick up the phone. A conversation can shed light on complex subjects where written communication can get muddled or misinterpreted. Your client may not even know they’d like to chat, but they’ll surely appreciate your extra effort!
Anticipating clients’ needs isn’t something you typically see in training, but it is absolutely teachable, sustainable, and it works — no crystal ball required!