Great Customer Service: Anticipation vs. Reaction

Companies are often lauded for their good customer service because of the way they handle situations after something goes wrong. Deservedly so. The better way is to minimize those reactions with anticipation. The difference between good customer service and great customer service is the difference between reactionary customer service and anticipatory customer service.


What can, and should, be anticipated?

Products and Services

How will your customers use your product/service? What are some questions they will have?  What new knowledge will they need? Are there complimentary products/services that would be good to have?

I recently remodeled this website with a customized Headway WordPress Theme. It was a fairly tough transition, and I’m very happy with my developer. Almost immediately upon the completion of my site, both WordPress and Headway released updated versions, both recommended upgrading. Which should I upgrade first? Do I need to backup? Which backup plugin should I use? A few days of digging plus a couple of emails to my busy developer and I finally found my answer. It would have been great to save a couple days of my time and know exactly what to do in advance.

Problems & Obstacles

It’s a given that there will be problems, no matter how good your product is. Customers know this. What if you anticipated every possible problem, or at least the most common ones? Maybe you could eliminate some of those problems. Even if you can’t, you will know exactly what to do in advance.

Let’s say you have a website development company that builds websites for small, local businesses. What are the most common problems the business will have after you complete the site: Slow loading times because of poor hosting? The blog feed doesn’t work? Not able to update the content?

You already know what most of those problems are. Anticipate the solution and provide it to the customer before the problem occurs. And I don’t mean post some FAQ page that never seems to have my most frequent question. I mean before you say, “I’m through,” you say, “Here are the most common problems new website owners have, and here’s how to handle them.” That rarely happens and your customers will think it’s great!


When customers pay their money for a product they are usually hoping to get a little more than they they expect to get. These are what I call these the “hope-fors.” I’ve written before about the sorry state of customer service, and as a result I think customers expectations are low. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t still hoping for that great customer service.

The hope-fors vary from business to business. In a restaurant, customers might hope to get waited on in 60 seconds by a server that checks in with them frequently. At a furniture store they hope they are not jumped on by a commission-hungry sales person as soon as they walk through the front door. What does your customer hope for when they do business with you?


Customers know some things don’t normally come with the  product, but they wish that it would. I call these “wish-fors.” For a long time I wished that I could get free Wi-Fi at Starbucks, and for a long time, they didn’t grant my wish. Wish-fors are the things above and beyond the call of your duty. You don’t have to do them, but granting wish-fors could mean the difference between good and great customer service.

“Un- anticipateds”

You should also anticipate that which you cannot anticipate. Huh? No matter how much you try to think into the future, you just can’t possibly think of everything. So you need to have a system and a procedure for handling those things that can’t be predicted. Your customer should never have to hear your employee say “I don’t know what to do about that.” or “Let me check with the owner and get back to you.”

When something unexpected happens, your employee’s first thought should be: “Okay, I’ve been taught how to handle these situations, the first thing I need to do is…”

Anticipation Summit

Get all your employees and stakeholders together as soon as possible for an Anticipation Summit. Using the checklist above prepare in advance to WOW your customer with awesomeness. Eliminate, as much as possible, reactionary customer service. You probably won’t be able do all the ideas you brainstorm during the summit, but you’ll do a lot better than you are now. As a result, your customers will come to anticipate great customer service.

How can you anticipate instead of react?

Watch my free recorded customer experience webinar:
How to Create a Remarkable Offline and Online Customer Experience

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