How to Anticipate Customer Needs

Every customer you have will require some help. Your existing processes and systems may help many customers but there will always be exceptions.

How you handle these exceptions will determine how great a company you are.

On a recent Southwest Airlines flight, my family and I were traveling with our four kids. The flight attendant noticed this and gave us our very own trash bag to help us out. Since I, as a parent, know we can produce a mess, this was a great help.

Because the flight attendant anticipated our needs, my flight was a little less stressful and Southwest had a cleaner plane. Everybody won.

When you anticipate your customers’ needs, you:

  • prevent problems before they start
  • reduce customer service demand later
  • show customers that you are actually thinking about them

How do you anticipate customer needs?


The first step of anticipating customer needs is to watch what is happening. What are your customers doing? What are they saying? What is happening around them? If you keep your eyes and ears open, you will be ready to see what a customer needs.

Look for Patterns

The more you observe customers, the more patterns you will see emerge. Take note of what happens when customers are in a particular situation. You’ll see similar results. Identify the patterns. Look for the cause and effect of results.


As you observe and identify that this particular situation matches a pattern you’ve seen before, take action. Help the customer leap frog ahead to the desired result. Help them avoid potential pitfalls. Inject yourself between the customer and the problem before it happens.


Over time, you’ll see common patterns. It then becomes essential to correct the root cause of these issues. When you fix the root problem, the customer won’t have the need to begin with. Problem solved.

Other times problems and needs will always arise because they are out of your control. In these cases, make sure you have a process or system in place to identify and address customer needs before they arise.

Your experience will allow you to see a few steps ahead of a customer. Pave the way for a smooth experience and the customers will be happy to walk with you (and do business with you) again.

Want to improve your business? This will help...

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  • Tina Del Buono, PMAC

    I liked your article, simple story that tells a lot. I manage a medical office and always am trying to help my staff anticipate our patients needs. I will have them read this.

    Thank you,


  • Lea

    I found this article really helpful thank you. I am currently doing a course in travel service and had some work to do on the Hajj pilgrimage to mecca. One of the pointers was anticipating customers needs, unsure of what this really meant i looked it up and found this. I now understand what i need to write up on. Thanks again :-)

    • Joe Rawlinson

      @Lea – I’m glad this article was helpful. Good luck on your write up.