The key to true customer loyalty.

A couple of days ago I went to the zoo with my two sons. In the restaurant, a blog I read recently by Micah Solomon crossed my mind. He spoke of the highest level of customer service, which he calls “anticipatory customer service”. Meaning: meeting the needs of your customer, before he even expressed his wishes himself.

This anticipatory customer service is the key to binding new customers and realizing true customer loyalty.

Balance

At least twice a month my husband and I take our kids to this nice and entertaining zoo, so I believe us to be very loyal customers. This time, however, I went alone with the children and that immediately makes a huge difference; in the restaurant too. In one hand, I held a tray with a cup of coffee and hot cocoa and with the other, I tried to push the buggy towards the cashier in a somewhat straight line. And that was the moment, when I had a very clear unexpressed need: a helping hand. It remained “unexpressed” though and no one lent me that helping hand. On the contrary, on my way to the cashier I was practically run over by another buggy, pushed by a mother who probably encountered the same problem.

The cashier was friendly as ever and she wished me a good day. Happy to have managed to keep my coffee in the cup and still having a tray in one hand and a buggy in the other, I was now looking for a table to sit at. As I predicted quite a challenge, I decided to leave my older son at the cashier and bring the tray to the table first. The funny thing is that the other mother thought exactly the same and chose the same long table.

With the tray and the children at the table, there was only one problem to tackle: getting a highchair for the little one. But where of where are they? Right, at the far end of the restaurant. That does not sound like problem, but this is not just any restaurant, it is an XXL restaurant. Since I didn’t want to leave my kids alone for too long, I thought it best to leave my youngest in the buggy. Most parents will recognize that this is far from beneficial to the atmosphere around the table.

Luckily, all three of us managed to relax rather quickly and we enjoyed our drinks. Off to the real adventures in the zoo again! Just one thing: bringing back the tray. Here we go again…

A helping hand

On various moments I really needed a helping hand. What effect would it have had on my customer experience, if I did receive a helping hand?

Of course, a company can’t know each and every unexpressed customer need all the time and anticipate on them. But why do these highchairs have to be at the far end of the restaurant? Why would the cashier stay behind her desk, instead of help me (or the other struggling mother for that matter), if there are no other customers in line anyway? Or would it be perhaps a good idea to hire someone to help such struggling families?

After all, I am probably not the only one in the zoo with such unexpressed needs. Yet organizations – whether they are zoos or not – still too often do not incorporate these wishes into their customer journey mapping. Why not? Even though they are not expressed, that does not mean they don’t exist! It’s time to have another critical look at all those touch points in the customer journey, both expressed and unexpressed. Are all customer wishes taken into account?

Debbie Alders

Debbie Alders is Delivery Manager at CRM Partners.
Written on 15 January 2015

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