Anticipating Customer Needs: The Secret to Lasting Business Relationships

By Chelsea Williams
Senior Copywriter
Oct 31 2023 read

As children, many of us imagined a world where we could read minds. We wanted to know what our friends, teachers and parents were really thinking.

That would’ve been fun, but now, you probably have a much more realistic application for this fantastical scenario: diving deep into the psyche of your customer base. What makes them go searching for your services? How do they decide they’re ready to purchase?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a Magic 8 Ball to guide you as a business leader. But there’s still immense value in using other foretelling techniques to get to know the people you serve.

Let’s talk about how to gather data about your existing and future customers to better direct the customer journey, increase recurring revenue and build a strong brand presence for the long term.

What Are True Customer Needs?

In everyday conversations, it’s helpful to stay aware that people aren’t always saying everything they mean. Professional interactions tend to be even more buttoned-up. Your clients aren’t going to reveal their entire hand in real time, and maybe not even in retrospect. It’s your job to listen between the lines.

Example: You run an architecture firm that’s designing office space for a new client. They’ve expressed a desire for an avant-garde, open concept. Yet, you know they have a large and busy team that spends a lot of time on client calls. These two priorities will likely compete, and the type of space they envision could fight against their productivity goals.

Balancing your clients’ wants with the needs they may not be able to articulate is a delicate art. With creativity and intention, you can create a strategy for uncovering pain points rather than just preferences.


3 tips to identify the top needs of your customers

  1. Engage directly. Host focus groups to offer your clients a space to share more and allow some time for open-ended conversation to ensure you aren’t limiting what you learn.
  2. Analyze demographics. Know your existing and ideal customers’ ages, locations, professions and preferences to make better decisions about everything from messaging to loyalty perks.
  3. Leverage past feedback. What did your previous clients say in reviews, surveys or conversations with an account manager? Perhaps some weren’t happy with a project outcome. Figuring out where there might have been a disconnect can help you prevent a repeat of the last time things weren’t ideal.



The Value of Anticipating Needs

When you’re skilled at decoding your customer feedback and paying attention to what people aren’t saying, your business can reap major rewards.

  • Elevated customer loyalty: Have you ever gotten a marketing email about replenishing your supply of one of your favorite products? That business is anticipating your needs and trying to save you the frustration of running out. Clients are more inclined to return to businesses that preempt their future concerns along with taking care of their immediate ones.
  • Operational efficiency: Knowing what customers want isn’t just about serving them today. It’s about preparing to serve those you haven’t met yet. Stay attuned to where your team may be expending unnecessary effort, and you can capitalize on the chance to optimize resources and minimize time leakage.
  • Financial uplift: There’s also a direct financial impact. Loyal customers want to come back and send their friends to you. Your anticipatory service can translate into recurring work — the proverbial bread and butter of a service firm.
  • Innovation and growth: Because of all that time and money you’ll save, plus the insights you’re gathering by tuning in to customer data, your team could be better positioned to innovate. Maybe it’s time to expand revenue streams or productize your services?

Anticipating needs does more than improve customer satisfaction; it lays a foundation for implementing and adapting your business strategy.

How To Predict Customers’ Problems

Every customer interaction, be it a query, complaint or routine call, carries a wealth of information. Anticipating customer needs is largely about being ready to respond to a problem at any moment. To do this, you’ll need to synthesize three approaches: observation, data analysis and cultural focus.

First, watch for patterns in customer behavior. Do you tend to receive the same kinds of requests around the same time in a project lifecycle? Are clients confused about the instructions for how to pay an invoice? If you detect snags in processes early, you can keep small hiccups from turning into widespread problems.

It’s also helpful to examine metrics for different segments of customers or projects. For example, your management consulting firm might be seeing lower retention rates with clients of a smaller size. There could be opportunities to train your team on customer support principles that are better suited to small businesses. Use a CRM with detailed reporting that can help you identify trends.

Above all, you should adopt a client-centric company culture. If your client-facing teams or employees are the only ones thinking about meeting customer needs, there will be a disjointed feel to your operations as a whole. Predicting what you’ll have to provide to clients next is an organization-wide task that begins with lead management and never ends.

Current customers vs. new customers

Remember: It’s possible that the people you currently serve aren’t representative of the people you’d best serve. Instead of considering today’s customer preferences to be the rule, stay open to change.

Adapting Your Services and Support

The shifting sands of the market are tough enough to keep up with. Add unique customer needs to the equation and agility can seem truly out of reach. But, believe it or not, it can be enjoyable to interact with your clients with their future needs in mind.

Each person who walks through your door or interacts with your business digitally brings with them a set of expectations. Think of it as a game to figure out what they are and build a strong, enduring customer relationship around them.

Luckily, individual customer needs are often in alignment with industry shifts. The most successful businesses are those that respond to larger needs and create demand for the new products and services they dream up in response.

Example: When the work-from-home wave began, some IT businesses were positioned to start offering cloud migration and support to existing clients. Those who acted quickly anticipated needs that the clients may not have been able to articulate and, in turn, kept their firms relevant and indispensable.

More Ways To Exceed Customer Expectations

Sometimes, you just need a fresh idea for how to interact with your clients in the ways they’ll appreciate most. Modern content marketing presents unlimited opportunities to enhance the customer experience. Stand out with these tips.

  • Try a new social media tactic. Too many direct, one-on-one interactions can feel forced. Show up in your customers’ social feeds in a new way to make your effort visible. If you’ve gathered data around a common frustration, make a short video and get vulnerable about how your team is working to solve it.
  • Educate current clients with webinars. Free and authentic value is not just great for drawing in prospects — it’s how you establish your brand as a trustworthy source of information.
  • Develop an FAQ library or community forum. Show your customers you’re listening and lessen your team’s burden by creating static resources and ways for them to connect with one another.

One last thought as you move forward: In the process of anticipating customer needs, don’t stray from your core values — keep it real.


About the Author


Chelsea Williams is Senior Copywriter at Accelo, where she shares unique insights with service professionals and tells user stories via blogs, eBooks, industry reports and more. She has over 15 years of B2B and B2C writing experience — primarily in tech, sales, education and healthcare. Chelsea is an AWAI-certified Master Copywriter trained in brand storytelling and microcopy.

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