How to Reveal Your Customers True Wants, Needs and Expectations

April 21st, 2017 | Lin Parkin | Customer Service
How to Reveal Your Customers True Wants, Needs and Expectations

In the customer service industry, we often read about going the extra mile to not only meet but exceed customer expectations. There are many reasons to make that a goal, and we’ll talk more about that a little later. However, to get there, you must first understand what your customers want and need and what the differences are between the two.

For example, you might want a flashy car that goes from 0 to 60 in under 3 seconds, but all you really need is a safe, reliable vehicle that’s good on gas. Similarly, what your customer wants when they start a live chat with you could be worlds apart from what they actually need.

Customers usually approach a company with an idea of what they want already in mind—whether that’s buying a product, getting information, or receiving technical assistance. Underneath what they ‘want’ is why they need it. Customers will also approach the interaction with a set of expectations about the service they will receive.

  • Defining Customer Wants

    Customer wants are typically simple, and can usually be identified by asking, “How can I help you today?”. They may want help with their password, warranty information, or help finding something they want to purchase. Figuring out why they want the help can be a little trickier, but will often lead to discovering their needs.

  • Understanding Customer Needs.

    A customer’s needs are the reasons behind their wants. However, customers are not always the best experts on matching needs to wants. For example, a customer may “want” a specific make or model of home theater system, but it’s entirely possible that it would be a poor choice for that customer based on other factors, such as enough space in the room.

  • Identifying Customer Expectations.

    Expectations reflect the standard of the service the customer expects to receive. For example, the customer might expect conflict and be aggressive when they start a chat because they don’t believe they’re going to get what they want, but are going to try anyway. Or they had done business with your company before and received either poor or excellent customer service affecting their service expectations.

[eBook] Agents Handbook: Understanding Your Live Chat Customer
This blog post is Chapter 2 in

[eBook] Agents Handbook: Understanding Your Live Chat Customer

You can follow the links below to read other chapters or download the full ebook.
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5 Ways to Reveal Customer Wants, Needs and Expectations.

Identifying your customer’s needs sometimes means understanding them better than they understand themselves! To provide an exceptional customer experience, it’s the customer service or sales person’s job to dig a little deeper and ask probing questions. Here are some ways you can get to know your client better.

  1. Anticipating Needs.

    Live chat agents are at a bit of an advantage because you can see the navigation path that led the customer to start a session with you and see what page they are currently resting on. That benefit automatically gives you greater insight into their problem or interest than you would have over a phone call or email inquiry. Use that tool to gain greater understanding into why your customer is contacting you.

  2. Playing Detective.

    An underlying part of the job for a customer service or sales professional is being a good detective. Investigating your client’s motivations will help you better understand their needs and wants. To do this, you need to ask the right questions though. That will vary based on your company’s products and services. However, there are a few good lead-in questions to ask.

    • “What problems is this issue causing you?”

      This approach focuses initially on the immediate problem. It works well when customers have a particular need, but something is going wrong. For example, they may be trying to pay a phone bill but can’t remember what their password is to login to their account. But perhaps the urgency of this need is because the phone bill is overdue and they want to stop collections calls or notifications. By finding this information out, you can confirm payment and stop any further notifications.

    • “What would you like the product to do for you?”

      This approach points to the actual benefit the customer is looking for from a product or service. It helps you filter out possible options based on features that provide the greatest benefit. If the customer does not need a product and only wants it, the benefit is rather abstract or not practical – like design or trendiness.

    • “How much are you willing to spend?”

      Money matters to nearly every customer. But it can be hard to recognize the value of something when you only compare prices. By presenting several options and explaining the features and benefits of each option, the customer can decide for themselves which product or service best matches their needs.

  3. Paying Careful Attention.

    With live chat, it can be easy to pick up on certain keywords in the customer’s message and just send a canned response to reply. But nine times out of 10 what happens in these circumstances is giving the customer an answer that doesn’t fully meet their needs. Make sure you read everything the customer wrote and address it accordingly. Not doing so may result in an unsatisfied customer—or return—once they discover their problem wasn’t fixed.

  4. Asking for Feedback.

    Asking your customer why they feel a product doesn’t meet their needs can help you narrow down appropriate alternatives and speed up your efficiency while serving them.

  5. Up-Selling Is Up-Servicing.

    People often think of up-selling as a sales person’s domain. But that’s not always true. Paying attention and really listening means assessing the things your customer will need to compliment the things they want. For example, he or she may want to buy a laptop for business presentations. Selling them the laptop alone won’t do them any good if they don’t purchase the HDMI cable to hook it up to a flat screen or projector. That “up-sell” further helps your customer—and prevents a potentially embarrassing moment for them!

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How You Can Create Great Expectations

As mentioned earlier, expectations are how the customer expects to be treated. By asking the right questions, you give yourself the opportunity to exceed customer expectations with every live chat session you have. Ask yourself:

  1. How can I make this process easier for my customer?
  2. Is there anything more I can do for them?

And act on those answers. Another way to provide excellent customer service and achieve successful sales is to know more about your average customer. Who are they? What are their likes/dislikes? Why do they do business with you? Research the needs and buying habits of your overall customer base before the sale ever takes place. To understand more about your mass customer base, try the methods below.

  • Real-Time Analytics. Heatmaps tell you where visitors are clicking most.
  • Usability Tests. Periodically conduct A/B testing to understand customer preferences and pain points.
  • Customer Interviews. Case studies offer insight and provide excellent testimonials for your website.
  • Social Media. Utilize social media to conduct polls or surveys. Monitor it to find out if people are talking about your business.
  • Comment Boxes on Blog Posts. Comments left by customers on your blog help you figure out if your topics are resonating with your audience.
  • Email Customer Feedback Surveys. Customer feedback is easier to give by email, just make sure you not only read the feedback but also act on it. If someone leaves really positive feedback, ask them for an interview to do a case study. If it’s negative feedback call them and ask how you can improve, and offer something to mend the negative experience.

Why Identifying Customer Wants, Needs and Expectations Matters

Correctly identifying and responding to your customer’s motivations ensures customer satisfaction and loyalty. If you fail to understand your customers, you’re at risk of appearing indifferent to their needs. When that happens, customers simply take their business elsewhere. Identifying what customers need and want on a large scale is good, but it’s important to remember that each person you do business with is unique. Representatives should assess customer needs with each and every interaction.

Key Points to Remember:
  • Correctly identifying customer needs allows representatives to up-sell related products or services. That can make the original purchase better, easier to use, or more versatile, as well as increase company profits.
  • Customers are sometimes unclear about what they need, or they’re unsure about what they want. Customer service representatives are only as effective as their training. So, it’s important to ensure they get the training needed to ask the right questions, listen carefully and tailor suggestions to each interaction.
  • Identifying needs creates satisfied customers. Satisfied customers are less likely to enter into disputes or contemplate legal action against your company.

When you make a commitment to understanding customers better on a large scale and an individual level, you are sure to set yourself up for success. To get a leg-up on the competition, download our free eBook with 50 Customer Service Training Activities for Live Chat and Telephone Teams.

[eBook] Agents Handbook: Understanding Your Live Chat Customer
This blog post is Chapter 2 in

[eBook] Agents Handbook: Understanding Your Live Chat Customer

You can follow the links below to read other chapters or download the full ebook.
Download the Full eBook


Lin Parkin has specialized in digital customer service management, public relations, and content writing for over a decade. She is passionate about changing the way people view online customer service and helping digital customer service teams deliver a stellar experience with each interaction. As a freelance writer, Lin contributes to business and lifestyle magazines as both a writer and editor and writes for business blogs across Canada and the U.S. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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