Growing up, I remember hearing my younger sister pester my mom to predict answers to things she couldn’t possibly know. “What happens at the end of this book?” “What if they’re out of chocolate chips at the grocery store?” “How long does it take to run around the house 19 times?” Parents have a special gift for making up answers that satisfy a child’s curiosity, but, unfortunately, this skill is not often applicable in the real world. Adults are not content with answers like, “Go and try. I’ll time you!”

It seems to be human nature to want to know the end from the beginning – to prepare for contingencies and gather the information that will help us to know how to react to any given situation. That information, however, is not always available. So, we have to anticipate outcomes, based on previous experience.

While some people are better at preparing for the unknown than others, this ability is paramount in account service. There is little I hate more than hearing some variation of, “Why didn’t you tell me?” “I wish I had known that.” Or, “I thought you were taking care of this.” We can’t possibly know every single concern that our clients are going to have. But, we can avoid having these conversations if we can be better at thinking ahead.

As account service our job is to anticipate the client’s needs before they do. Whether that means stocking the fridge with their favorite drink or providing a project status update before they have to ask, these are the things that will set us apart. Here are a few simple tips on ways to answer a client’s questions before they ask them:

  • Put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to know about the project’s status if you were the client?
  • When was the last time you talked with the client? If it’s been longer than they would expect without hearing from you, find a reason to reach out.
  • If there are any changes to the project, let them know as soon as possible. This may be cost, timeline, dimensions or scope. Don’t let them find out when it’s too late for them to feel like they have any say in the matter.
  • Take responsibility if something goes wrong, but offer an immediate solution for how to make it right.
  • Surprise them and let them know you’re thinking of them. Maybe it’s an e-card congratulating them on making it to Friday, or maybe it’s a treat that gets sent along with some printed material. They probably won’t realize that they needed the pick-me-up until it gets there.

So while none of us have a crystal ball to look into the future, we can be smart and reduce the number of questions that will be hard to answer when it’s too late to have control of the situation. If all else fails, offer to time them while they run around the building.