The Art of Anticipation

  • April 17, 2023

Today, we explore Service Value 2, “I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”  This Service Value relates closely to the second step of our Three Steps of Service, “Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.”

Put simply:

  • Expressed wishes and needs are what the customer is willing to tell you.
  • Unexpressed wishes and needs are what they either don’t think to share or don’t want to ask.

Service Value 2 can be broadly applied to many industries and customer interactions.  One company executing this concept well is Apple.  Apple employees are of course trained to answer customer questions, but they are also trained to dig a little deeper to find out what else a customer may need.  Did you know that the Apple Genius Bar was modeled on The Ritz-Carlton Concierge desk? 

It’s no longer enough to act on only the things customers are willing to ask for.  That basic level of service won’t drive loyalty and keep customers coming back.  We must be able to determine and act on the wishes and needs our customers aren’t saying out loud.

But how do we do that?  Listen to what our customers DO say, but don’t stop there. 

  • Ask clarifying questions.  A guest asks a Concierge for directions to a local museum.  It would be easy just to fulfill the request.  However, the Concierge would additionally engage with the guest and perhaps ask what they are most excited to see at the museum.  Based on the answer (i.e. Impressionist art), the Concierge would have further recommendations ready.  It might sound something like, “Excellent choice.  If you have time, the temporary Van Gogh exhibit is a must-see.” 
  • Observe.  Maybe it’s raining, and the Concierge notices the guest doesn’t have an umbrella.  A hotel umbrella is immediately offered, and the Concierge asks if the guest would like transportation to the museum. 

In the above example, the expressed needs, as well as the underlying, unexpressed needs were met.  By asking clarifying questions and observing, the Concierge is able to stay one step ahead to quickly and seamlessly assist the guest.  An additional effect is that interactions like these serve to build relationships with the guests and give the employee a chance to demonstrate genuine care.  The guest feels not only cared for, but also cared about. 

Ritz-Carlton Ladies and Gentlemen are skilled at being able to fulfill their job duties while reading between the lines of guest requests and thinking about what they can do to be one step ahead and deliver the unexpected.  It is a juggling act, but one that creates brand loyalty and repeat guests.


  • The idea of delivering on both the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of a guest can apply to any industry or company.  What does that look like at your organization?
  • Delivering on expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs can also have a powerful impact on internal teams as well.  Is there someone on your team who is particularly good at this?

Discover the foundations of our brand at our upcoming onsite course experience, June 14-15 at The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. We’d be delighted to host you!