Why Mom Was Right About Anticipatory Service


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Ever have a customer come into your business and later ask you about where they can find something at a neighboring business? Do you say “I don’t know, I’m not from around here?”  Not exactly anticipatory service, huh?

Anticipatory Service

Here’s the scenario:

While waiting in line at a major department store, I overheard the woman in front of me mention that it was her wedding anniversary next week.  She wanted to know where the nearest greeting card store was and asked the cashier.

The cashier’s response was “I don’t know, I’m not from around here”.  And to make matters worse, the cashier didn’t even follow up. She just put her head back down and continued to ring in the purchases!

Exasperated, the customer turned to me and said “do you believe this”?

Since I wasn’t “from around here” either I wasn’t able to help this woman but couldn’t leave it there.  I turned around and asked the next customer behind me if he knew where the closest greeting card store was.

“Sure, of course I know” and proceeded to give us clear, and easy-to-follow directions to the store.

I can understand that the average employee doesn’t make a mental note of the surrounding businesses with the expectations that knowledge will be needed by a customer sometime in the future.  But isn’t that what anticipatory service is all about?

The overall experience is preserved by the countless ways we enrich the customer interaction.
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Remember, the people that buy the goods and services you offer make your paychecks possible.

You have an obligation to provide value more than just from the products you sell.
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Isn’t that what all the great service providers do?

Most employees take the same route to work each day and may not know many of the local stores, let alone a card store.  So it may seem fitting that they would say “I’m not from around here, sorry”.  But you have an obligation to help this customer.

Your next comment must be “I’m sorry but I’m not aware of the nearest greeting card store.  But please allow me to find someone else here that may be able to help you”.  Sounds much better doesn’t it?

Anticipatory service is planning for the unexpected.  Because whether you know it or not, the unexpected will happen AND at the most unexpected and unwanted time.

Remember when you were leaving for school on that brisk Tuesday morning and your mom stopped you to insist you wear a sweater?  “But Mom, I don’t need a sweater” was your first come back.  Then, after she explained the weather forecast, you told her “But the other kids won’t be wearing a sweater!”

Of course you know the next line from mom…

“I don’t care about the other kids, I only care about YOU!” 

Defeated, you walk down the street patiently waiting to turn the corner so you can rip off that sweater that took all your “coolness” away.

Anticipatory service is also observing your customer as he/she walks through your store.  What do they look at, which products do they touch, do they seem interested in a specific item?  If so, don’t wait for them to “maybe” bring it to the checkout line.  Strike up a conversation with the customer and tout the features and benefits of the product.

Make their buying decision as easy as possible.

Ever think of how your waiter knew to refill your coffee cup as you were almost finished?  Because she was paying attention!  She anticipated your needs.  That’s how you provide a great customer experience.  Plan to provide more information on what your customer is already interested in or what they may need in the future.

To be a great customer service leader you must be a “fountain of knowledge”.
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Knowledge is something that can never be taken away from you.

Now it’s YOUR time to share your knowledge with your customers!  And remember where the nearest greeting card store is!

I bet Mom would know…

Image courtesy of muddledmother.org/

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve DiGioia
Steve uses his 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry to help companies and their employees improve service, increase morale and provide the experience their customers' desire. Author of "Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift...Even If You're a Bad Waiter" and named an "ICMI Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leader" and a "Top Customer Service Influencer" by CCW Digital, Steve continues his original customer service, leadership and management-based writings on his popular blog.


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