Why Mom Was Right About Anticipatory Service

But have no fear, you can learn it too!

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. Click To Tweet

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. Click To Tweet

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”. Click To Tweet

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/

Copyright © 2017 Steve DiGioia

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11 thoughts on “Why Mom Was Right About Anticipatory Service

  1. Steve, fifteen or so years back, when I worked in a library as a circulations desk CSR, I actually got in trouble from my supervisor who overheard me giving directions to the college campus I now work at (funny how history reflects on the present!). She told me that “only the Information Desk in the library can give out information like that” and that “your [my] job as a Circ CSR was to check in and check out books to library patrons – not give directions!” I shudder to think of the possible problems if someone had asked me where the library bathroom was since their child needed to use the facilities!
    In my current job, I am always asked where this or that is at our campus, and if I don’t know, I direct the Guest to the Registrations area, since I know that the people work work there have been at the campus longer than I and would most likely know. As for phone calls, not a week goes by where I either transfer a call or give out the direct phone number for Registrations, or Advising, or Finance. I certainly don’t cut the caller off and say, “The number is in the phone book.” or “look it up on the college Website!” That just seems plain rude to me and the caller would feel so, too!

    • Hi Lisa,

      Helping our customers is the first rule of customer service. Yes, it should be with our products or service but if we can’t help then we should never turn them away empty handed.

      I think your past supervisor needs some customer service training.

  2. As a switchboard operator for a busy RV dealership, I come in contact with so many people who are looking for good customer service practices! I love this article because it articulates exactly how I feel about everything positive in the customer service world. Going the extra mile to provide what that person is looking for (even if we don’t offer it) provides a new opportunity to impress them with the personable service our company does offer. Whenever I assist people with information, be it nearby or in another state, I always end the conversation with “If you are ever in our area, please stop in and see us! We have a fabulous Parts & Accessories Superstore, an awesome Service Department and we are the largest Newmar Dealership in the world!” I always get a positive response and I am certain they will remember North Trail RV Center for a long time!

    • Good morning Sally Blue.
      Seems like you have all the skills and personality of a great customer service person, good for you!

      Customer service is about building a relationship. Sometimes that relationship doesn’t happen right away, it’s more like a slow burn.

      But setting the thought in the customer’s mind will definitely help build business for the future. Well done.

      Thanks for your comment and welcome to the team!

      • Thank you, Mr DiGioia! I have been a member of LinkedIn for several years and your articles are the best I have read! They are simple ideas for a complex world and it’s so nice to be a part of your team!

  3. Love it! This is so true. It is about building and developing good strong customer service relationships. Thinking ahead, knowing your customers and getting to know them. Going the extra miles, makes your customer feel good, you feel good and it is infectious to everyone around you.
    you should always signpost your customer to alternatives if you cannot help (in a way you are offering the best customer service possible). There is always a tomorrow!

    • Hi Lynn,

      Great service comes in many forms, and some of the best is proving it even if you don’t benefit from it right away. The customer will remember it, and appreciate it too! Thanks.

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