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Anticipatory Service

Just what is Anticipatory Service? Consider the following:

Just before the holidays, I had a business trip planned, flying from my home in Orlando to Portland, Maine, and then driving to Augusta, Maine. I thought I would take advantage of seeing my daughter in New York City over the weekend before heading further North. What I hadn’t planned for was a major snow storm heading my way that weekend. No problem, Delta Airlines did.

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A day and a half before my trip, I received a message from Delta. It advised me that with the incoming storm, I would likely have difficulty getting to New York City on Saturday. It advised me to make changes, and offered to make those changes without any penalty or additional cost. I called my Delta representative to discuss the fact that this trip was back-to-back with a business trip, and that I did need to be in Augusta, Maine by Monday afternoon. It would be of little use to fly until Monday morning, but I couldn’t get to Augusta by that afternoon. The Delta representative suggested that I go by way of Boston, then drive the difference, which surprisingly wasn’t that far to Augusta. The plan allowed me to get there by Monday afternoon. It also cost me less than my original flight, and I was upgraded to First Class.

That’s great service. It’s great service because it was anticipatory. It’s what we refer to as service netting–as opposed to service recovery. I’ve had good service recovery from Delta as well, when flights fell apart and they took care of me. But service netting is better. The analogy is this–If you were a high flying acrobat, would you prefer a net underneath you or sympathetic care as you hit the concrete and someone dials 911? The latter is service recovery, and while sincere, it is never as good as service netting. Anticipatory service is a form of service netting.

Anticipatory service requires thought and planning. Delta had to create the IT support, the supportive processes, and a trained staff to provide for such netting. But it probably came to Delta at much less a cost than it would have if they were having to take care of tens of thousands of stranded, unhappy passengers at one moment. Such a strategy provides more goodwill to your brand than trying to fix the problem after it’s broken. Anticipatory service makes sense!

Ask yourself:

  • How are you anticipating your customer’s needs?
  • Where are you providing service recovery when you could have a net in its place?
  • What would you gain if you put nets in place and were more anticipatory up front?

For other great ideas like this, read our landmark book, Lead With Your Customer. It offers not only great ideas for improving customer service, but for creating a customer-centric culture that thinks through those service strategies. It’s available in hard copy and Kindle via Amazon.

By Mark David Jones and J. Jeff Kober.

By Mark David Jones and J. Jeff Kober.

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