Anticipation: The key to customer service

This past Saturday was my five-year-old’s birthday party. Nine boys and their parents had pledged to join my husband, son and I for a two-hour romp at a warehouse full of inflatable slides, rock climbing walls and even a basketball court.

When we arrived 10 minutes before the party was scheduled to start, the front door was locked and no one responded to our first few knocks, even though we had arrived five minutes past the time we were told we should arrive. It wasn’t the right way to kick off the experience. It was about 30 degrees outside, our arms were full of food and gift bags, and our son was just about bouncing out of his skin with excitement.

But a minute later, the door swung open and a smiling young woman greeted us, addressing the birthday boy first, as it should be. From then on, we were in her very capable hands. She told us exactly where to put the food and gift bags; offered us utensils, cups and plates; guided us through signing the proper forms; and still managed to beat us to the door to meet our first guest. She welcomed each person who came through the door, collected their birthday presents and asked them to sign the necessary forms, giving us the ability to greet each family and have a conversation with them, instead of rushing off to complete other tasks.

Throughout the party, she kept the schedule, letting us know when it was time to prepare for cupcakes and candles, calling everyone to the birthday boy’s table for singing and escorting people toward the gift bags when it was time to leave. While I started handing out cupcakes to each child, she seamlessly took over so that I didn’t have to leave my son’s side. And while I helped clean up the plates and juice boxes, she had packed up our leftover food and my son’s presents and had them ready for us to load into the car before I had even thought to begin.

She managed the party without making us feel like we had lost control over it. Rather, we felt cared for, like our needs were what mattered to her and her biggest priority was anticipating them before we even realized what they were.

That’s customer service. And this is the time of year to ask yourself if you’re truly providing it. How well are you and your staff anticipating your customers’ needs?

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