I recall many years ago a household management instructor asking me for a definition of anticipatory service and how it can be taught. Given that the person was a seasoned private service professional, I was surprised by the question. I assumed that at some point anyone in private service (or hospitality in general) would consider the question because it is so important in the job they do. It is key to domestic service success.
Good customer service in general and private service in particular rely on the ability to anticipate the needs of a customer or employer. The need is identified and met before the request is made. The objective is simple -- to anticipate. The more someone providing service can eliminate the need of an employer to ask for something, the better they are at anticipatory service. The challenge is in achieving the objective. Contrary to what some people might believe, it doesn’t require a crystal ball to achieve.
Anticipatory service... No crystal ball required
Once I got over the surprise question, I provided some of my thoughts on what anticipatory service is and how it can be effectively taught. Here are a few of those thoughts:
Know your job profile:
A good job profile will offer all sorts of clues for an employee to anticipate the needs of their employers. For example, if a house manager is responsible for winterizing a property, there are tasks that need to be planned and completed. Moreover, they need to be planned far in advance. Take a swimming pool as an example. In northern climates, most families want their pools closed around the same time of year. A poorly organized household manager runs the risk of ending up at the bottom of that pool closing list and that is not good. Anticipating the needs of your employer means that the household manager is booking the pool company two or even three months in advance so that they are on top of the vendor's list. The same goes for blowing out an irrigation system and so many other tasks on a household manager's punch list.
Know regular events:
There is a lifecycle to a home. That lifecycle can be tracked and recorded. For example, homes and families have annual traditions. In the event there is an annual Christmas party for office employees that is held in the household, a private chef along with a household manager can take the initiative and begin planning the menu, locking in wait staff, ordering rentals, getting the invitation designed, managing the RSVP list, and possibly contracting the services of a sous chef. Why wait to be told? Why wait to be asked? Anticipate the need. Stay ahead of the eight ball.
Know employers’ patterns:
This one only comes with time and careful observation. For example, if the butler knows that their employer always takes tea at 3pm on a daily basis, they have an opportunity to arrange a tea tray in advance and approach their employer five minutes before 3pm and ask if they are ready for tea service.
Anticipatory service eliminates the "ask" by observing habits, patterns, and preferences.
It is not a difficult thing to do. It simply involves active listening skills and a keen eye. While anticipating a need might not be acknowledged by an employer, it likely will be appreciated.
Families will often go to various destinations on a regular basis. If the destination is the Bahamas, a packing list should be developed so that items are not missed and employer concerns and anxieties are minimized. Each destination will have a different packing list (i.e. skiing vs. beach). It is not a difficult thing to do and will make the life of private service staff so much simpler.
I am sure that seasoned private service professionals have all kinds of other anticipatory service tricks up their sleeves. As always, I invite them to share their knowledge with others.
Good service is achieving the fundamentals in private service. It is expected. Anticipatory service is about exceeding an employer’s expectations. It differentiates a mediocre Household Manager from a star Household Manager. It is certainly worth taking that extra step. So take the step. Watch. Listen. Absorb information so that service can be anticipated. It's very doable.
© 2023, Portico Inc.