Anticipatory Service – Meeting the needs of others outside of the workplace

A_helping-1 I remember being a new mother and traveling alone with a new baby on several occasions.  I was always  grateful when a stranger asked if I needed assistance as they watched me navigate through airport corridors pushing a stroller, balancing car-seats on top of luggage, and attempting to clear security without much tribulation. The first time it happened to me, I was humbled that somebody even noticed my discombobulated self and offered assistance opening a door.  I speculated if I had ever observed a parent struggling as much as I was, prior to that moment.  A small act of service performed for me not only impacted my life at that juncture, but also has had me looking for a similar mother since to repay the kindness that was once delivered to me.  I want to be that person that I was so grateful for on that first flight across country.

I train employees to predict the needs of clients/customers before the individual knows that they may need it. Truthfully, anticipatory service is one of the hardest principles to get employees to execute and embrace, but is fundamental in setting great companies and individuals apart from the competition and advances career opportunities.  It requires genuine interest in others and the ability to listen thoroughly during communication.  It is the epitome of phenomenal customer service and is what closes contracts.  Anticipatory service is not just limited to any one industry and am learning is not just limited to the workplace.    

In coaching others on this principle, I ask them to look for and observe examples of anticipatory service at home as our family relationships tend to be some of the most altruistic relationships that we have.  Recently, I’ve been trying to put my own words into action and  be more anticipatory of the needs of others outside of work and home, as well.  It is something that requires genuine interest in others and the ability to listen thoroughly during communication.  Can I offer a friend a ride before they ask? Can I furnish a needed classroom supply that I know may be scarce? Can I volunteer to help a colleague on a work project to ease their day?

Small opportunities to help others may go unnoticed if we don’t take more of an anticipatory approach in life.  These occasions are the circumstances that make others’ lives easier as we deliver what they may not have known they needed prior to that moment.  Since my endeavor on delivering anticipatory service outside of the workplace, I’ve had the opportunity to drive a newcomer to the correct location after being dropped off at the wrong bus stop, help someone search for their keys at the gym, and shovel snow from the walkway of an neighbor’s home that had the flu.  It always hasn’t been convenient but has brought me the satisfaction that I have delivered service to someone in need.  It’s what brings happiness back to me in the form of a sincere thank you or a gracious smile. It’s what businesses strive to achieve and are successful when they do.  Anticipatory service crosses the boundaries of work and home and I’ve found that there are more than just anxious mothers in airports that may need my assistance.   If we look and listen in anticipation of opportunities, we will be delivering extraordinary service to those around us.  


  1. Darin Heckel said:

    This is well-written and spot on. This principle of anticipatory service applies more than just at work. It should be in every aspect of our lives. Nicely done!

    February 18, 2016
  2. MJ said:

    Wow, great. I will be watching for the opportunity to serve hopefully before they know they need help. Thanks, I plan to be watchful and see if this will add to happiness and gratitude.
    You really are good at writing and motivating me to action.

    February 19, 2016
  3. JoEllyn said:

    What a great article, Dori. This is a concept that I believe comes naturally to some and to others, like myself, must work at. Thank you for the inspiration.

    February 19, 2016
  4. Crista said:

    Unfortunately as I’ve gotten older, more cynical, and yes, even more sarcastic(apparently it was possible) I have lost a big part of the automatic need to see those around me in need and help. My parents were wonderful in teaching is kids to pay attention, look for opportunities to help, always respect elders etc. I find myself looking at my kids at times when someone we know has an obvious need and getting irritated that I am the one telling my kids to help. Then looking at the reason why. Clearly they are not learning the same from me that I learned from my family. Most of society its running around looking at a screen. My kids included. Yes, this is my fault, however we have certain rules that work for me in our home that may not work for others. Obviously no cells,tablets or electronics of any kind allowed at family time. This applies to parents as well as kids. Lesson of the day… Don’t always be the one always staring at the screen. We managed to survive as humans many thousands of years without them. Convenient yes. Necessary, depends on your opinion, reality, yes. Look up once in a while, most needs are visible in the eyes of the person in front of you. You can’t see or hear them in an email, msg, instagram, snap chat etc. Selfies are often taken multiple times and edited / changed etc before posted. The only way to truly know is to open your own eyes (and heart) and pay attention.

    February 19, 2016
    • Dori said:

      So true…If we just look up. Even as a parent I find myself too much in my phone. How could my time be better spent?

      February 21, 2016

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