Anticipatory Service

There exists a magical kind of service. It is hard to find. When you experience it, you want more. The best way that I have found to describe it is "anticipatory service."

When you are having a meal at a restaurant, you can experience good service or bad service. We all know about bad service. You have a glass of water and you drink your last bit of it, you wait for someone to come fill your glass. No one notices so you sit, thirsty, and wait. Finally, you get up and go find some water. The person gets mad at you for interrupting them and reluctantly gives you some water. You sit back down and finish your meal. Bad service.

These days, good service is when your glass is empty and you see a waiter walk by; you get his attention, and he gets you water. Everyone is polite. Good service.

But there is another kind of service - the magical kind. Your glass is half full and you are talking with your friend over lunch. When you reach for your glass again, it is heavier than before. That sends a signal to your brain and your brain realizes that the glass is full. Your brain then realizes that someone filled it without your noticing. A chemical is released that makes you smile. It makes you happy. It is a subconscious event. It happens in about 4 seconds. Someone was watching you. They saw your glass going below half full. They anticipated your pending need for more water. Anticipatory service. Magical.

Anticipatory service is more than good service. It is more than great service. It is an attitude. The person providing the service has a unique attitude. They are watching, expecting you to need something. They deliver it right before you even notice you need to ask. When you feel that your glass is heavier than before, you get a charge from their attitude and it makes you happy. It builds trust. You feel respected.

At the founding of Benefitfocus, we had two core values: Anticipatory Service and Respect the Individual. They are printed on our badges still today. I used to do a skit with the water glass showing our associates the three types of service and we continue to teach it in our new associate orientations. We give awards based on it. We even use it in our software design methodology.

When designing a new feature, we challenge our team to anticipate what the user will need in a year, or two years, and push them to deliver the best. We work on our infrastructure and data centers to anticipate the loads and usages on the Benefitfocus Platform in the future, and engineer the systems to operate with speed sufficient to serve the user. Fast water in the glass, fast software on your mobile device or computer - it is the same thing.


Benefitfocus Anticipatory Service Awards


A few days ago we held a ‘Celebrate Service’ event. Awards were given to associates for providing anticipatory service. There were all sorts of fun awards for great customer feedback quotes, for having zany attitudes, for always jumping into projects to help out. We laughed and cried with each other over the wonderful stories. We are not perfect. No one is. But I am so proud of the associates who wear the Benefitfocus badge and constantly amazed at the passion they have for serving our customers. Anticipatory Service, we are on our way.