Editor’s Note: Four California wildfires were looming in Doug Bellamy’s neighborhood when the deadline for this issue approached, so we told him we would re-run his August 2012 column while he worked on keeping his family safe.
If ever you get out into my neck of the woods, that is to say Southern California, plan a visit. Where? The St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Calif. (Phone: (949) 234.3200).
Typically I wouldn’t advertise for another business, especially in a public format. But these guys are so good at what they do, I can’t help myself. Moreover, the type of advertising I’m doing is the most powerful advertising available, and it’s free. As a business owner, it’s precisely what you want going on: word-of-mouth advertising! Money can’t buy it. It is purchased by diligent effort, continual improvement and a disposition to get to know your customers and proactively meet their needs before they ever realize they need them. Anticipatory Service!
Such advertising is voluntary, convincing and when it’s provided by a non-biased and unrewarded, reliable individual, it really works. It motivates potential customers to give such businesses a try. Your customers are talking, and when it comes to your business, it’s going to be good or bad. I think we’ll both agree that good is better than bad.
If you’re going to master Anticipatory Service, you are going to be proactive. It’s all about doing things before they need to be done. You have to learn to tell customers and employees what they need to know before they need to know it. If your customers or employees have to come to you for information, you’ve failed to be both proactive and will ultimately fail at Anticipatory Service.
If your customer calls you about a problem, you’ve got two problems and in my view, one is worse than the other. You’ve got a problem, and they found it before you did. Why didn’t you find that problem and fix it before they pointed it out? You weren’t proactive.
Practice Makes Perfect
What you want to do is anticipate customers’/employees’ needs and make a provision to meet those needs before they develop. How do you do so? Practice! We do this stuff every day. Use your everyday problems and determine where your organization and customers struggle. Once you’ve done so, take proactive measures to prevent such problems.
Ask yourself this question: Are customers and employees guided or left to grope their way through what they think they should do? Are you providing them a clear path to doing successful business? Now, use that answer to identify priorities that eliminate the biggest areas where the struggle occurs. Don’t stop anywhere until you’re providing Anticipatory Service.
Nothing Is Easy Without Hard Work!
It is said that the word “facilitate” comes from a Latin word that means “to make easy.” But when you set out to offer excellence as a business, you’ll find out in a hurry, nothing is easy. So figure out how to make things as easy as possible. For people to love to do business with you, it has to be easy. You’d be surprised how easy some hard things can get once you develop systems and procedures to make them simple. Develop job descriptions, SOP and a quality control program, and survey your customers regularly—you won’t be sorry. Do the heavy lifting, your business will be stronger, the weaknesses will disappear and the rewards will be bountiful.
At some point this market is going to turn around and general contractors will be a lot less interested in Motel 6 and whole lot more interested in the St. Regis Hotel. Right now, it’s all about the money. Some day—hopefully soon, the GCs will have the money to pay for reliable quality and anticipatory service. If your business is a St. Regis, you’ll be in high demand.
I don’t know about you, but we know where we want to be: providing Anticipatory Service!
Doug Bellamy is president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif., where he is known for his proactive, innovative approach to our changing industry, and use of modern technology and cutting edge products and services.