“Mind the Gap” is a phrase most often associated with the Tube in London. I hadn’t thought about it before, but in fact these famous words help frame the overall service experience. They remind us to be aware during this critical part of our journey and help us recognize that someone else is being mindful of our experience as well. This raises the question, why do we focus so much of our time on service recovery when we could be focusing on ensuring the best experience from the start? Minding the gap should be about our ability to anticipate our customer’s experience prior to it taking place at all.
This past weekend I passed a sign hanging on a lamppost posted by the city of Edinburgh that immediately caught my eye. It read “We are aware this light is faulty and are working to repair it as soon as possible.” It then provided contact information for further questions. Through the use of a simple yellow sign, a service experience was framed. Here too, it was clear someone was being mindful of the experience.
My current On the Road visit is with Inspiration NW, a part of NHS North West in the United Kingdom whose focus is on raising the profile and importance of patient experience (story to be published in the September Patient Experience Monthly). This incredible team has been working on the very issue of actively anticipating patient’s needs versus always reacting to them. One powerful tool they have introduced is Care Cards. Care Cards support patients and their relatives in exploring how the emotional needs and care preferences of patients can best be captured, monitored and addressed in real time as part of a quality-led care experience. The process reduces the sense of anxiousness patients bring to the care setting and ensures a stronger and more proactive approach to addressing a patient’s overall experience. This too serves as an example of anticipating needs, a “mind the gap” moment.
Even with anticipation, there will still be times where service recovery is necessary. The key is to make this the exception, not the rule. I myself have been guilty of espousing giving staff members the freedom to act in addressing service recovery issues without pushing for another freedom; the freedom to act in anticipation of patient needs. If service recovery is about restoring trust and confidence in the ability of an organization to “get it right”, service anticipation is about creating moments where people are wowed by our transparency and understanding of needs and know we will do right for them from the start. By being in action well before recovery is needed we can mind the gaps in service that may arise, instead providing winning moments that ensure a lasting and positive service experience.
Where have you seen or implemented service anticipation? I look forward to seeing your examples.
Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
The Beryl Institute