Class Adaptation: Anticipatory Service

(Quick note: Service Slave Secrets: Volume One is now available on Amazon!)

This is a written adaptation of my Anticipatory Service class.

I like to begin this class with a quote from Gosford Park:

“What gift do you think a good servant has that separates them from the others? It’s the gift of anticipation. (…) I know when they’ll be hungry, and the food is ready. I know when they’ll be tired, and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves.” 

True words!  But how do you do it?

Learning 

At the core of anticipatory service is education.  You can’t provide a service you don’t know how to do. But where do you start, how do you learn, and what do you do after? 

  • What do they want you to learn? The person you’re serving, that is. Remember one of the golden rules: it’s not service if they don’t want it. Even if it’s useful. Even if they “should” want it. Even if they’ll like it once it’s done. So, ask the person you’re serving where to start. If you’re on your own for the moment, consider asking around and doing some research about what’s “in demand”.
  • Training. What I’m basically counting under this category is instruction by the person you’re serving. This is good for specific preferences and unique services, and hands on/kinesthetic learners. Pretty much any relationship will, formally or informally, include this at some point, even if it’s, “Hey, how do you take your coffee?” 
  • Classes. This can be classes in the kink scene and classes outside of the kink scene (try local businesses, community centers, colleges, the Internet; things aimed at the hospitality, private service, customer service industries, and more). I especially recommend including classes from outside of the kink scene for that professional touch, and classes from within the scene for the customs of those spaces. I’ve attended everything from two hour kink centered webinars to what I’ve done so far of my four hundred hour professional private service course. 
  • Certificates. Certificate courses can be useful both logistically and as starting points for important considerations. This can include first aid and safety trainings, food handler cards, alcohol server cards, and more.
  • Reading. Books and articles, again both kink and vanilla. Good for verbal learners. 
  • Videos and podcasts. Especially if you’re an auditory learner, there’s a lot here. There are many kink oriented podcasts, and videos are often great for step by step visuals and directions. 
  • Practice. Don’t stop after absorbing the information in the above ways. Rattling off how to do something is no use if you can’t actually do it, so put the skill to use, and do it. Many services can be practiced in the vanilla world, too. Even if you’re looking to perfect your cooking for the right Owner one day, you won’t have trouble finding people to give you feedback on free food now. 
  • Take your own notes on whatever you learn. This will give you a quick way to refresh your memory and will be built for you, by you. Make a habit of refreshing yourself on your resource notes on a regular schedule, in case anything new has become applicable or jumps out at you now.

You can find my top recommendations for the above resource types here.

Problem Solving

A major category of anticipatory service is problem solving. Here are some steps: 

  • Notice the sign/problem. Yes, this sounds incredibly obvious. However, this step includes keeping your eyes open, scanning for things to be solved, remembering it, and caring to do something about it. 
  • Look from their perspective. As in, the perspective of the one you’re serving. This problem may not be a problem to you—but you’re not serving you. Do that scanning from the perspective of the person in question. Preference, ability, etc. 
  • Understand the problem. You can’t solve a problem effectively if you don’t know what’s going on. Think who, what, when, where, why, how. What’s the full scope of the problem? What’s causing the problem? How do you fix that? Google is your friend.
  • Solve the problem immediately. If you want this service to stay anticipatory, you have to get on it pretty fast, even if it’s not urgent. An imperfect solution now is better than the “perfect” solution later (that’s probably not coming). 
  • Solve it specifically. One note here: saying, “There is a problem,” and offering to help solve the problem is not solving the problem. If you do need to run the solution by the other party, propose a specific solution, not just the offer to be part of the solution. If you’re in an established service dynamic, that part’s obvious, and if you’re not, that part will be obvious in the specific solution.  
  • Solve it long term/on a recurring basis. Plan to solve this problem each time it comes up, if it’s related to something recurring. Don’t use quick bandaid solutions (except on emergencies while you get something better going); make sure that it’s a long term fix. Don’t just put a bucket under the leak; fix the leak. 
  • Permission issues. Obviously, make sure you have whatever permissions you need to solve the problem before you take action (unless it’s a true emergency). When building protocols, you’ll want to build in emergency exceptions, and take into account which problems you want solved with/without permission, which ones you want solved with/without prior or post event notice, etc. 
  • While solving problems: don’t cause another problem. Keep a wide view of things and make sure that your fix here isn’t taking the bandaid off somewhere else. Don’t schedule a new task to fix something not getting done at a time that now has you pressed for time on another item. Etc. 
  • Prevent the problem. What can you do to keep this problem from happening again, happening elsewhere, etc.? 
  • Check in. Make sure the problem does stay solved in the most effective manner, and isn’t popping up anywhere else. 

Tracking Preferences

In order to provide excellent service, you have to know what excellent service looks like to the person you’re serving. Here are some tips:

  • Ask. Ask before the situation is going to come up, when you think of preferences to ask about, when they ask you for something and you’re not sure how they like it, whenever you’re allowed to: ask. It might not be anticipatory service in the moment, but it’s how you get to do it next time. 
  • Understand the value of knowing why. Obviously, don’t be the two year old asking why why why. Don’t ask “why” to stall or to make them defend the service they requested before you provide it (if you’ve already made that agreement). But, ask why when it helps you provide better service. There’s plenty of room for the useful why in even fairly tight protocol—especially if you ask later, for next time. 
    • An example I give is this: the person you’re serving asks you to pick up some things from the store, making replacements as needed. (Instacart kink?) You go shopping; the store is out of one of the items. They’re not answering their phone. What do you do? Which replacement do you pick? Here, it would be useful to know why they selected their original choice. If it was because it was cheapest, then you’d want to pick the second cheapest item. If it was because of superior quality, then you’d want to pick up the second best item (based on whatever criteria). Different choices made based on different whys.
  • Incorporate those preferences. Once you know of a preference, incorporate that into your systems and actions. Note brands on your master shopping list; stick a note with their coffee order onto your morning checklist that says “fetch coffee”; make a playlist in their genre of choice for use during chauffeur service. 
  • Write it down. Write down notes on the preference itself. Keep organized files. You can organize this by topic (how they take their coffee), person, both, so on. 
  • Study those notes. Especially if they can’t be neatly incorporated into pre existing routines but might come up at random, just make a habit of reading those notes in their entirety. In creative writing, there’s the idea of “visiting with” your work to keep it fresh in your head even if you’re blocked and not writing more: doing research, reading what you’ve already written, doodling a character—just to keep the work “alive” in your head. Honestly, I find a similar concept applicable to tracking preferences. Having read someone’s file recently will keep that information closer to the top of your head.
  • Look for changes. Ask if needed. Your notes are not God; don’t box people into the first preference you noted. Keep an eye out for changes and update accordingly. (Note: you can still keep the notes on former preferences as those are likely to be runner ups or somehow relevant; just title them as such.) 
  • Notice preferences. Short of just asking, the best way to note a preference is repetition. Do they buy the same brands again and again? Consume the same types of media? Order the same thing every time you go out? Wear the same color of clothing every day? Compliment the same service again and again? People are creatures of habit, and habits are telling. 
  • Learn their cues. To get one step ahead on in the moment services like drink refills, you’ll want to learn what they do immediately before a) they do the thing themselves, b) you usually notice the desire, or c) they prompt you to do it. Looking for repetition in that area to learn, and then keeping an eye out for those tells to act on, will keep you ahead of things. Here, I usually screen share some made up examples using characters from my erotica series and point a few things out. 
    • Ezri took another sip of coffee, her gaze lingering on the clear mug as she set it down on the table. Her eyes flicked to Lalia, kneeling nearby, who noticed the nearly empty mug and went to refill it. 
      • Here, we see the point where Lalia notices that Ezri’s drink is getting empty (and does something about it). But if she wanted to catch that sooner, let’s take a step back from that moment: what happened before that? We see gaze lingering on the drink in question, and eyes flicking to her slave, Lalia, two common visual indicators that could easily be tells that a refill is in order. 
    • Jen frowned at her glass that was now mostly ice, tilting it to and fro before setting it nearly out of reach. She stood and retrieved the pitcher from the island.
      • Same thing here. We see Jen take this action (the refill) herself. This wouldn’t happen on Clara’s watch but let’s pretend her slave notices this and wants to have jumped in a moment sooner. So, let’s back up. Right before this, we see frowned at her glass (an expression like something’s wrong with it, or thinking about it) and tilted it to and fro (fidgeting, with the object in question) and setting it nearly out of reach (a weird thing to do with a drink you’re still working on). All potential tells.
    • Ezri looked at Lalia as she set her coffee down, toying with a strand of her hair. She nudged her and indicated the mug, and Lalia picked it up and headed for the kitchen.
      • Man, Clara and Lalia are really off their game today. Anyway, here we see the prompt to get the refill (nudging and indicating the mug being relatively obvious between these two, if not verbal). So, one more time, let’s take one step back: how to get ahead of that prompt. We see Ezri look at Lalia and additionally toy with Lalia’s hair. The extra attention to the person who’s supposed to be serving her would be key tells here, not just flattery.

Service Ideas

How to come up with ideas for services. 

  • Routinely ask. Once again, the power of asking up front. But there’s another word here: routinely. Set a recurring reminder or other schedule to do this on. This is a part of our weekly questionnaire for our weekly check in. 
  • Things that are outsourced. What do they have someone else, like a professional or maybe family, do for them? This might involve having someone come into the house to do it, bringing items or themselves to a place for service, etc. Are these things you can take over and do just as well or better? 
  • Things that are automated. What’s being done by technology? Can you do it just as well or better instead? Think of home automation, dishwashers that might not be thorough, washers and dryers that might be tough on delicate items.
    • Note: on both of the above, there are pros and cons to these as sources of service. It might be that your time is better used elsewhere, or it might be that doing it yourself makes you feel more connected to your service. Keep in mind. 
  • Things they do for themselves. Self explanatory. What tasks do they do for themselves that you can do for them just as well (or better) and they won’t miss? 
  • What frustrates them? Especially look here. What tasks do they complain about, procrastinate on, rush through? 
  • In the moment… what are they about to ask for/what are they about to do? If you know it a moment ahead of time, and you can, go do it for them. We talked about it a bit above, but even if you haven’t been specifically put on that duty, this could create a new service. 
  • Does this recur? If any of the above is something that happens on a recurring basis, communicate with the person you’re serving about it, work it into your systems, and, as we said with problem solving: handle it on that recurring basis. 

Improving Processes 

Look around at the processes already getting things done. How can they be improved? 

  • Can it be done with less:
    • Time?  Done faster? 
    • Money?  Done cheaper? Done yourself? 
    • Other resources?  Driving, supplies, space? 
  • Understand (and adhere to) their priorities. What makes a process better to you might not be what makes it better to them. What do they value? That something is done quicker? Cheaper? Better? Does that change depending on what the thing is? 
  • Can it be more consistent? Consistent processes are a must in any service industry, and being an s-type is no exception. You know exactly what you’re doing; they know exactly what to expect. Can you make this any more consistent? 
  • More convenient?  And what does convenient mean to the person you’re serving? Check in on their ideas of convenience, and see if you can make a process (or the result) more accessible to them. 
  • For a lot of people, one thing that makes things more convenient is kits and stations. This can be anything from the standard play bag you take to parties, a drink station in the kitchen, a first aid/toiletry kit, a bug out bag, a tray that holds items for a specific personal service, so on. Think about organizing these. 
  • Eliminate nuisances and friction points. What tends to get in the way of things going smoothly and pleasantly? (And again: what’s their idea of a nuisance?) Address these things. 
  • Monitor results from the above. Just like problem solving, keep an eye on these processes for further improvement or troubleshooting. 

Unobtrusive Service 

In the moment, ways to keep your service unobtrusive and invisible. 

  • Speak when spoken to/be quiet.  Try to keep your gestures, footsteps, voice, serving: quiet.  Speak only when spoken to/necessary unless you have different protocol, and generally don’t attract too much attention.  We have a protocol that when I’m entering Mistress’ office (as she’s there much of the time and this is by far our most common scenario), I wait in the doorway (a good, unobtrusive spot) quietly until I’m acknowledged, if I want her attention, and I can pass through without that and exit protocols if I don’t make eye contact (more below).
  • Watch the eye contact.  This is as distracting as being spoken to for a lot of people, and tends to indicate that you have something to say.  Try to keep your eyes lowered/on the task at hand.
  • Don’t interrupt physically.  If two people are speaking, don’t get right between them.  If the person you’re serving is working on a task, don’t get between them and the task.  If they’re moving around, don’t get in their way.   
  • Don’t ask if not needed.  If you don’t need to ask if they want the service that comes to mind, don’t. Just do it. Needing to ask could be defined here by protocol or by uncertainty, but if you don’t need to ask, maybe just get to it.

Conclusion

These are my top pieces of advice/starting points for providing good anticipatory service. I hope this inspires! 

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