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Next Practices in Business Service Management



The “Business” Service Leadership Agenda
by Peter J. McGarahan

The Defining Moment of Truth
Why do some companies consistently exceed their business customers’ expectations and others fail to meet their customer’s basic demands and needs? Why do smaller, flexible companies seem to care more about the business impact of customer service than larger credit card, banking and cable organizations? Does the exuberant profits and size of these larger companies (“Too Big To Fail”) create a situation where customer service is no longer a competitive differentiator nor a strategic imperative? MSN Money’s fifth annual Customer Service Survey was recently published revealing the top ten companies earning a place in their Customer Service Hall of Shame and Hall of Fame. The “business” service differentiation comes down to knowledgeable and friendly staff, available and responsive staff, trust, transparency, genuine care and understanding of their customer. Simple you say, obviously not!

In a thorough review of the survey results combined with recent Fortune 1000 company consulting experience, it is my opinion that customer service “hall of shamers” lack service strategy, leadership and excellence. Being a customer service “hall of famer” is about doing the right thing for the right reasons with principled-centered leadership to defend those decisions in a transparent way – A Customer Defender!

The Service Trifecta; Strategy, Leadership and Excellence
The biggest differentiator between organizations delivering business service excellence and the ones that do not - is the absence of service strategy and leadership. According to legendary military strategist Sun Tzu, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”  Let’s work on our service strategy by discovering the art of possibilities! What could we accomplish by taking out a fresh piece of paper, ignore the voice of “we tried that once” thinking, and envision what success could look like?

According to Harvard Business School Professor John P. Kotter in his book Leading Change, successful organizational change must start with a renewed sense of urgency. Service strategy design must be aware of the voice of the customer and the business to better design innovative customer services that deliver business benefits. Delivering exceptional customer service(s) to customers must be a top-down priority and the strategy should be cooperatively delivered across all business functional areas. Leaders should be held accountable for the delivery of service excellence with shared goals and performance objectives tied to their bonus and compensation. As a service leader, we long to hear the senior executive’s directive echoing in the halls, “You all work for a customer service organization!”

In fact, this mantra and customer service strategy is what makes Zappos so successful, so profitable and why customers are so loyal. Tony Hsieh, the visionary CEO of Zappos is fanatical and focused on engraining customer service into the Zappos culture and holding everyone accountable for the customer experience. His book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose is a wonderful factual read of achieving the business benefits of service excellence though the efforts of a visionary service leader with a service strategy centered around the customer experience. There should always be business benefits for designing customer service(s) that are innovative, customer-focused and adaptive addressing both customer and business needs while innovatively creating a service differentiation.

Service leadership
Service leadership embodies accountability and is on display daily when one leads by example. Service leaders are passionate about serving the customers. These resourceful leaders utilize a trusted source of networked mentors for advice, direction and support.  These leaders, who are successful and happy, are humble.  They never let their egos convince them that they are the smartest people in the room.  In reality, they never let arrogance stand in the way of being a good listener, continuous learner and a customer defender! In essence, service leadership is:

  • Service leadership is about doing the right thing, doing things right and making fact-based decisions
    • They challenge conventional wisdom and stand up for doing the right thing for the customers and people they serve.
  • Service leadership takes courage
    • It guides decisions and day-to-day interactions with customers, teams, peers and management.
  • Service leadership is a servant role that looks at the business of customer service creatively and innovatively with a foundation based on industry best practices.
    • They believe that delivering service excellence is not difficult as long as you stand by the customer service principle of treating every customer like they were you only customer.
    • The difficult part of delivering consistent service excellence is ensuring that the rest of the organization follows suit.

Great service leaders know that at the end of the day their customers are the only reason why they are in business today and that the people that serve those customers are the business.

Service strategy
Creating a service strategy as a guide to achieving operational excellence within your service organization is a requirement for all service leaders. A service strategy ensures organizational alignment with business objectives and should be the focus in which all services, people, processes, tools and performance measurements are implemented, integrated and continuously improved.

With all that is expected operationally and tactically of service leaders, it’s a wonder they have time to create, articulate and sell a service vision and strategy. In a distracted and reactive day, it’s difficult to find time to be strategic when you are delivering tactically.  This is where planning the work and working the plan can help service leaders. In creating a service strategy framework, it is first required that you make and take the time to do it right the first time. A strategic framework is a requirement for aligning structure, procedures, process, tools, people and measurements with the overall goal,  mission and purpose of the business. A service leader is required to communicate a well-written vision that motivates and inspires people to change for all the right reasons. They must simply explain their strategy, their continuous improvement roadmap and the expected business benefits and consequences of either achieving or not achieving the desired end-resulting state.

Sometimes getting started can be the hardest task of all, especially with all of the white paper staring you in the face. So get started, but remember, start from the end and work yourself backwards.

Remember, envision the end first!

  • Envision the end first. Know where you are going. Develop you service strategy (vision), purpose and success story based on the desired outcome for both the customer and the business.
  • Assess the current situation. Know where you are now relative to expected service delivery standards and industry best practices.
  • Build the gap-analysis, continuous improvement roadmap. Plan how you will address the gaps in a foundational roadmap that builds upon each success and maintains forward progress and measurable continuous improvement.

Always remember to continually ask yourself, “In the end, how will I know if we are successful? And remember — the arrival must be empirical, quantifiable and visible.

Service Excellence:
Service excellence comes down to managing your service organization like a business, focused on your daily operational performance scorecard. It is establishing a service culture where professionals are held accountable for expected and targeted performance and results. Establish both an individual and team scorecard with 6-8 key performance metrics that are properly balanced for ensuring consistent and correct behavior at all times. Provide quality reviews, coaching and continuous training to close the performance gaps, remind them that you are watching and let them know you care.     

In developing your service excellence culture, performance expectations, targets and metrics, you must ensure that the following service excellence objectives are integrated into all that your service organization does.

  • Engagement: being polite, genuinely caring (empathy / apology) and interested in helping, acknowledging, listening and solving.
  • Execution excellence: patiently questioning, gathering information, trouble-shooting, resolving and having access to the knowledge at the "speed of conversation".
  • A quality experience: providing a consistent and quality customer experience making customers feel they're special.
  • Expediting: being sensitive to customers' time in the resolution process - being proactive in helping speed their issue to resolution.
  • Service recovery: helping resolve and compensate for problems and ensuring complete satisfaction.

The service leader should always ensure that their services portfolio maps correctly to their objectives and that their organization is performing the right work for the right reasons.

In conclusion, I challenge all service leaders to set the bar high for yourselves and your team, constantly measure and continuously improve to create a culture of encouragement, empowerment, appreciation and results. It comes with focus, eliminating distractions, planning and working relentlessly toward the end goal. “Business” service excellence is entirely dependent on how your stakeholders define it. Since you are accountable for delivering it, it’s important that you always find the time to listen to them, the business customers. In short, success comes to service leaders who continuously align their service strategy with company business goals and objectives and ensure that all the moving pieces are integrated to achieve these desired, measurable business results. Service leaders use this success strategy to inspire themselves and motivate their teams to provide valued business services to their customers.  Remember, your customers are depending on you to make their voice heard and to defend them! Don’t let them down!

































BSM Survey 2011


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