Service focus. Is it a hill to fight for?

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In your travels, you have probably read or heard the words “service focus,” and you may have been left wondering what service focus means.

These days, you will see the words customer focused or employee focused or product focused or maybe even profit focused bantered about. They all have to do with what is prioritized as the key driver of a business, and most of the time, the current flavor of the day urges us to be more customer or employee focused. And while there was a time when I would have rallied troops for that, my thinking has moved on, but only on a slightly divergent path.

Take customer focus. It means your organization puts the customer at its center and makes every decision with them in mind, and I am not against that in any way, but there is a problem with it. You see, that thinking leaves some key stakeholders out of the equation. What about your employees? Want about your suppliers, the community, and your investors? Don’t all of those interests matter?

By putting all our eggs in the customer basket, we potentially renege on our responsibility to other parties who are equally necessary to making the whole ecosystem run.

What I propose is a different focus? How about making service the focus? This would make “how can we best serve the well-being of all of our stakeholders?” the key question for our businesses.

Think about it. With service as the driver, we would think differently. Instead of trading off what’s good for one at the expense of another, we would be looking for solutions that attempt to do what’s best for all parties. We would, in effect, be focused on serving, or helping, others, all others. This is what service focus is all about. It is a focus on serving the needs of people regardless of who those people are.

With a service focus, a business can truly bring the executives-serve-managers-so-managers-can-best-serve-front-liners-so-front-liners-can-best-serve-customers-so-customers-can-serve-the-business formula to life. Imagine how that might boost things. Think of how that might make employees, customers, investors, and all the other stakeholders happy.

However, it would require some tough love in many circumstances. For example, when a decision has to be made that benefits customers but slows bottom-line growth, it might be a tough pill for investors but when they are educated in the long-term potential of the decision, the pill goes down easier. Believe me, when I was a kid, my mom and dad made many a decision that, in the short term, looked terrible to me, but, as I matured, it became clear that the long-term benefit far outweighed what looked very inviting in the nearer term.

Again, service focus is about considering stakeholders in decisions and doing what’s best for as many as possible. It is not always achievable and requires some difficult choices, but, in the end, when everyone realizes that the business is doing its best to be good stewards, trust is increased even when there are losses.

So, service focus, is it a fool’s errand or is it the answer to so many ills? I tend to believe and hope for the latter and am willing to make it the hill I will fight for. Come with me, we will fight together.

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2 thoughts on “Service focus. Is it a hill to fight for?

  1. Very interesting and refreshing perspective. I had to have a “tough love” conversation between my boss (a DVP) and my Sales Manager last week regarding a refund to a customer. Not because we failed at serving, but because we prepared for something that never happened.
    What was the “right” thing to do for everybody?

    It’s an ongoing and “live” discussion, where there’s no “one size fits all” solution.
    That’s why I love this career. It’s the ongoing challenge to find the right solution.

    • One size rarely fits all. I think the best thing is to always look for what helps the most people. In other words, as few tradeoffs as possible.
      Additionally, without knowing the details, it is hard for me to be able to give any substantive advice but I know you Dave and I am sure you are doing something that has integrity.

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