What are the first steps I can take to make service-focus the priority in my company?

If you are a professional who understands that the age of experience is upon us, you most likely know that your company needs to focus on service excellence or find itself behind the times. However, you may have also found that building this new cultural mindset is difficult. But don’t let that stop you. Don’t lose heart. This kick-starter is here to help.

In this article, I will get you started growing a service-focused mindset in your organization.

Here is what we will cover:

  • Your part in the effort.
  • How to start the movement.
  • The importance of keeping your resolve and not giving up.

Your Part in the Effort

It is likely that the leaders in your company believe they care enough about service and will see no need to do anything different, so posting a 99 thesis about the need to prioritize service on the boardroom door will likely have no impact. However, you know, based on what you see and hear daily, that it is more probable that behind closed doors, your leaders “care” goes more like this, “Service is very important to this company … provided it doesn’t interfere with sales, efficiencies, or the bottom line.”

So, with that in mind, as you are a forward-thinking maverick and want your company to thrive by moving its mindset to something more service focused, you are now in the unenviable position of driving this mission yourself.

Now, while this reality may be giving you second thoughts, you need to get hold of yourself. Maybe you are a middle manager or just employee #100 and feel you should just go back to your cubicle and do your job. Well, whatever you do, do not sell yourself short. Anyone, regardless of role, can bring about change, and it’s change that moves organizations forward. And in this age where experiences rule the roost, companies need to change their priorities to accommodate that. Thus, your company desperately needs your voice, whether it knows it or not. A few revolutionaries, like you, willing to do the work of making the company more relevant to the times is just the prescription the organization requires to evolve.

So, if you are still with me, your company thanks you, and we can get started.

How to Start the Movement

Developing a service-focused mindset in a company takes a lot of time and persistent effort. It may take months, but more likely, quarters or even years, and it will take more people than just you. Thus, you need to get some followers and doing that means being able to talk about it. So, let’s get a little more clarity on what this service focus thing is all about.

Get Clear on Service Focus

While you may know that the nature of the business world is changing, and that developing a cultural mindset focused on service is critical in response to that, others may not, so you need to be able to talk clearly about what service focus means. Thus, you need to define it and become facile with why it is needed and how it can benefit the organization.

You can come up with your own definition or you can use mine. Here’s how I put it: service focus is when an organization makes it a priority for employees to best serve each other inside the organization so they can best serve people outside of it.

What this is getting at is this. Today, business is finding itself in the midst of an overall cultural shift from an Industrial Age, product-centric, wealth-creation mindset to an Experience Age, service-focused, value-creation mindset. This makes the delivery of good service more critical than ever, and you cannot successfully and consistently deliver it to people outside your organization if you do not deliver the same inside it as well. Thus, instead of so many other things being the company’s priority, service needs to move into first place.

Furthermore, this definition makes it clear that we are not aiming at a focus on customers, employees, or any other stakeholder, we are focusing on service itself because serving –being helpful– is something necessary in our relationships with all. In other words, we want to focus on service because when everyone is serving everyone, every stakeholder benefits. In fact, even our products and processes benefit because service focus can drive innovation around making those things more helpful to all who use them.

So, armed with clear thinking on service focus and an ability to talk about it, your next move is to begin building a small change-army to create a movement.

Find Allies

Recruiting for this “army” means searching for others who feel like you do. This is not as tough as it may sound. There are far more people who care about such things than you might think. Just start looking and listening and before you know it some like-minded souls will rear their heads. And don’t just head down to the Customer Support Department, that’s the obvious haven of compatriots, you need to find allies in other departments, and they are there in marketing, sales, and HR to name a few, you just need to get going and seek them out.

All you need to do is get talking, and you will be amazed at the number of people who share your belief in the importance of and need for an overall service mindset to make the company more successful. So, get together over lunch. Keep in touch via text, email, or networking apps. Share ideas. Start a book club. Just build excitement for a change to a more helpful company.

Take Action

You now have two tools in your toolbelt: 1) clarity on service focus and what you are trying to achieve, and 2) the backing of your new-found supporters. These tools set you up for the next step which involves determining how people can actively begin practicing service focus in their daily work.

One way to do this is to get together with your support group and start exploring what everyone needs to do in their role to bring your service-focus definition to life. A simple exercise for this begins by having everyone complete the following persona template that defines who people serve –regardless of whether they are internal or external, everyone serves someone— and gives some explanation for what that service requires.

  • My name is (give this persona a name to make them human)
  • And I am (this person’s role)
  • I want (what you provide for this person)
  • So I can (how this person uses what you provide)

If you can imagine someone in a Data Management Department filling this out, it might look like this…

  • My name is Jack,
  • And I am the VP of Sales for the NE Region.
  • I want the monthly sales reports by the 10th of each month
  • So I can present them to my sales team in my meeting on the 15th of each month.

When our data manager is armed with this clear picture of the person or persons they serve, they can better help them accomplish their goals. They know precisely what is needed, when it is needed, and how they can provide the most value. It might even prompt them to go above and beyond the basic need now that they have things in stark focus.

By getting everyone in your ally group, like our data manager, to clearly see who they serve and what they need to do to best serve them, you will begin seeing service focus and its benefits come to life. You will see a service mindset at play internally among teammates and externally among customers. This is what service focus is all about.

Now, if you are worried that someone in some level of authority will raise a worried eye, fear not, since the work here is not impeding anyone’s daily tasks, the movement should be able to proceed unhindered. You may even find some of those “authority” types interested in joining you.

Perhaps most important here is how doing this work gets mindsets aligned to serving others, builds excitement and momentum, and gets more people talking and interested in what’s going on. This growing energy will only make it easier to get management interested in taking more concrete, companywide action.

The importance of keeping your resolve and not giving up

In this short primer, I have endeavored to give you the first push toward making a change to more service focus in your organization. The challenge is a big one, I will not sugar coat that, but, once the momentum takes over, it will move on its own and get infused in the DNA of your supporters, a department, a division, and then, the entire company. And that’s your goal. However, as I said earlier, it will take time, and that may try your patience and drain your enthusiasm, but, like Britons said during WWII, “Keep calm and carry on.”

Change is slow and it creates anxiety. Regardless, stay steady and be clear in your resolve. If you don’t, nothing will happen, and your organization will languish in old thinking and possibly never reach its true potential.

While there is more to this change effort, what I have shared here is just enough to get you started. So, don’t wait, take the steps outlined here, and get going.

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