For thirteen years, I’ve been part of a service organization. This journey has taken me from being the one that has directly provided the service to being someone that now manages a team of collaborators (employees) whose work impacts businesses with different needs and from a wide variety of segments. From engineering, design, marketing and IT, I’ve seen that some common principles apply to successfully serving others and to really making your organization stand out. Moreover, I’ve experienced how these same principles become part of your competitive advantage, mostly because values like sustainability, responsibility and uprightness can’t be easily copied if you don’t genuinely believe in them.
Below I share what I believe are the three (3) key principles to aspire to excellent service. They’ve worked for me and my partners while building a service company from the ground up and hope they will help you in your job of serving others adequately.
Collaborators come first
Your collaborators are the center of your service. They are the ones responsible for carrying out your vision and living by the values that your organization believes in. Given the importance of their role, understanding their personal and professional objectives, as well as making sure that you provide them with the appropriate support to achieve them is key. You can’t have great service with unhappy and worried collaborators.
My experience has been that you need to check often and analyze how strong the relationship between them and your organization is; that way you will always be able to take steps to correct mistakes that may be hindering that relationship. At GBH, a technology company I co-founded and serve as Managing Director, we measure this every trimester and annually engage in updating our collaborators objectives. Moreover, we have designed individual career paths for each so that we can support their continuous development and education – which is usually part of their objectives. Sometimes you may believe income is the only factor that individuals are looking for, and even though that is sometimes true, it is mostly not the case.
Empathy is at center of service
“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” – Henry Ford
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is important for every relationship and most important if you’re providing services. The only way to anticipate people – which is of importance for service providers – is if you’re constantly trying to understand how others think and making sure that your actions are aligned with those thoughts and feelings.
Companies in the service industry that operate with empathy will find themselves proposing changes to customer-designed solutions, and introducing new approaches that provide an improved outcome, aligned with the vision and objectives the customers are after. Regularly these changes might result in inferior revenue for the service company. However, I believe that revenue is the result of doing things right as well as doing the right things. If you focus on revenue as the epicenter of your philosophy then your value is money, nothing else; at some point, that won’t lead you to make correct and upright decisions.
As you will see in the next principle, the biggest reward for those who provide great service is the impact they cause to whom they serve. In our company, for example, we always celebrate with passion our customer’s victories and achievements; not just because we were part of the ideation process or execution but because we feel part of them.
Being fully vested
Providing good service requires those who serve to be fully vested. For me, that translates into completely understanding the vision and values of the organization that you’re serving. It is in that context that you can really deliver value and is when your own business failures or successes come at play as well as the lessons learned from those previous experiences.
Whenever you engage a new customer you need to know their reason to exist, the way they execute their work and what they do; in that order. This knowledge is what would allow you to effectively serve. In my opinion, you need to be inspired and guided with your customer’s vision (their why) so that every collaborator working with them can make decisions that are aligned with what they – your customer – stands for. Through this process, you will also create meaningful relationships between individuals and a fellowship that erases distance boundaries as well as the feeling of working with an external entity.
Understanding the vision creates deep synergies and is what I believe ultimately drives excellent results. For me and GBH, the value of understanding the vision has a positive impact on productivity and outcomes. The first because everyone is thinking in the same terms and can easily be in sync. In the same way, improved outcomes will come because all the decisions and output will have instilled with the core values as well as customer’s projected direction.
Getting interested to that level – why, how and what – also means that the service organization can’t work with just anyone; those that act opposite to your own values won’t make it past the door or, if they’re faking their values, won’t last long as part of your portfolio. In contrast, if you choose to serve organizations that share most of your core values, they become your strongest advocates and partners.
The future of service is seamless integration
The future of service lays in the ability of companies to provide ubiquity additional to expected quality and technical expertise in their interactions. This translates into being flexible: not being dogmatic about processes and tools, team structure and indicators. At the same time, bringing forward past experiences in a non-pervasive way to improve work processes. In my experience, to achieve this you need to take care of your collaborators and develop them, be empathic in the work you do and be immersed in your customer’s vision and values.