Service Leadership: 3 Reasons the C-Suite Must Listen to Service
If you’re reading this blog, it is safe to say you have some interest in service and most likely field service. These topics are clearly of interest to me as I continue to find new ways that service is being leveraged to drive measureable growth for the organizations I study (i.e., OEMs, service providers). So we all understand the value and importance of service excellence, but often times our organizations as a whole don’t see the same story. This divide often times negatively affects the ability for service to gain budget for new technology or resources. Buy-in is integral to business and without a service story which resonates across the organization, service will continue to suffer in its silo.
In Aberdeen’s recent research on the State of Service Managment, 42 C-level executives were sampled and the top three challenges they highlighted as a barrier to increased investment in service were – 1) lack of visibility into value of service, 2) lack of budget for investment in service, 3) economic concerns hindering service business growth.
What is interesting is these first two concerns are areas that the C-suite can control if in fact they saw the exponential growth opportunity in service. So how do we, as service advocates, get the C-suite to listen? I think there are three key areas that will help prove the case for executives to not only listen to service, but ultimately invest in this function for the betterment of the entire organization:
Competition is not waiting for you to excel. In Aberdeen’s recent research on the State of Service, the top pressure facing organizations is increased competition both in products and service (52% of respondents, n = 170). Competition outranks the pressures of shrinking margins, reduced customer spending, and product complexity to be at the forefront of the concern for organizations. Part of the reason for increased competitive factors is customers no longer have a sense of eternal loyalty to a manufacturer. This isn’t a lowest cost provider challenge, but it is a value-add proposition which organizations need to fight with. Therefore, organizations and leaders who neglect service will quickly see the erosion of revenues as the product is a single sell but service is a recurring interaction which can provide value to the customer and your competitors sees this shift.
Service can sell itself. There has been much debate as to whether or not the service team should be in the business selling either through up-sell or cross-sell. The concept of ‘everyone sells’, even the service technicians, has lost some steam in many organizations. Technicians are really good at solving service problems efficiently, but many are not equipped or interested in being a sales person in the field. Also, many service teams don’t want to change the dynamic with the customer to cloud it with a sales pitch. However, technicians are often the closest employee to the customer, and they also have the ability to be a hero solving a customer problem. This relationship is a powerful one and should not be wasted away. Therefore, savvy organizations and leaders look to the service team to identify future sales opportunities and bring that “lead” back into the organization for someone else within the organization to close.
Profitable innovation should come from service and not only engineering. Many organizations focus on engineering, design, and marketing teams to create future innovations in products. C-level executives often have no problem green-lighting new products based on the dreams of these teams. But as detailed earlier, who is closer to the customer than the service technician? These service teams, if trained appropriately, can be the eyes in the field to identify gaps in functionality or opportunities for enhancement. And what makes this insight invaluable is it is actually what customers would want and not a test case in the lab or think-tank. No executive wants an investment to fall flat because customers are not willing to buy, and thus having first-hand intelligence on the needs of the market by the service team can lead to more profitable innovations.
Once these opportunities are communicated to the executive team there should be no excuse for service to be neglected from a resource and investment perspective. Leaders need a compelling story and business case for any investment. And often times, service lacks the ability to link clear returns from its relationship with solving customer issues. Service, and specifically field service, is the value engine that drives profitability for many organizations, but if the service story is not told to the executive team it will continue to be bypassed for increased investment. Don’t get left behind.