“Service” historically has referred to a business function or a type of work performed by call center professionals and field technicians. At the core, “service” has focused on solving problems, cleaning up messes and patching what’s broken to keep customers satisfied. It’s also been viewed as a cost of doing business.

What if we flipped that script? What would change when an organization shifts focus from fixing to predicting, putting service at the heart of the business? I’ll answer these questions with two sets of examples.

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Service will go from being a cost of doing business to a cornerstone of the business.

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First, imagine being in an elevator that suddenly malfunctions. You call for help, and eventually a technician comes to troubleshoot the mechanical issue. Even if the technician does a fantastic job, you’re probably not going to look back on being stuck between floors as the high point of your day. That’s today’s version of “service.”

Now imagine riding in an elevator with service embedded into its design. For example, it was built with IoT sensors continuously communicating about how parts are functioning, and which ones require attention. In this new version of service, mechanical problems are addressed before they can impact any aspect of your experience.

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As another example, think about the last time you contacted your cable and Internet provider about an issue with your service. If the problem couldn’t be solved remotely, you likely had to schedule an appointment for a technician to visit your home in person. In the new version of service, cable and Internet “products” will offer such precise telemetry that the provider can proactively identify and address issues long before you even notice. In fact, the technicians who came to your home will now be working largely behind the scenes to ensure you never experience a glitch. Any representative who comes to your home will be there not to fix something but to serve as your personal concierge who helps optimize your experience so you’re getting even more value from the services.

In short, when we flip the script, service will be less about reacting to today’s issues and interactions and more about turning moments into meaningful experiences. Just as important, service will go from being a cost of doing business to a cornerstone of the business.

Start with three strategic priorities

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how nimble the traditional service function can be. It also demonstrated that all aspects of the business need to be just as agile in the face of new challenges and opportunities – and just as focused on customers and their needs.

As the elevator and cable examples illustrate, that requires an organization to infuse service in all aspects of the business. To get there, consider three strategic priorities:

  1. Examine the human elements. To turn moments into memories, you must deeply understand customers’ mindsets, behaviors and preferences. And to weave service into the fabric of your organization, you must build a culture and create ways of working that make service second nature. You also need a talent model that reflects the shifts that will occur when you begin to take a more predictive, proactive approach.

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  2. Rethink how you use technology. This version of service will take much more than a CRM system or an AI chatbot. It’s time to explore how virtual or augmented reality could revolutionize your customer experience (for example, offering a “showroom” experience in your mobile app), or how you might use 3D printers within your facilities (or even inside your customers’ homes!) to revolutionize your supply chain.
  3. Update your P&L. Traditional structures limit collaboration, yet cross-collaboration is precisely what’s required for proactive, predictive service. Service can no longer be the sole purview of the customer service function or reps in your call centers. Service must become part of how your engineers design products and your manufacturing professionals produce them. Quite literally every role and function has a part to play, and the P&L structure should encourage and reward shared success.

The ability to deliver this new version of service is what will distinguish leaders and innovators. The methods and tools are available to get started. Are you ready to flip the script?

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See more on Customer insights.

Dawn Anderson

Senior Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Customer Global Lead​

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