By Bill Pollock, chief research officer, The Service Council, www.theservicecouncil.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
What are you doing to take your service to the next level?
For field services organizations, “going for the gold” may mean very different things. For some, it may mean nothing more than struggling to generate increased service revenue (i.e. “gold”). For others, it may mean attempting to upsell existing service level agreement (SLA) accounts from “bronze” to “silver” to “gold” levels (is anyone out there still offering “platinum”-level services?). However, another good way to define “gold” levels of service performance is to compare your organization to the athletes striving for their own version of “gold” — an Olympic gold medal!
The Olympic and the services communities share many things in common, ranging from striving to attain perfection to generating a profit after the scheduled event is over. However, they also share another very important attribute in that both communities typically go into an event (e.g. a 200-meter freestyle or an on-site service call, etc.) with some pre-event expectations.
For example, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are, arguably, the world’s two best swimmers and, as such, are going into the 2012 Olympics with extremely high expectations. However, they both cannot win the same event. Nonetheless, the expectations are high for each swimmer — even before they arrive in London
The same situation also exists for services organizations. If your organization is one of the larger ones in the field or has won numerous performance awards, the community will expect it to perform like a world-class provider (i.e. one that is able to meet its customers’ total service needs while delivering world-class levels of performance). By performing reasonably well in the past, the marketplace will expect you to also perform well — and even better — in the future. The bar is constantly being raised.
For Michael Phelps, the defending Olympic champion in the 200-meter freestyle and the 200 individual medley, the prospect of not winning several gold medals is unthinkable. He has done it before, but may not be able to reprise his past performances. The same applies to Ryan Lochte, winner of both world titles in 2011, although Lochte’s bar will still need to be raised in order for his Olympic aspirations to be fully realized. In any event, each race is expected to be decided by hundredths of a second — little difference determining the best from the also-ran.
By the time this column is published, it is also likely that only one of the big three gymnastics favorites (i.e. Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, and Alicia Sacramone) will even make the Olympic team! Merely having the goods does not assure that the community will welcome you — and it is exactly the same for services organizations.
Even Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, cannot be expected to win every race in which he competes. This year he’s even got competition from his own country, as well as some residual baggage for having jumped the gun in a previous race. Nonetheless, just as in the services business (as well as on Broadway), sometimes it’s time for the understudy to excel — and finally get recognized.
The Role Of Social Media In Service
Finally, in this year’s Olympics, social media will be expected to take on a much more prominent role. Most of the major Olympic events will take place between 2 and 5 p.m. EDT, during normal working days, as well as in peak hours (or prime time). As a result, social media including Twitter, FaceBook, and independent blogs are likely to take up the slack that the major networks cannot accommodate — all in real time! Once again, the similarities between the Olympics and the services community abound.
Just as many Olympians are encouraged by their trainers to communicate often — and in real time — with their supporters and fans, so must the services community adapt to the practical uses and applications of the available social media. It is truly time to recognize that social media is not merely an acquired taste, but a way of life — especially when it comes to communicating about service.
The 2012 Summer Olympics are just about to begin, but already, athletes from all over the world are preparing for the next summer games four years away. All of the medalists for these upcoming games will ultimately win their respective races by first choosing a field, then acquiring the necessary resources, preparing for the race, and aggressively moving forward. This is how most services organizations have historically approached service, especially with respect to meeting — and exceeding — customer requirements. However, you won’t necessarily need to see a medal draped around your neck to recognize good service — you simply need to perform at a level of performance that is higher than an ever-raising bar.