Article | August 11, 2017

The Evolution Of The Service Leader: How Essential Skills Are Changing

By John Hamilton, President, Service Strategies Corporation

The Evolution Of The Service Leader: How Essential Skills Are Changing

If you examine the profile of successful service leaders, you will find that there is no single qualification or degree to attribute to their success. In most cases, today’s leaders got there through some degree of luck, plus the school of hard knocks, while rising through the ranks in various service organizations. Looking forward, what got the current service leaders where they are today won’t necessarily be sufficient for the service leaders of the future.

This is largely due to “The New Economy.” The most immediate threat to product-centric businesses in the new economy is commoditization (products are becoming similar causing competitive pressures, ultimately lowering prices which shrink margins and company profitability). As a survival strategy, many product-based companies are making dramatic changes. These companies are developing a new strategic paradigm, which includes investing in their service business and offering more client-centric solutions which bundle services with their product to solve industry or client-specific business issues. The ultimate objective is to drive real customer success. Overall revenues and margins from this type of business model far exceed the traditional product dominant approach. 

In this new economy, the service function has a much higher profile and plays a more critical role in the longevity of the corporation. Consequently, the service leader of the future must have higher-level skills to set strategy and guide the organization as they transition to this new business model.

Vital Characteristics Of The New Service Leader

It is becoming more evident that the elements that have historically defined the attributes of a successful service leader in the past are not the same attributes that will be required by service leaders to be successful in the future.  As the service industry continues to evolve, the service leader function is much more essential to keep customers, create loyalty, and prevent churn. 

To illustrate this point, let’s look at the typical description of a service leader:

  • Minimum of 15 years service management experience
  • Strong customer service knowledge
  • Decision maker
  • Fulfill contractual service commitments
  • Responsible for service quality and customer satisfaction
  • Manage employee performance 

These attributes outline the profile of a typical service leader’s job description that has been used for the past five to 10 years. It may even be a typical description that you would see in job descriptions currently posted for a service leader.

In order for the role of service leader to adapt to the reality of the new economy, the requirements of the position have changed and will continue to change. Here are the new attributes for a successful service leader of the future:

  • Embrace the potential of diversity: In addition to leaders that are effective at managing employee performance, they also must be able to unlock the potential of a diverse team
  • Cultivate all business relationships: Not only will a service leader be expected to develop their team but they also must be able to cultivate all business relationships 
  • Be a fearless decision maker: In addition to service leaders needing to be able to effectively make strategic business decisions, they need to be a fearless decision maker (this includes taking risk, making mistakes, quickly course correcting when they do make mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and never hiding or blaming others for the decisions they make) 
  • Have strong knowledge of all disciplines: Not only will a service leader be expected to be the expert for their service domain for the entire company, they will also need to have more knowledge on other disciplines like finance, IT, marketing, and HR
  • The ability to bring a vision to life: In addition to a service leader that can create a vison, companies must have a service leader that can bring that vision to life  
  • Capacity to learn and grow: Finally, the service leader of the future cannot sit back and ride the wave of their experience and knowledge. As we have illustrated, everything is changing; the economy, the service industry, and how to lead the new generations. As these changes take place, the service leader of the future must be both able and willing to learn and grow and invest time to stay up to date on trends to gain more knowledge and to continue to be an effective leader

A new educational program for Service Leaders has been developed and will launch in October 10-13, 2017. Service Strategies Corporation developed this unique four-day program based on input from many