The Thinking Service Professionals

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Home > Articles > The Thinking Service Professionals

 The Thinking Service Professionals

Seow Bee Leng | Today's Manager
September 2, 2019

Achieving superior quality service means that customers need to be engaged on a daily basis.

What is your service culture? Is it one in which all service professionals are on a relentless drive towards achieving not just superior quality service, but on a consistent basis? To achieve quality service culture, staff needs to explore essential service attributes such as warm, caring, professional, proactive, and dedicated to name a few. Working in a fast-paced environment brings with it the stress of coping with many demands, sometimes coming from internal customers (colleagues) from different functional teams. Being able to cope with these expectations is all part of the training in resilience and perseverance. The service professionals need to have the strength and the courage to rise to new challenges.

The service professionals need to stay relevant and not to have their jobs taken over by a robot or automated by artificial intelligence (AI). In 2017, international management consulting firm McKinsey released a report warning that 800 million workers could be replaced by machines by 2030. To dive deeper to this concern, what are the new service ideas that can “w.o.w.” your customers to “win-own-woo” them in today’s (not tomorrow’s) changing and competitive world? One of the key imperatives for service quality is to look at the changing customer needs and ways to meet these needs, including how the service professionals can better provide the level of quality service that customers expect.

While the first impression still counts and is vital, customers want thinking staff and not robotic service staff. They want meaningful engagements packed with intelligent conversations, and not information that they can easily retrieve from the Internet themselves. Cultivating a deepening and growing conversation with the target customer segment becomes increasing crucial in the customer lifecycle with the business. Incremental improvements to the current services and processes will not be enough to break away from the competition. To differentiate from the competition and stay relevant, a strategically coined “The Thinking Service Professional” will be an opportunity to explore.

Think Total
Total customer experience is used to describe the relationship a customer has with a business. It begins with how the customer first interacts with the organisation up to the present moment. Some creative service providers are looking even beyond that point, as in looking at ways to interact with the customer even when he is not intending to use their services in the near future. Thus, the total customer experience is not limited to what is within the brick-and-mortar service environment. To achieve the total customer experience, the service provider needs to work with all other functions in the service chain to get it going. For example, a customer that has his/her lost baggage while transiting at the airport will not have an overall great experience, even if the inflight service is excellent. A patient waiting for a long time for the doctor consultation, treatments, and medicine collection will be fuming if he is not informed of the progress status while waiting. A big quantum leap in service quality can be achieved through the integrated workings of the different departments and look at the customer experience in totality.

Think Personalised
A trend among many companies is looking at Customer Relationship Management (CRM) which allows the ability to uniquely identify and satisfy the needs of every individual customer. Most organisations have processes and procedures to standardise and maintain their level of service. For a quantum breakthrough in service, an opportunity will be to leverage off this foundation to build a service that is not built as a standard service, but for each and every unique customer. For example, the needs of a customer who is alone on business travel, is very much different from one that is traveling with his/her family on holidays. The key point is whether the service provider can think out-of-the-box in order to achieve the aim of thinking of the customer as a unique individual and provide them with a high-touch personalised service. Interesting examples will be GrabFood, Food Panda, and Deliveroo which offer fast delivery of the best local restaurants direct to people’s doors. The customers can select popular restaurants and track their orders and estimated time on their mobile phone. The powerful predictive technology of machine learning helps to predict the time it will take to prepare a meal and streamline the delivery experience. The system captures the customer’s dining needs and interests and correctly provides future\ recommendations personalise specially for him/her.

Think Timeliness
Competition is moving forward as others continuously sought after the first-mover advantage and differentiation. With innovations in technology and business processes, product life cycles and time to market is getting shorter. Lack of timeliness and decisions may result in lost opportunities to engage the target customer segment. In the new economy, some decisions may have to be made even when all the information are not in. Calculated risk-taking and ability to think beyond will be part of the thinking service professional’s mindset. Though service scripts are prepared for the frontline and contact centre staff, are we trying to fit a square peg into a round hole in some exceptional, yet recurring cases? The thinking service professionals are not recruited to repeat the same service scripts to all the different customers they serve. The customers can easily sense service staff who are busy opening their mouths to rattle off scripts, but their ears remain closed and their hearts hardened.

Service professionals can be and need to have their passion reignited to the same levels as to when they first joined the company. In their daily service work, they become a voice of joy to serve and truly shine rather than a mere echo. A good start to groom the thinking service professionals is to place them in an empathetic position to think about how they want to be treated as customers themselves in order to better serve their customers. How do you want to be treated when you need to contact the organisation with a concern? What is important to you? The thinking service professionals open their eyes to gain insights to new ways of relating and serving. They are joyful, open, and keep things moving. To re-energise the service, frontline staff are not to be overloaded and distracted with long to-do lists, time-consuming reports, and forms completion which can be streamlined. Such demands are eroding the precious contact time with their customers. Being pre-occupied by many administrative tasks may bring stress and frustration to the customer experience where the service staff plays a directing role. Focus is the beginning of empowerment. Strategically, service planning needs to look into how the service professionals are focussing their energies in their customer experience. They need to be rejuvenated to be focussed to serve while thinking on expanding the new possibilities to engage their customers and broadening the reach.

To sum up in a revealing two-way question:

Do you care about your service? and

Do you care for your service professionals?

To be thinking service professionals, what needs to change is what we care about. It is only when we care about our service, then we are willing to take action to engage our customers on a daily and consistent basis.


Dr Seow Bee Leng, Service Excellence Evangelist—Continuum Learning Pte Ltd is passionate to serve with love and joy; and empowering others do the same. The adult learners go back to their service work knowing they can make a difference. As part of her social contributions, she started S.A.L.T.—Serve And Learn Together, for great conversations and community engagements. Dr Seow is the author of “To Serve With Love” and “S.E.R.V.E.TM : Empower Yourself, Empower Others and Make a Difference.”


Copyright © 2019 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 3, 2019

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