Transforming Service through the radical reconceptualisation of Service

We are trapped in out-of-date limiting unhelpful concepts

In my last post I asserted that dead concepts are limiting how customer service, customer experience, customer-centricity show up.  My point was that what we see, how we see it, what we focus on, what we do and the results that show up cannot be ‘greater than’ the concept we live/act from.  I say that service sucks because our concept of service sucks.  Put differently given the existing concept of service that holds us prisoner it is enviable that service sucks.

In this post I want to put forth into the world radically new conceptualisations of service.  My intention is that these reconceptualisations will jolt you out of being prisoner to the existing conceptualisation of service that his holding your prisoner – even if you do not know that you are being held prisoner.

My intention is not only to shock you, it is also to give you openings to transform your relationship to service and thus transform the way that you and your organisation think about and act when it comes to service.  If you do that then there will be a transformation in the way that your service shows up for your customers.  Are your ready for this jolt?

Radical reconceptualisation 1: Maz Iqbal on Service

Service is a gift that one human being bestows on a fellow human being.  The fundamental basis and the desired outcome of Service is human dignity itself: honouring our shared humanity – the best of our shared humanity as in when we move-touch-inspire and elevate one another. The kind of humanity that can move us to tears of joy.

Service requires the calling forth of my humanity and putting it into the world.  And as such Service is founded on vulnerability.  My vulnerability in the sense of putting myself at risk for the sake/benefit of my fellow human being – I may be ignored as if I am an object and not  human being, I may be misinterpreted, I may be criticised, I may be rejected…  And my recognition of the vulnerability of the person I am serving: he could be out of his depth, place his trust in me to do the right thing by him; he could be in a bind and expose his vulnerability by asking me to bend the rules, to make an exception; he could be in a bind that he needs the job done and I know he will pay any sum I demand; he could be and often is vulnerable in so many ways.

Service necessitates that I be totally present in the present and to the presence of the person I am serving.  Only when such presence is present is it possible for me to be responsive to the need of the person I am serving – modulating my being, my actions, my speaking and my listening such that I show up as ‘caring’ and ‘trustworthy’ in the world of the person I am serving.

Service comes forth most easily from those of us who get joy, fulfilment, satisfaction out of reaching out and touching the lives of our fellow human beings, for the better.

It is critical to get that Service is a mode of being in the world, a certain state of consciousness, it cannot be faked: if I am in this state of being then the majority of techniques and tricks that are usually imparted through training are unnecessary; if I am not in this state of being then all the techniques and tricks will not make enough of a difference for me to show up as being caring in the world of the person I am serving.”

Radical reconceptualisation 2: Werner Erhard on Service

“My notion about service is that service is actually that kind of relationship in which you have a commitment to the person. What I mean, in fact, is that for me what service is about is being committed to the other being. To who the other person is.

To the degree that you are, in fact, committed to the other person, you are only as valuable as you can deal with the other person’s stuff, their evidence, their manifestation, and that’s what’s service is about. Service is about knowing who the other person is and being able to tolerate giving space to their garbage. What most people do is is to give space to people’s quality and deal with their garbage. Actually, you should do it the other way around. Deal with who they are and give space to their garbage.

Keep interacting with them as if they were God. And every time you get garbage from them, give space to garbage and go back and interact with them as if they were God.”

My question of you

Are you up for transforming service?  Are you up for being a leader when in the area of service and through service generating the kind of loyalty you crave?  If you are then I have provided you with two openings.  I can hear you thinking that it is not easy, it is a BIG ask.  Yes it is.

Let me share a secret with you: one of the keys to Jobs success was the ‘reality distortion field’ – not being bound by people’s existing concepts of ‘reality’ and ‘what is possibility’.  Jobs was a master of inventing, projecting, living into and from the possibilities that he created in the face of no agreement from just about everyone around him.  Do you have that kind of passion, that kind of courage?  Leadership requires both the ability to invent radical-inspiring possibilities and the passion-courage to act, to make them real.

How to profit by taking on more of your customer’s risks

What is the core of the human condition?  If you dig down deep enough you might just find that most of us feel vulnerable and strive for security.  In our social lives we minimise our vulnerability and build up our sense of security by cultivating relationships with people we can trust.  In our business lives we strive to do the same: do business with people and organisations we can trust.

One of the major causes of us feeling vulnerable is uncertainty.  Uncertainty makes us feel uneasy: it exposes us to risk and most of us are risk averse.  Research studies show that most of us will pay a premium to minimise risk – to outsource it to someone else.  The entire insurance industry is founded on this understanding.   Chris Zane has built a successful cycle business through a deep understanding of this principle: he provides a lifetime guarantee!  Zappos have flourished by exploiting this principle: their generous returns policies take the risk (and cost) out for customers.  In return customers happily pay a premium.  This is the reward these companies earn for taking risk out of their customer’s lives.

What am I saying?  People buy products.  People buy services.  People also buy security: peace of mind.   You can build stronger bridges with prospects and customers by taking out risk and replacing it with peace of mindAnd you can make more money!

If you are inspired to provide this peace of mind then might want to make use of some of the insights that Ernest Dichter, consumer behaviourist, came up with back in the 1950s.  He identified that there are at least five dimensions of risk every time someone makes a purchase:

  • Economic – am I wasting my money making this purchase?
  • Functional – will this product work reliably?  Will I get the quality of service I am being promised?
  • Social – what will other people think of me in buying this ‘product’ and doing business with this company?
  • Physical – will this be painful?
  • Psychological – will I think poorly of myself?

When you think about it this way you can get why quality and reliability make such a big impact on customers: quality and reliability makes your customers feel safe.  You can see why good design commands a premium: good design makes us look good in our eyes and in others eyes.  You can see why price counts and why people search out deals: it makes us feel intelligent and good about ourselves.  In the current economic climate price is particularly important as it also gives us bragging rights. 

Now let me ask you two questions.  In your customer experience design efforts what are you doing to take out these risks?  Does your customer strategy make use of risk as a key leverage point?