On Discovering The Soul Of Service

I recently finished reading Discovering The Soul Of Service – The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success – by Leonard L. Berry.

Leonard summarizes the main premise of this book as: “My purpose in this book is to identify, describe, and illustrate the underlying drivers of sustainable success in service businesses. Creating a successful service operation is unquestionably a difficult task. However, sustaining success can be even more difficult. Services are performances, and the challenge of sustaining the performers’ energy, commitment, skills, and knowledge day after day, week after week. month after month, year after year—especially as the organization grows and becomes more complex—is daunting. The greater the involvement of people in creating value for customers, the greater the challenge. This is a book on the lessons 14 outstanding service companies teach about sustainable success. And the lessons they teach are clear indeed. Although the sample companies differ on the outside – the nature, size, and structure of their businesses—to a remarkable degree they are the same on the inside, sharing the drivers of their ongoing success.”

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Three specific challenges in sustaining success are accentuated in enterprises that create value for customers primarily through services. The more labor-intensive the services, the greater the challenges of: operating effectively while growing rapidly, operating effectively when competing on price, retaining the initial entrepreneurial spirit of the younger, smaller company.”

2- “A set of core values permeates the high-performance service companies studied for this book. These values are remarkably consistent among the companies. The values of excellence, innovation, joy, teamwork, respect, integrity, and social profit underlie the ongoing success of the sample firms. Unchanging, these core ideals, principles. and philosophies define the very soul of these dynamic companies.”

3- “Values-driven leaders continually convey by their words and actions the meaning of success. They not only make palpable the dream (where we are going, why we are going there), they define the indicators of progress (how we know we are getting there). A key factor in sustaining success is combining a compelling dream that inspires commitment with a success definition that is reinforcing rather than contradicting.”

4- “A smaller group of companies has been able to sustain high levels of service performance and continue to improve. What they hold in common is a strong set of values that tap into employees’ own core values, and a strong set of leaders who teach model, and cultivate the values. Values-driven leadership sustains the high discretionary efforts of human beings to individually and collaboratively achieve and gives root to the eight other success drivers § discussed in the remainder of this book.”

5- “Brilliant strategy is insufficient to drive sustained success. The total product that customers experience from a company is its strategy executed. A poorly executed strategy openly invites competitors to imitate the strategy, execute better, and take away the business. Excellent service companies not only have focused strategies, but they also focus on execution. They continually raise their standards of service delivery and constantly strive for perceived superiority over competitors.”

6- “Control of destiny is largely attitudinal. If sufficiently determined. companies need not relinquish control of their future to other parties. If they do not allow the lure of growth to impede operational effectiveness, if they stay totally focused on creating superior  value for customers, if they continually strive to get better than they are— companies can control their future.”

7- “Trust-based customer relationships honor these friendship rules. Excellent service companies may not have a personal relationship with their customers, but they are effective in personalizing service transactions and counteracting the anonymity that customers so often experience with companies. Relationship companies look for ways to please their customers, to do something extra or special for them, just as friends would do for one another. As in friendships, relationship companies do not take advantage of customers. They respect, honor, and trust them. They value the relationship and invest time, effort, and money in strengthening it.”

8- “Customers can teach companies how they want to be served. Relationship companies that capture and use this knowledge make it more difficult for customers to leave the relationship.”

9- “The initial days and weeks of employment offer a wide-open window for learning about the company’s values, traditions, history, strategy, customers. competitors, policies, and procedures. Like actors on a stage, service providers need to know the play; to perform their role well, they need to know where their part fits in the overall performance.”

10- “How can service companies that depend on energized, resourceful. committed people to deliver value to customers reap the benefits of smallness when no longer small? The answer lies in a blend of values-driven leadership, innovative structure, customer- and employee-focused information technology, and ownership attitudes.”

11- “The sample companies are strategic in their generosity. They not only are extraordinarily generous, they are effectively generous. Rather than giving for the sake of giving, they invest with a plan in mind, with 1 long-term goal. Rather than spreading their resources thinly in numerous initiatives, they concentrate their resources to have a powerful impact and make a meaningful difference. Rather than investing time, energy, and money outside the mainstream of their business, they invest in concert with the business’s overall purpose and strategy. Thus, generous acts not only benefit society, they benefit the company too, seating a stronger company and enabling more generous acts in the future.”

12- “Values-Driven Leadership: Humane organizational values sustain human excellence. Stable leadership stabilizes values. Values-driven leadership propels all other success sustainers…Strategic Focus: Constancy of purpose leads customer value creation. Strategic focus inspires innovation…Executional Excellence: A well-executed strategy diminishes opportunity for competitors. Attracting great people is the first rule of execution…Control of Destiny: Pursue success on your own terms…Trust-Based Relationships: Sustaining service success requires trust…Investment in Employee Success: Investing in the performer contributes to the performance…Acting Small: In services, acting small is big. High touch and high tech are mutually supportive…Brand Cultivation: Branding the company means performing the service…Generosity: Generosity drives service success.”

 

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Discovering The Soul Of Service

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