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The Service Council is About Humanity in Service

by Gregory Gibbs, Vice President of Global Customer Transformation, Service Council

In less than one week, the 2018 Smarter Services Symposium will be happening. Our theme for this year's Symposium is "Service is Humanity." This theme is not some marketing tactic, but truly embodies what the New Service Council is all about. Based upon the extensive research we have conducted through the years, as well as marketplace trends in process today, the importance placed on the human side of service is not to be overlooked nor its value be underestimated.

As automation and artificial intelligence permeate every part of the service delivery process, technology can override the focus on the human experience side of delivery to customers—a service differentiation through personal connections. Although critical to success in the service world of today, technology is only one side to the overall service differentiation equation. That other side is the service experience, the human touch element, which will at some point become a "Moment of Truth" in your customer’s experience with your product or service.

What Is the Service Council?

A community & information platform where global service executives sharpen strategy through:

Research and data


Analysis and Insights

Our Vision:

WE embrace the theme of "Service is Humanity," which highlights the value of holistic service to people, delivered with an optimal balance of people, process, technology and data. With service powered by the principle of the human touch, the customer experiences a consistent and enjoyable experience across every phase of the customer journey.

Our Mission:

We exist to help our Members find the optimal balance linking service profitability, innovation & delighted customers. We do this by:

  • Providing advisory services & business improvement methods to a diverse range of businesses, linking people, process, technology and data
  • Delivering Research Analysis & Insights tailored to our members needs, balanced with their organizational readiness
  • Connecting the Member community to executive peers, partners and influencers

Our Objectives:

  • Elevate and advance the dialogue around service to the level of strategic advantage
  • Provide a safe environment for the open and transparent knowledge-sharing amongst our Members and community

What We Value:

  • Community is Key: We live to connect others, to listen fully and to serve them with respect
  • Honesty & Integrity are Core: Our words are consistent with our actions. We build trust by trusting others
  • Credibility is Fundamental: We are straightforward, independent and objective, purposeful and impactful, thoughtful and thorough in what we do
  • We Welcome Challenge: Driven to excel, hard work and persistence result in surprising success—for our members and ourselves
  • We Act with Insight & Foresight: Our actions are grounded in knowledge from experience, acted upon with intuition
  • We Thrive by Learning & Growing: Continuously learning and improving on how we think, what we do and what we say

We hope you are planning to attend the 2018 Smarter Services Symposium! It will be attended by over 200 Service Industry executives and will include main stage speakers, the best-selling authors, Ron Kaufman ("Uplifting Service") and Joseph Pine, ("Experience Economy"). See you there!

- Sincerely, The Service Council Team

For more information on Service Council strategy and services, contact Greg Gibbs at

Have you registered for our upcoming Smarter Services™ Symposium? Register Now!

Filed under:  Customer experienceCustomer serviceEmployee satisfactionGlobal service strategyService leadershipService organizationService strategy 

Gregory Gibbs
Vice President of Global Customer Transformation,  Service Council

Small Wins to Achieve Your Strategy

by Gregory Gibbs, Vice President of Global Customer Transformation, Service Council

In a previous professional life, I was the manager of a variety of airport customer service operations for a major airline in its home city and largest operation. Hundreds of regional, transcontinental and international flights were handled each day at our airport. It was a complex operation, requiring the coordination of multiple departments and professional functions to get planes out and in the air on time and safely, coupled with top-notch customer service.

Baggage handling was one of those many important service functions. At one point in our history, our baggage handling was close to the lowest in the industry, with a an average of 12 mishandled bags ("PAWOBS," meaning "passengers without bags") per 1,000 passengers (PAX), while industry leaders were averaging no more than 2-3 mishandled bags per 1,000. Although I had only experience with local station baggage operations, I was assigned to fix the system problem and given the title of "System Baggage Director."

I really had no idea how to start, but the most logical thing was to for me meet with my new staff, the System Baggage team, and get their input. This staff handled the data for the purposes of bag tracking, delivery and, if a case was unsolved, the claims processing. This team was very capable and thorough in the required information processing associated with the role, as well as being very aware of the names and titles of who did what in bagging handling throughout our system of 72 cities in North America, Canada and Mexico. The data processing was a challenge though, in that their data was only as good as the people who completed the claims forms, a combination of the customer and the baggage service agent. And in many cases, the System Baggage team would not even see all claims, so their data base was neither complete nor 100% accurate.

When asked what they suspected were the biggest areas for improving in our baggage handling, they came up with their "Top 10 culprits." I also asked them about the time that our system baggage handling was in the top 3 in the industry and why they thought that was so. So we used their perspectives and the data they used on a daily basis, analyzed now with a filter of identifying patterns or trends, as well as conducting a few phone call interviews with other city baggage personnel and the team came to confirm most of the "Top 10." We also knew that because the poor system baggage performance didn’t come about overnight, it was not going to be solved overnight.

I have to admit, in looking back at this project, I was very fortunate not to have been given an unreasonable time frame to solve this problem. They just directed me to "go and fix that mess in system baggage!" This was especially important, as the gap between our current baggage performance and that of the top 3 in the industry was 4-fold—this was NOT going to be easy! I was also fortunate to have a team that had developed rapport with a key stakeholder group, the station manager who oversee their respective customer service operations, including baggage handling.

We decided that we were going to tackle this issue "one city and a time," in which we looked at the city pairs (cities between which airline flights occur) where the worst baggage handling performance occurred and worked with the respective city managers to ID the root causes for the poor performance. This sounds easy enough on the surface, but when data is not clear and reports are filled out from an agent’s perspective (and often a customer's perspective!) a lot of finger-pointing can occur.

To make this long story short, we were able to get over the hump of differing opinions and we found common ground on which we could collaborate to agree on the underlying causes and together, solve for them. We also established methods and agreed-upon responsibilities for much better communication around issues that come up in real time.

So, step-by-step, we improved the performance of one city pair, then another and another—over time, system baggage handling improved week by week. By the end of 90 days (yes, 90 days!) we had improved our overall baggage handling from 12 PAWOBS per 1,000 PAX to an average of 3 per 1,000. In another month, we improved to approximately 2.5 PAWOBS per 1,000 and were later nominated for the annual USA Today Quality awards for that year.

So why this long story that may not seem like it has anything to do with you? The answer is in the message of "focus on small wins and build upon them" and "use the knowledge of your line employees to solve for big problems." In his book, The Breakthrough Strategy, Robert H. Schaffer cites example after example of the use of "short-term successes to build the high performance organization." Schaffer defines a "breakthrough project" as one that uses "Zest" factors such as urgency, challenge, collaboration, and pride of achievement to:

…achieve tangible, bottom-line results in a short period of time—and that is carried out in ways that generate new management confidence and new management skills essential for further progress.

This strategy consists of locating and starting at once with the gains that can be achieved quickly, and then using those first successes as stepping stones to increasingly ambitious gains. And it involves leveraging the knowledge and expertise of employees at all levels to tackle the most pressing challenges for the organization.

In my airline experience, I was fortunate to have a team with a sense of urgency around the baggage issue, and they welcomed a challenge, were ready to cut through red tape, were proven collaborators, and were ready to achieve something great. There are people like that in your organization. Don’t overlook their value to helping you to achieve your strategic goals.

For more information on "small wins to achieve strategic success," please contact Greg Gibbs at

Have you registered for our upcoming Smarter Services™ Symposium? Register Now!

Filed under:  Deep learningEmployee engagementGlobal service strategyService business developmentService leadershipService strategy 

Gregory Gibbs
Vice President of Global Customer Transformation,  Service Council

Do You Really Understand Your Customer?

by Gregory Gibbs, Vice President of Global Customer Transformation, Service Council

In the 2017 Service Council survey, Digital Transformation for the Service Enterprise, we asked service leaders about their organization’s experience and progress with their digital journeys. The respondents were primarily in service leadership roles (72% of which were Director to C-level), representing a wide variety businesses and industries.

To begin, the first question we asked was to define "digital transformation." Below are some reflective answers:

"It is the way that we are utilizing technologies to radically empower our service experience."

"It means having the ability to create and deliver more customer value than can be attained without technology. It also means being able to better quantify the real value of services, that are often simply implied."

"At the core this means automating information to speed the flow of data between stakeholders in order to enhance our customer focus. Minimize data administration and maximize data analysis."

"To us it means the utilization of digital technology to become more transparent to our clients, to better educate our team, to create analytics that can better operate the systems we maintain and install."

Ninety-seven percent (97%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed to the statement, "Being a digital business is important to the success of my organization." The remaining 3% were neutral on this question. With this, we can extract the relative importance of being a digital business as it relates to service.

Although the survey was focused on digital transformation, a common theme surfaced in the results: the importance of the customer and the role that digital transformation can play. For example, to a question on the desired outcomes from their organization’s digital transformation, the top two answers involved the customer: “Driving more value to customers and being more responsive to customer needs.” Further, to the question on the top three focus areas for their service digital transformation, "Technology Integration and Customer Touchpoint Management" were their top two focus areas. When asked what the most important skills/attributes needed to be developed in employees to support a digital transformation, a "customer orientation and mindset" was the top answer, received from 64% of respondents.

So, how do we make sense out of these responses? First, the good news: Customer focus is top of mind with most service leaders, even under the shadow of ongoing pressures from wall street or senior leadership to improve productivity, efficiency and margin improvement. In a service organization, one might think such a customer focus would always be top-of-mind, but pressure to focus on internal cost-cutting objectives can take service leaders off point from the customer. And secondly, we gain a sense of how to leverage technology to push forth the customer focus in that Service Analytics was the "hands-down" priority of service leaders to achieve from their digital transformation (93% of the respondents’ top choice)

The hard reality, though, is that neither of these will be successfully realized without two fundamental competencies:

  1. Understanding your customer’s experience, which involves clarity on customer touchpoints; and
  2. Developing a core capability to establish and own the metrics that reflect touchpoint performance.

Only through these can we even get to a point of customer experience and service analysis. We need to be able connect metrics from the point of the service experience back into the business, wherever a customer touchpoint exists. We will refer to this capability as "metrics connectivity."

Put another way, it’s about having real-time data that connects what you do internally to the customer experience. For example, when there is a service invoice escalation initiated by the customer, the Accounts Payable team will be able to respond right away because they have the data and metrics at hand to quickly take action and resolve the issue. Compare this to the old way, in which Accounts Payable has it’s own set of KPIs, and none of them have to do with resolving external customer invoice discrepancies in a timely manner.

This is one of the key messages from our Digital Transformation survey—that to take customer value to the next level we need to be able to identify, understand and manage the customer touchpoints. In his book, The Amazon Way, John Rossman, a speaker at the 2017 Service Council Smarter Services™ Symposium (Still time to join us at the 2018 Symposium September 17-19th in Chicago, IL USA: Register Now), in his main stage talk on the 14 Amazon Leadership Principles, brings additional perspective to these concepts. Amazon’s #1 Principle is Obsess over the Customer. Rossman describes this obsession in a few key components (some of which are referenced in other Amazon’s principles):

  • Willingness to do very hard things
  • VOC data needs to be engineered to apply to the engineer
  • The VOC program must be enterprise-wide.
  • Includes an expectation that everyone owns the Customer Experience
  • Start with the customer and work backwards, with metrics from Customer Experience driven into the work processes within the organization and that VOC drives the priorities throughout the business.

Where do we go to take the next steps? There may be a few different entry points to this path, but some fundamentals stand out, reflected in Amazon’s Leadership Principle #12, Dive Deep, meaning "to spend a lot of time with metrics," and "dig deep for granular, real-time data (connected to the Customer Experience) and connect everything you do internally to the Customer Experience." The hard work required to achieve this will also eventually require aligning technology to business needs (another top focus area amongst service leaders).

In conclusion, to excel in customer service means doing things differently than we’ve done before and realizing the need to embrace technology to leverage it to achieve our objective of fully understanding our customers and being positioned to be as responsive as possible to their needs and expectations.

For more information on Metrics Connectivity, please contact Greg Gibbs at

Have you registered for our upcoming Smarter Services™ Symposium? Register Now!

Filed under:  AnalyticsBusiness insightBusiness intelligenceCustomer experienceCustomer experience managementCustomer feedback managementData analysisData managementDigital transformationField service metricsITIT strategyKnowledge managementOperational technologyService business metricsService ITService transformation 

Gregory Gibbs
Vice President of Global Customer Transformation,  Service Council


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