Is your business suffering from ‘Notion of Service’?

A service mindset requires a robust and continuous strategy

 -Sai Kumar Chandran-

As a young professional, around 20 years ago, I learned that ‘Your competitors can copy your product, mimic or better the moat your products/services have, but they cannot copy the service experience that you create for your customers’. A decade back, I was teaching this to my teams and putting this into action. In fact, in the period I am referring to, there was an unequivocal focus on ‘Customer Experience’, and ‘Customer Retention’.

Those were the times, when service standards were defined, and service levels were religiously measured. Searching for the root cause of errors causing customer dissatisfaction and fixing them was the holy grail of service improvement, Six Sigma, ToC, Lean, etc. This was also the era when technology showed great promise for an organization’s service mindset and service approach. From sophisticated CRMs to RPA (Robotic Process Automation), and more recently AI has repeatedly renewed the service promise and enhancement of customer experience. But all is not well, in today’s delivery of promises to the customer, despite all these phenomena. Some important questions:

  • Has the service mindset really blossomed and matured as a practice for all organizations?
  • Has technology really changed the interface of businesses with their customers?
  • Has customer retention become easier for organizations in this increasingly AI-driven age?
  • Have organizations been able to maximize the return on investment made in customer touchpoints?
  • And the most important question: Will customers vouch for the so-called ‘seamless experience’ that many technologies driven organizations advertise and even boast about?

Let’s use 3 riveting lenses to see where we are as businesses.

Lens 1: Driving customer choice.
From nudge theory to behavioral engineering, our understanding of human behaviors and the way they make choices has evolved significantly in the last decade. From creating newer products to more effective ways of reaching our customers, we have learned a lot in the last 2 decades. Youngsters, young adults, couples, elders, and even our homes and pets have benefited from what we have learned about consumer choice and continued to learn. Are we really using the insights gained to help customers make the right choices or are the insights become a means of social engineering?

Organizations Set 1: There are organizations which are helping people make informed, health, lifestyle, financial, educational, and other choices, even for charity. These organizations are truly using technology and its applications for true service delight. These companies will go on to thrive and dominate. Their play is ‘customer lifestyle impact’ and ‘customer well-being’.

Organizations Set 2: At the same time, there are companies today, that use information and social engineering to drive sales and revenue. They promise something and deliver only for themselves. The game here is sales and valuation. Their delivery of platforms and reusable content only serves their own self-interest; not of the naïve customers who buy into their pipedreams. Eventually, these firms will fall apart, and we have seen cases in recent times.

Each kind of organization will find buyers. But only the prior set of organizations will be sustainable.

Ask yourself as a business owner or leader, about the starting point of your engagement with customers and your service commitment: Are we driving customer choices, ethically and sustainably, or are our actions just driven by here-and-now revenue like markers? And if it is the latter, how do we fix it?

Lens 2: Capability-driven delivery.
From the quality of talent to organizational structures to role-based hiring, our businesses have learned a lot in the last few decades, on what it takes to deliver outstanding experience to customers. Whether it is the quality of products or services, or it is implementation or upkeep of an implementation, we have a much greater understanding of what works. We even have the tech to support almost all this work.

Organizations Set 1: There are those organizations, which have with steady steps tested and matured their products or made their services reliable. They have invested in R&D, training and processes, and are prepared to deliver value to the customers. These organizations can and do have some quality and process issues, but they fix them for once. Their customer may complain at times, but they would rarely feel let down, except for those rare black swan-type events.

Organizations Set 2: And then, there are organizations, which internally know that they only have an MVP (minimum viable product) or a partial MVP. They go out and promise the customers everything that the customer wants to hear. This approach is driven by boosting revenue and valuation again. Sometimes, these commitments also get met. But the question is at what cost? Some B2C companies in this category leave their retail client running from pillar to post to get their money’s worth. And some B2B companies in this category hold the client organization to ransom or give them a bad wake-up call about the mess that they had walked into.

The prior set of companies has a systematic approach to defining and delivering what value and service mean to their customers. The latter group is just focused on revenue, and when things get ugly, they focus on service levels for a while, only to go back to their old ways.

Ask yourself as a business owner or leader, about the capability driving your delivery and engagement with customers: Have we built and continue to sharpen our organizational capability? Or are we brushing issues under the carpet, camouflaged by the noise and excitement of the next big that we are implementing? And if it is the latter, how do we fix it?

Lens 3: Human and technology interface for customers
From tailored experiences to self-service to chatbots, our businesses offer a whole host of low-cost to full-service choices for the target groups we are focusing on. With every passing day, we are seeing newer business models and matched delivery models. Some of these models have surpassed all expectations in the experience they deliver. Today, we have more at the disposal of our fingertips and greater choices for the money we have available to spend than we had a decade back, and it is only getting better.

Organization set 1: There is a good number of organizations, which have learned to identify what is critical for the customer base that it is targeting. They have identified whether it is speed, or responsiveness, or personal care that matters to this group of people. Accordingly, they have configured their technology and teams to interface and service their customers. Their physical centers are built around this philosophy and even their apps and platforms are configured to make things easy for the customer. They have mastered the cycles of scaling, and sustaining the experience of their customers and clients.

Organization set 2: Then there are those organizations, who think they understand how to run their business. They have notions of their processes and visualizations of the interface that they want to build for their customers. The point is, it is what they want to build for their customers, and not what the customer truly wants. So when a customer wants speed of response, they find themselves struggling with the chatbot. When the customer wants a specific solution, they are left reasoning/arguing with a chat support or call-center executive, who has no view, training, or authority of how to make things happen. They have a Twitter handle, and a media team handling that Twitter handle, but they have really not invested in the quality of their products or the ability of their service teams to prevent escalations. They truly listen on Twitter, but the point is why does it have to get to a point, where the customer has to scream and yell on a social media platform, to get an organization to respond? Some B2B companies boast of all the modern processes and technology, yet their corporate clients have no visibility into project delivery cycles, or the resolution cycles of the complaints that they have raised.

The prior set of organizations has thoughtfully blended people and technology to build a business that customers willingly stay with. While the latter is focused on, what is the next thing that we can do, which can possibly provide us some efficiencies.

Ask yourself as a business owner or leader, about the starting point of your engagement with customers and your service commitment: Are we glued into the lives and lifecycles of our clients and customers, and accordingly delivering on our commitments? Or are we living in the haze of the fads and tech that we are implementing, without really knowing if it even matters to our customers at the end of the day? And if it is the latter, how do we fix it?

In conclusion: Service doesn’t happen when a customer comes looking for a service after purchasing a product or service. Service is a mindset, an approach, a capability, an ecosystem, and an experience that has to be designed right from the beginning of an organization, and perfected with every step that the organization takes. It has to be in the DNA. People, processes, technology, vendor partners, insights, and market intelligence are all bits and pieces which contribute to this overall picture. Over-relying on people will make service unpredictable. Over-relying on processes will make service straight-jacketed. Over-relying on technology will create unnecessary distance from the customer. Over-relying on vendor partners will create uncontrollable and diluted versions of what we call service. Over-relying on insights will prevent us from having an attitude of inquiry. And over relying on market intelligence, will keep us away from discovering and doing what is unique to us.

A service mindset requires a robust and continuous strategy. The execution of such a strategy takes the intelligence, commitment, competence, and sensibility of every individual. It requires people to listen to each other, build on each other’s ideas, and deliver what the customer really wants. None of this can be violated whether it is a B2B or a B2C domain.

The question for every business to ask is, ‘How can we make the starting point of everything a ‘service mindset’, and the impact of everything as ‘maximization of customer impact’? This can only be achieved, with an unwavering commitment to build a business that will last.

Sai Kumar Chandran is the founder of OrbitShift. He is a coaching and consulting practitioner and an entrepreneur at heart. He can be reached at

Scroll to Top