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Employee development, talent management or career growth, staff engagement or training and support for success, improvement concept, business people help each other walk up growth graph on HR hand.

Leadership is clearly an essential part of any organisation’s success – and there is no shortage of literature on the subject. While we might not need another book on the subject, we do need to face into the fact we are still falling short on some of the core elements of good leadership.

As leaders we need to make a bold decision: Do we build the capacity for long-term growth and strong customer satisfaction by investing in our people, as well as systems, or do we remain stuck in a loop of falling customer satisfaction, low productivity and stuttering economic growth?

We launched the theme of our next Annual Conference yesterday – and it will address this and the other pressing questions we, as service leaders, need to answer. It was refreshing, too, to see these points being tackled in the Financial Times earlier this week.

Aside from the political stasis that has set in as we await the result of the General Election next month, the business landscape is perhaps even more complex and uncertain.

Not least because of variables like volatile market conditions, advancements in technology, evolving societal attitudes, and the lasting impact of the pandemic which, combined, continue to hold back our nation’s growth.

Current attitudes towards service leadership

In both the short and long term, I am sure that building a Service Nation will play a crucial role in allowing us to pull away from these restraints or at least manage them better.

Essential to this is ensuring our business leaders recognise the value of service. Delivering a quality customer experience that leads to sustainable long-term value and translates into business and economic growth is key.

To support leaders in achieving this, the Institute’s latest breakthrough research into leadership in service provides some insight.

Our research found that the value of customer service is widely recognised on the ground, with 85% of employees seeing the benefit of service and their role in delivering an organisation’s purpose. Yet only 60% of employees think service is a priority for their CEO or Board, while just 59% think their CEO or Board is committed to providing excellent service over the long term.

There is an apparent disconnect between the different levels of business – something which might, in part, be explained by the fact that only 48% of employees think their CEO and Board listen to the ideas of customer-facing people about improving their service offering.

To me, given the importance of service to the bottom line and operational efficiency, combined with the nation’s need for economic growth, these figures highlight the need to put service higher up on the leadership agenda.

Service leadership at every level

Our CEOs have a crucial role to play here. Not just in defining an organisation’s priorities and purpose, but also in taking ownership of service performance and ensuring the executives and board members around them follow suit.

But we must also look beyond the C-suite. Service leaders exist at all levels of an organisation, from customer experience strategy managers to frontline and call centre team leads.

Because of this, embedding a service-focused culture at every level could not be more important when it comes to service leadership. This will, in turn, promote employee engagement and mobilise resources.

Our latest service leadership research sets out eight core capabilities for service leaders of the future. Of these, however, the Institute has identified three standouts: dedication to strengthening the quality of leadership across the organisation, deploying skilful and rigorous critical thinking, and having a strong moral purpose. Each of these will be especially valuable in deploying and guiding this culture of service.

In fostering these qualities, organisations can ensure they are prepared to both enhance service performance today and leverage service as a driver of growth for the future.

Jo Causon

Jo joined The Institute as its CEO in 2009. She has driven membership growth by 150 percent and established the UK Customer Satisfaction Index as the country’s premier indicator of consumer satisfaction, providing organisations with an indicator of the return on their service strategy investment.

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