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This year, IFS and Hot Topics partnered to launch an exciting new initiative called the Service Visionaries Top 100. If you’re not familiar with HotTopics, it’s a London-based firm focused on creating a community of C-suite leaders worldwide. It has previously created “Top 100” lists in various categories like Chief Digital Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Information Security, and more. 

Last month, we held the awards at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London to announce the first group of awards for the Service Visionaries 100. This list aims to recognize and celebrate the hard work of some of the world’s top service leaders. As a judge for the awards, I found it to be a challenging but fulfilling experience. Due to my work experience at Future of Field Service and with IFS’s customers, I am keenly aware of the significant impact service leaders have on their businesses, and customers – despite an all-too-often lack of the recognition that is common for other leadership roles.

A Service Visionary Juggles the Past, Present, and Future: What Is a Service Visionary? 

While I think there are many possible definitions, I consider a service visionary first and foremost a master prioritizer. These leaders weigh so many different and often competing interests, projects, objectives, KPIs, and challenges for both the business and its customers. As a service visionary, one must delicately balance the responsibility of addressing immediate needs and priorities while also looking ahead to position the business for innovation. This ensures that service differentiation is being created not only for today, but also for what customers will want in the future. 

A service visionary is the vital link between the business and its frontline teams that interact with customers daily. They are responsible for executing positive customer impact, building relationships, providing brand experience, creating loyalty, and bringing customer sentiment into the business. They play a critical role in achieving customer intimacy, satisfaction, and loyalty, which are fundamental to any service business’s success.  

Of course, a service visionary can’t succeed at customer intimacy, satisfaction, and loyalty without their teams and the frontline workforce. They must deploy exemplary leadership skills to ensure that teams are engaged, empowered, and understand the importance of the mission they have and the purpose of what they do, while also working to keep teams efficient, productive, and open to change and innovation.  

Lastly, a service visionary evangelizes the potential of service within the business – urging the business to shift its perception of service from cost center to profit center to growth engine. This remains an area of opportunity for many businesses across industries and the service visionary works tirelessly to pull the business away from its legacy and toward its future.  

Is The Impact of a Service Visionary Understood? 

During a panel discussion at the event, I asked some of the top 100 Service Visionaries present whether they believed that the impact of a service visionary was widely understood at the C-level. The answer was a resounding “no”. Historically, service leaders and the service function have been recognized primarily for their ability to resolve problems and meet the immediate needs of customers, such as installation or repair. While this recognition is certainly warranted, it is an incomplete view of their impact. Service visionaries are working hard to build awareness that service is not only an incredibly important aspect of customer experience, but also a very compelling source of customer sentiment. 

During the panel discussion, we highlighted how service teams have a unique advantage of interacting with customers closely. However, this advantage is often underutilized and only used for maintaining customer satisfaction. Service teams can also provide valuable insights into product development, go-to-market strategy, development of new offerings, and innovation areas that may have a significant impact on the business. While service teams are widely respected for their problem-solving abilities, they can also intelligently contribute to the company’s strategic direction. 

It’s surprising that many companies are yet to realize the potential of service in growing their business and creating new revenue streams. While some businesses understand that service is a powerful tool for gaining a competitive edge and increasing their growth potential, there are still many others who view service as an afterthought or a “necessary evil”. 

In my years engaging with service leaders, I’ve found they often have a unique degree of passion for what they do and conviction around how their company needs to transform or innovate. This comes from seeing firsthand the opportunity that exists to make changes, to create new things, to solve problems from their proximity to customers. Yet, in many cases, service still doesn’t have a seat at the table when it comes to company-wide strategic direction and decision-making (while some functions quite far removed from the realities of the customer’s businesses do). This is an entirely avoidable missed opportunity for the businesses that are overlooking the untapped potential of their service visionaries. 

I hope that with this years’ Service Visionaries 100, HotTopics and IFS begin to bring greater awareness to the C-level on not only the impact that service does have but, more importantly, the impact it can have on the business. 

To the 2023 Service Visionaries 100, my sincerest congratulations! I have deep respect for the role you play and admire the hard work and passion that you bring to what you do. I hope you take a moment to be proud of not only being a part of the list but of the impact that you have day in and day out. Keep an eye out in 2024 to nominate the next set of Service Visionaries 100! 

If you would like to learn more about our nominees and winners for our 2023 Service Visionaries 100, please follow this link: Meet the Service Visionaries 100 2023

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