Service-Ability is an enabling combination of strategiesstructurepoliciesleadershipmanagementteamworkmotivationselection and development: all aligned to deliver a consistent, meaningful interaction with the customer that resonates with what he or she needs, wants and expects.

It is the ability of the whole organization, through its individual members, to deliver consistently what the organization seeks to do: in a culture of trust in leadership, trust in colleagues and co-workers, pride in the job and belief in what the organization stands for, that resonates with the customer and creates delight and satisfaction in both parties.

Underpinning Philosophy

Service-Ability is a structured idea, based on a 4 quadrant model, that focuses on the people and is underpinned by an understanding of morale (‘esprit de corps’ or ‘team spirit’).

High morale is universally recognized as being necessary for successful human endeavour: it sustains purpose and, in both the military and non-military context, it is a matter of strategic intervention.

Morale is a corporate phenomenon that comprises 4 key elements:

    • Trust in your leaders. This is vertical trust and it derives from the senior management exercising leadership that is trustworthy, supporting, facilitating and encouraging of the individual’s efforts: backing decisions made by employees who operate with initiative in customers’ interests.
    • Pride in the job: the desire to do things properly and well. This is the result of the personal self-confidence that comes from an employee being well fitted to the job, by intelligent recruitment, being appropriately motivated and personally developed through training, and meaningful, ongoing support to achieve a high degree of professionalism.
    • Trust in your co-workers (colleagues). This is horizontal trust across the organization between co-workers, acting in a collegiate way: co-operating, respecting and supporting one another; working together in a common bond of purpose; involved with one another and focusing on things that need doing rather than on things to be avoided. Doing the right thing rather than doing things right according to the rules, and always acting in customers’ interests
    • Belief in the cause by the employee: in the mission, vision and, above all, the values of the organization as well as the value to the customer of the product or service being delivered, that leads to clarity of purpose and, ultimately, engagement by the employee with both the organization and the customer.


Service-Ability infers the four elements of morale back into the organisation and classifies them into four core corporate/policy values:

    • Effective Leadership leads to trust in leadership and then initiative in the individual employee. People who trust their leaders make decisions close to the customer, where they count. Such leadership derives from the emerging understanding of servant leadership: those who lead not from in front, not from behind, or from above, but from within the body of the people; and who act at all times also like a colleague, as first among equals.
    • Getting the People Right’ is a strategic management approach that develops pride in the job and results in professionalism. It draws on modern thinking about recruitment that hires for attitude as much for skill, which is the usual approach to recruitment. Getting the people right also means continuous development of the individual, and a reward system that appeals to intrinsic, not just extrinsic motivation. It also takes an appropriate, measured approach to less-than-expected performance. where individuals are re-trained or moved out. People need to take responsibility for their work if they are to have pride in it.
    • Appropriate Organization designed to engender trust in colleagues leads to involvement in employees. When an organization’s ‘form follows its function’,  people are facilitated to work effectively together, in trust and teamwork. Key in this is the elimination of bureaucratic structures and cultures that induce a silo mentality and prevent free and open communication across the organization. In a sense, the whole organization becomes involved with itself; working as one team in customers’ interests.
    • Clarity of Purpose leads to belief in the cause. In other words, what the organisation stands for, and that induces engagement in the individual members. Engagement is not only with the organization, it is also with the customer, and it is achieved by having a strategy that relies less on specific performance benchmarks and more on obliquity – an approach that seeks results by indirect means. Clarity of purpose is underpinned by values that resonate with the individual employee. However, these need to be clearly articulated and effectively communicated so that the people become imbued with them and engaged. All this leads to a clear sense of direction that adds purposefulness to the daily work of the organization.


Service-Ability, therefore, emerges from an organization-wide team spirit based on a culture of trust between colleagues and between the people and their leaders: a belief in what the organization stands for and what it seeks for itself, and pride in the job; all embedded within a supporting and facilitating set of initiators, facilitators and core values under each of the four dimensions of Effective Leadership, Getting the People Right, Appropriate Organization and Clarity of Purpose.

  1. ^ Robson, K (2012). Service-Ability: Create a Customer Centric Culture and Achieve Competitive Advantage. New York: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 224. ISBN9781118345566.
  2. ^ Reichheld F. W., Markey R. G., Hopton C. (2000) The loyalty effect – the relationship between loyalty and profits. European Business Journal 2000
  3. ^ ‘Should you be using Twitter to complain about poor service?’ consumeraffairs/article2892126.ece


Service-Ability Explained

Service-Ability Talk at Design Conference from Kevin Robson on Vimeo.