First Choose Your Target, Then Fire at the Bull’s-Eye

One of my clients launched a vigorous service improvement program to create greater value for external customers. Hundreds of classes were conducted for thousands of Service Champions around the world. The business objectives were clear: reclaim market share and rebuild a slipping reputation. Bounce back in recovery situations. Focus on external customer experience, not internal political issues. Demonstrate passion for existing customers. Go all-out to win new business.

But something unusual happened as the program rollout expanded. Rather than focusing on these identified external business targets, earning high internal course evaluations became the course leaders’ primary focus. Being rated highly as a very engaging course leader was viewed as great success. Scoring 9 out of 10 for leading a wonderful class became a cause for celebration. That’s a great score, but a very different bull’s-eye.

Customer success and better business results are why the program was originally conceived. High course leader scores are not the same as valuable business impact. Eventually this lack of alignment became painfully apparent—the focus had drifted away from the early goals, and the entire program needed to refocus. Don’t let this drifting happen to you.

A clear bull’s-eye should always be at the center of your efforts, well articulated and understood by everyone involved. Your goals can be externally or internally focused. External goals are the improvements you commit to achieve for people outside our organization: customers, clients, partners, distributors, and suppliers. Internal goals are also completely valid targets: improvements in collaboration, performance, engagement, retention, and more. It is fine to have more than one key target, as long as each target is consistent with the others. For example, aiming to reduce complaints and increase sales are naturally aligned targets. Higher levels of employee engagement and excellent course leader scores are very compatible objectives.

My clients often ask how they can measure the Return on Investment (ROI) from a service improvement. They want assurance that their investment will reliably move the needle. I always reply with a simple question: “Tell us specifically what you want to achieve. Which needle measuring results do you want to move?” When I hear a meandering answer lacking clarity and focus, or a wish list of every possible improvement, then I know it is not yet time to start. Don’t launch your service improvement efforts until you are crystal clear about your measure of success. Don’t pull back the string until you are aiming at the bull’s-eye.

One way to increase the odds of impact from your investment is by asking each participant at the end of the program this sequence of five questions.

1. What did you enjoy about this learning experience? This question creates appreciation for the opportunity.

2. What actions will you take to apply what you have learned? This question encourages reflection and review.

3. How will you apply what you have learned? What new actions will you take? Answering this question requires focus, thought, and planning.

4. What value will your actions create for customers or colleagues? The answer to this question should land clearly on your chosen bull’s-eye.

5. What is the ROI from your participation and your actions? This question weighs value created against investments in time, cost, and effort.

For some team members, this will be the first time they have been asked to consider the value of their learning and the impact of their actions—which is exactly what you want everyone to think
about, appreciate, and improve.

NOTE: This article is a modified excerpt from the New York Times bestseller UPLIFTING SERVICE. Read Free Chapters Now at

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