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Are you building an agile organization?

When problems arise, an agile organization has employees empowered to solve the problems without going through layers of management or lots of paperwork.

Normally when you hear the term “agile organization” you think of a company that is quick to respond to changes in the marketplace. And while that is certainly one good definition, I want you to think of agility in a different way.

The word agile itself means being able to move quickly and easily. It can be applied in your organization to mean taking care of customers’ needs as quickly as possible. However, in order for this to happen, when problems arise an agile organization has empowered its employees to solve them. No more going through layer upon layer of management or lots of paperwork to get a problem resolved. The goal is to fix it as close to when the problem happens as possible.

Of course, this could be a recipe for disaster if you don’t pave the way in advance for the proper behavioral responses from your employees. With adequate planning and training, your frontline employees can learn to react appropriately and come up with solutions that not only satisfy the customer but also are aligned with your corporate goals.

To do this, you will need to break down information silos. If frontline employees are going to be empowered, they need to understand how the decisions they make fit into the overall organization. Nothing happens in a vacuum and decisions made in one department can (and usually do) affect other departments.

Building an agile organization starts with sharing your vision and mission statements with your employees and making sure they understand them. These statements are the core of your business philosophy and will be the guiding principles employees can rely on to help them make the correct decisions. They can ask themselves,” Does the solution align with our mission and vision? If the answer is “yes” they should be confident that they came up with a reasonable solution.

The next step is to provide them with examples of issues that may arise and discuss the proper way to resolve them. You might even want to try some role playing to get them comfortable with taking responsibility for handling customer concerns and complaints.

Establish guidelines that outline in which situation an employee can take action on his or her own to resolve a customer complaint. It can be based on a dollar limit, customer size, or any other criteria. For complaints that fall outside those preset parameters, have a clear plan for escalating to a higher level, keeping in mind that the goal is a quick resolution of an issue.

Be prepared to back the employee’s decision and support the resolution of the problem. It does no good to second guess what the employee did if his or her actions were different than the ones you would have taken. Employees need to know they will not be reprimanded or punished for the actions they took to help a customer.

This does not mean you can’t offer suggestions after the fact about how you would have liked to see a problem resolved. Start by saying something like, “Thank you for taking care of Mr. Customer’s issue so quickly. If a similar situation comes up you might try doing …”

The world seems to be moving at a faster and faster pace. Agile organizations make sure they arm their staff with the tools they need to react to and resolve customer problems as quickly as possible.

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