Many companies advertise themselves as being “agile”, but few understand what that actually entails. It doesn’t mean spending millions of pounds on fancy social networking products. It means pre-emptively responding to your customers’ problems as they arise, with whoever is closest to the problem.
I learned about agility from my days in the army.
In the cavalry we thundered across the countryside, reacting to new threats every time we rounded a hill.
In my little ambulance, we kept our eyes open and our ears glued to the radio.
Every time we noticed someone who might need rescuing, we broke off and self-deployed to render aid.
As quick as possible, we were back in column and moving fast to the next objective.
Now that is agility: a small team with a unique skill-set that self-deploys to trouble spots in the nick of time, the moment they’re needed.
Modern business is no different.
In the 2000s, we thought it was awesome that enterprise-grade IT equipment could self-report errors and trigger automatic delivery of replacement parts.
Now, with 4G broadband, every co-worker and customer is online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
With location-based services, we can discover customers and teammates near us everywhere we go.
With status flagging, we can see when an ally or a customer needs immediate help.
We’re all tied in, all of the time – on or off duty. When our people need us, we have the ability to know it.
When we act immediately on that knowledge, we inspire tremendous trust and confidence in our brand, our product and in our team.
That’s what we want: whenever and wherever our customers need help, we need to respond at flank speed.
Our customers must see that we care deeply about their success, and are paying close attention to their needs.
Instead of making a frustrated customer dial a service desk to listen to hold music while they wait in a queue, businesses should have the closest company representative pre-emptively contact the aggravated customer as soon as a flag goes up.
The representative doesn’t have to be an expert in the problem – they just need to triage the issue to get the right assets mustered as quickly as possible.
They need to demonstrate empathy, genuine interest and commitment to serve.
You don’t need to wait on augmented reality technologies such as the Google Glass project. You can do this now.
Turn on location services on your smartphone.
Browse your social networking service.
When you see a key teammate or customer is nearby, drop in and ask how you can help. When you see a customer ask for help, call them immediately.
The environment of today’s business is chaotic and confusing. Agility means dealing with any and every problem that appears in the fog.
Don’t wait on “proper channels” to respond to a problem – if you can see the problem, then own the problem until reinforcements arrive.