Drive decisions down to the lowest possible levels. Mull over decisions you are making, and see which ones you can delegate. This strategy will get your controller nervous! My next three newsletters will be devoted to this critical topic. By the end, I will convince you that you can drive decisions down and still maintain control.
You probably use FedEx for shipping, but you may not realize that each FedEx employee has quite a bit of decision-making power. If you have a package that is delivered late, did you know that if you call FedEx, you can get credit on the spot? You won’t have to wait while the customer service rep consults a supervisor. You get a decision on the spot. Doesn’t that make you feel good? Doesn’t that make you want to keep doing business with FedEx?
I was doing a consulting assignment for a winery in Argentina. We shipped a case of wine by FedEx so I could demonstrate the excellence of Argentine wine at a wine tasting in New England. The shipment got held up at US Customs in Memphis. It did not arrive in time for our special event. I was disappointed and furious.
I called FedEx. My shipping bill was $168. I explained the situation. The customer service rep could have blamed US customs. She could have told me she had to talk with her supervisor. But she made an immediate decision. She gave me instant credit for $168. That was 15 years ago. I have been a faithful FedEx customer ever since!
Have you ever been put on hold for five minutes while someone consulted a supervisor for a decision? Did you get just a bit irritated? What if you had to wait thirty minutes? You likely got very annoyed. And what if you had to wait a day? You probably went to the competition.
Have you ever flown on Northwest Airlines? Do you remember when it used to be referred to as “Northworst”? Northwest had the lowest ratings of any airline in customer-satisfaction surveys. A few years ago, however, the airline gave each flight attendant and each ticket agent a book of coupons. If a passenger had a problem, the employee was to give away a free round-trip ticket anywhere in the country. Northwest now gets high customer-satisfaction ratings. (Now that they have merged with Delta, I hope this same spirit will prevail!)
Some people were worried that the ticket agents and flight attendants would take advantage of this freedom and give away tickets to their friends and relatives. But it did not work that way. It made them feel like Northwest was airline. They felt like owners. They wanted to make it work. They were proud to have the power to decide and they used that power responsibly.
In my next newsletter, I will tell you how we drove decisions downward in my own company – and how we gained enormous credibility with our customers.
© Copyright 2009, Stephen Savage