How Leaders Contribute to Building a Responsive Business

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Early on in my career, I worked as a manager in a firm of a call centre that among other things managed inbound calls for our clients. One of the biggest metrics that our clients were interested in was “speed to answer.” For so many of them, it was vital that our representatives answered the calls after no more than two-dials (this was long before the advent of the automated phone trees of today), so responsiveness was paramount. 

The value of businesses being responsive cannot be understated. This is especially true for the digital age in which we live where most consumers have been conditioned to receiving a response in seconds. 

Responsiveness and customer experience go hand in hand, but what companies need to remember is that your responsiveness is only as valuable as your usefulness. What good is it to get a rapid response when the information or assistance that is supplied is not useful. The best it will do is only create frustration with your customer.

Business responsiveness, however, is not something that just happens, even with the best technology (side note, technology is not a strategy as it only enables it). In order for businesses to be responsive, leadership is perhaps the key factor. Here are three things leaders can do in order to ensure they have a responsive business. 

Simply put, investing in the training for your employees will lead to good things for your customers and the growth of your business. Click To Tweet

Build a customer-first culture

A number of years ago I was involved with a meeting with one of my clients and the head of their customer support organisation. The goal of the meeting was to review a number of customer accounts and see if we could define some common support themes that were consistent and therefore be able to proactively address them. 

What began as a constructive exercise quickly turned into a session where each customer was systematically disparaged and excuses made as to why my client was not responsive. After about 30 minutes of this unhealthy banter among my client’s stakeholders, I chimed in by saying, “It seems to me you do not like your customers and have no interest in responding to their input, so why are we here?”

Needless to say, they did not stay a client much longer as we had a fundamental difference in philosophy, which never makes for a great client/vendor marriage.

One trait that all responsive businesses have in common is that they value their customer relationships. This must translate to every employee in the company so they can understand their role in delivering for their customers. This is not a one and done exercise, but a continuous process, and must start with leadership building this into every fabric of the culture. 

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Invest in training 

It is not enough to simply tell an employee what their role in business responsiveness is; you must equip them to do their job and do it well. Organisations that want to excel in responsiveness and therefore improve their customer experience cannot afford to withhold training dollars.

If you are on the fence about making this investment, consider this statement from the Harvard Business Review: “In our research and consulting on customer journeys, we’ve found that organisations able to skillfully manage the entire experience reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction. They also discover more-effective ways to collaborate across functions and levels, a process that delivers gains throughout the company.”

Simply put, investing in the training for your employees will lead to good things for your customers and the growth of your business. 

Empower your employees

“I’ll have to check with my manager.” When these words are spoken to a customer, the meaning behind them is, “I can’t help you.”

The world’s most admired brands understand the value and impact in empowering their people to be responsive (they are able to do this because of their investment in training).  

When I think about companies that have excelled in this area, I think of Zappos. Zappos is known worldwide for its above-expectation customer service, even down to its responsive web design.  

Founder Tony Hsieh was obsessed with customer service and responsiveness. An article on Sharpen recounts two different occasions when Zappos employees both spent almost 11 hours on the phone with customers. This is unheard of, and when asked about this marathon support call, Hsieh responded by saying “In many other call center environments, an employee’s job performance depends on how quickly they can get the customer off the phone. At Zappos, we encourage employees to stay on the phone for as long as the customer wants, even if it’s over 10 hours long. We know it sounds crazy, but as long as the customer is happy, then we are happy, too.”

Building a responsive business is not something that will happen overnight, but in order for it to happen, leaders must set the pace and ensure that all employees understand their role and that the most important thing they can do is obsess about their customers.

What else do leaders need to deliver in preparing their businesses for the new world of work?

Originally published Dec 03, 2020


Carlos Hidalgo is a 25-year business veteran. Over the span of the last two plus decades, Hidalgo has held corporate roles, started his own entrepreneurial ventures and served in non-profits.

In addition to his various roles and business pursuits, Hidalgo is the author of two books Driving Demand, one of the Top 5 Marketing Books of all time according to Book Authority which was published in 2015 and The UnAmerican Dream which was published in 2019.

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