Definition of reaction time: The interval of time between application of a stimulus and detection of a response.
In sports, it’s important that an athlete possess quick reaction time. Think starter’s pistol and a sprinter surging off the blocks. Or goalie making a save.
In life, think hand to hot stove.
In a television quiz show, think question asked and hand to buzzer to respond.
In business, how quickly do we respond to a stimulus?
There are (unfortunately) countless examples of businesses that choose NOT to react to a customer stimulus in a timely fashion. I’m sure you can think of companies who chose to delay, make excuses or simply ignore a customer complaint. And we all know that, in this day and age, the customer is in the seat of power when it comes to letting the world know of their discontent and disgruntlement.
But what IS the appropriate reaction time for when things go wrong?
It’s important to make a distinction between reaction time and reflex.
A definition of reflex is “any automatic, unthinking, often habitual behavior or response”. I’m sure there have been times when a reflexive action has been taken, rather than a responsive one. Have you ever shot off an email or tweet almost automatically, that you later regretted? That immediate reflexive action can cause great damage.
But a response means that the reaction time – the time between stimulus and response – has been adequately long enough to allow for cogent thought, but not so long as to annoy or frustrate the receiver.
First and foremost, “timely”, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, or receiver. You might think that 24 hours is timely, whereas the customer or complainant might think “same day” response is appropriate. One way to deal with this is to post your response time clearly. If your policy is to get back to someone in 24 hours, then let people know. And of course, then DO it.
Are staff empowered to react and respond to concerns or complaints, and to what level of authority?”For years, Nordstrom’s Employee Handbook was a single 5×8” gray card containing these 75 words:
Welcome to Nordstrom
We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.
Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”
I love that. Exercise best judgment. If we all only did that, and encouraged our employees to do so, there would be times that someone would be wrong. But by empowering people to exercise best judgment, we’d be right more often than wrong, I’m sure. In fact, if we allowed people to do what business is all about – solve someone’s problem, increase the customer’s pleasure or decrease their pain, we probably wouldn’t have to exercise our reaction time as often. We’d be proactive, rather than reactive.
I also love Zappos employee handbook, which covers off the topic of solving someone’s problem. And take a look at this video to see just how far Zappos takes being of service, answering someone’s question and exercising quick reaction time.
Are you reflexive, reactive or responsive to customer queries, complaints and concerns? What’s your policy? Do you have it clearly displayed for your customers, and ingrained in your company’s culture? Something to think about.