I recently read a great post on Customers That Stick about how organizations react to crises.

”Organizations remember the situation that caused huge problems for the company and resulted in hours of staff time. Now, we have reissued our policies manual (20 hours of staff time), have changed our procedures for each phone agent (an extra 150 hours of staff time each week accumulated over 1,000 agents), and the cost of preventing the problem from recurring again is 50 times the cost of the actual problem that occurred.

More importantly, that problem has only occurred twice in the last decade.”

They call this “rule accretion”. It’s the kind of thing that anyone who’s worked at any big company ever hates.

This isn’t surprising. Obviously we remember the worst stuff. Psychologists spend years helping people stop building their life around a previous trauma. Maybe we need psychologists for business?

If you can manage to forget your trauma scars for a moment, it’s clear that restrictive rules don’t do much for your company.

In fact, we’ve shown how empowering agents results in happier customers and, ultimately, more value.

I used to feel guilty that we don’t have plans for individual crises situations here. All the “thought leaders” harped on how every company should have dozens of these. But no longer. Because when I look back at past crises we’ve had, I see that every time we look to our values and come to the right, though often hard, conclusion.

Let’s focus on empowering our front-line staff and reaping the benefit there instead of building rules that prevent them from doing good. Because the next crises probably won’t even be one from your list anyway.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Le Clerc.