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Rapid Response: difference between life & death

Yesterday, I both observed – and personally experienced – the vital importance of rapid response.

Right now I am sitting in a hotel room in Providence, RI, listening to news coverage about flight 1549 and the Miracle on the Hudson. Reporters are talking about the rapid response of the rescue teams.The doctors they are interviewing said that with the freezing temperatures it was vital to get everyone out of the water as quickly as possible to prevent hypothermia.

Yesterday I recently experienced two more instances of rapid response. The first occurred in the afternoon at the business conference I attended with three dozen other people. As we neared the end of the day business cards were being exchanged, and one of the people, Stephen Balzac, suggested we simply create a list with our contact information and that he would later share it everyone. Not remarkable in itself as I’ve attended many meetings or conferences where this was done. The difference here was that Stephen created a private user group almost immediately after the meeting ended and he then sent a personal invitation to everyone. Rapid response.

The third time I observed rapid response and where I experienced it personally occurred last night, just a few minutes before midnight when the fire alarm began ringing. I’ve read stories about how some people simply ignore the fire alarm in hotels. Not me! I dressed as quickly as possible and made my way outside, long before I could smell the smoke winding it’s way down the halls. Yes, there was a fire. One of the hotels guests at an evening event decided to extinguish a cigarette. Where? In, of all places, at the base of one of the artificial trees, You know the ones with the dried moss, aka, tinder? Simply brilliant.

The fire department was there in less than five minutes. Rapid response.

Three instances of rapid response caused me to think about its vital importance in business. My mentor, Alan Weiss, of Summit Consulting, has built rapid response into his business. He personally returns phone calls within 90 minutes. Of course, if he is flying overseas and not able to do so he alerts people in advance, and/or arranges to have someone field his calls.

When my partner and I founded Client Compass Software, we established a four hour reply policy for all e-mails and phone calls. Four hours was the maximum time allowed and we both encouraged and rewarded the members of our team for responding within one hour. Like Alan Weiss, we recognized the importance of rapid response.

What about you, your team/department, or your business? Do you have a policy of rapid response? After all, it can make the difference between the life and death of your business.