Empowering the employees is good for business. During my recent vacation ( because of which I missed a few posts ), I had chance to stay at a well known hotel and experience its great hospitality.
The thing that struck me most was the sense of empowerment each employee had. The housekeeping person was empowered to go beyond the mandated service. The restaurant manger had the power to offer the guest some of the dishes that were personally loved by the guest for free ( really) . In every department that I had a chance to interact, it was quite obvious that employees were encouraged to take decisions, to provide the best of the services to the customer.
The end result is that the customer is not only happy, he is delighted. The unexpected things, which I felt were meticulously planned ( contradictory but it was not) made a lasting impact.
Often the decision making is centralized because it provides for better control of the cost and quality of service. A well planned robot like system often succeeds. It does not raise the hopes of those dealing with it and delivers what is expected. However in the times when there is huge competition all around , often the difference between two companies is not two robot like systems but the level of human interaction with the customer.
That is where empowerment comes in. At the time of crisis or making an impact with customer, empowered employees are the ultimate weapons. Human touch is a big differentiator, provided all other things are equal ( for example fast billing as a process). Entrepreneurs survive because they lack processes ( on the account of small size of business). They have more human level interaction that process level interaction.
I don’t mean to say that processes are not fruitful but the fact that a good balance of human level interaction ( achieved through employee empowerment ) and well defined processes is the best strategy to keep customers happy.