An earlier post (https://tskraghu.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/the-secret-saucein-action/) presented a few examples of how customer satisfaction/delight results when the end-point of service-delivery is empowered to act in response to a situation outside of the rule-book.
Here is a recent example where a misguided adherence to a rule-book resulted in a death that was perhaps avoidable. Please read this sad account appearing in Times Of India (17th Feb 15) of an accident to understand how screwed up our systems and procedures, followed by a short take on what/how end-point empowerment could have saved a life in this instance:
Hit by stone, railway commuter falls victim to cop’s apathy in Mumbai
MUMBAI: A woman aged 29 lost her life because she was hit by a stone while she was on a train, returning home. She fell onto the tracks, unconscious, and though help reached her within 30 minutes, she could not be saved because of the alleged obstinacy of a GRP constable.
The incident occurred on February 9. Badlapur resident Darshana Pawar (29), a receptionist at the Navi Mumbai office of an MNC, boarded a local at Thane. Around 7.45 pm, a stone hit her on the head, making her fall off the train ahead of Ambernath station; she was standing near the door of her compartment. Her fellow passengers pulled the chain, but the train stopped at Badlapur station. The station master was informed and he took the next CST-bound local to reach the spot.
By 8.10 pm, the station master, with the help of a good Samaritan, Madhu Birmole (was on her way to CST to take a train to Vadodara), took Pawar to Ambernath station. There, Birmole took over, and at 8.18 pm, with the help of two porters, brought Pawar to the nearby civic-run Chaya Hospital, where a constable from the Kalyan GRP also reached. Within minutes, Chaya doctors recommended shifting Pawar to the government-run Central Hospital in Ulhasnagar. At this, Birmole requested the constable to give her possession of Pawar so that she could be taken to a private hospital, but the constable denied, saying it was against the rule-book. “I told him her condition was critical. He told me I wasn’t her blood relative and so had no right to interfere,” Birmole said.
At Central, after administering first aid to Pawar, the doctors told the constable to shift Pawar to a better-equipped hospital. By then, it was 10.27 pm. Birmole again sought possession of Pawar, but the constable refused. Helpless in the face of the GRP cop’s attitude, Birmole left. The constable, whose name hasn’t yet been made public, left for KEM Hospital, Parel, taking Pawar in a civic-run ambulance.
KEM denied admission to Pawar on the grounds that there were no vacant beds, forcing the constable to go to J J Hospital. It was 12.30 am. Pawar was admitted 15 minutes later, but the medical aid had come too late. At 4.45 am, the woman succumbed to her injuries.
The GRP allegedly also did not visit the accident spot for panchanama. When the Pawar family visited the spot, they found the victim’s bag, with her cash and cellphone missing.
On the entire matter, GRP commissioner Ravindra Singhal said, “I am ordering an inquiry.”
Why did the constable insist on going by the rule-book?
May be he was trained to believe the rule-book specified everything that had to be. Or, it could be that he was hounded in the past for acting outside of the rule-book on some occasions. Or, he did not read the book right in this instance. etc. etc.
In today’s world, more often than not, it is impossible to anticipate every possible situation at the final point of service-delivery. It is very necessary to empower the agent (employee) at the end point to act in the best interest of the customer and his own organization. This empowerment and its scope must get enshrined in the rule-book, training and recognition processes and instilled/reinforced in the staff.
When does the agent exercise his empowerment? That’s easy to answer – to handle all those situations not specified by the rule-book. And that would be quite a handful!
Empowerment does not imply the agent is left to draw solely on his intelligence and imagination to handle a contingency in the field. For example, in this instance, the GRP constable could be equipped with a map showing pre-approved hospitals and which of these are suitable and closest to an accident site – this simplifies enormously the decision process for him and cuts out the crucial delay in rushing the victim for immediate medical attention.
[Of course the use of a map could be extended in many ways. For starters, a history of accidents in the past easily identifies accident-prone spots and resources to provide immediate medical relief could be strengthened near these spots. If the map is online and accessible to the cop, it could tell him about the availability of beds as well]
In practice it is quite possible on some occasions decisions taken at the end-points are not entirely optimal. Hounding the erring agents is generally counter-productive. Abstracting and propagating the lessons learnt from both good and bad decisions strengthens empowerment.
In summary, it is no exaggeration to say empowering the end-points of service-deliveries makes all the difference between the winners and the rest.