by Scott Levine (

In today’s fast-moving world, businesses that want to remain competitive must develop a culture of responsiveness.  A responsive organization is one that adapts to change quickly and responds rapidly to customer demands, valuable opportunities, or even new laws that may affect the customer experience.

Unfortunately, responsiveness eludes too many businesses.  Take customer service, for example. You might think companies are acutely aware of the value of offering a prompt response to customers who need help or have a complaint.  Yet, Sprout Social, the social media management platform, found that brands reply to just 1 in 10 social media messages from customers. Similarly, SuperOffice’s 2018 study of 1,000 companies worldwide revealed that 62 percent of the companies targeted failed to respond to customer service requests.

These companies are almost certainly losing potential customers. Consumers detest being ignored and won’t hesitate to give their loyalty to a more responsive competitor.  Worse, if you fail to respond to the wrong tweet or Facebook complaint, you could wind up dealing with not just one, but a whole hoard of furious consumers, if the post goes viral.

Responsiveness = Speed + Value

It’s not enough to simply respond to customers, however. Your response should be prompt and offer helpful information, solutions or genuine concern.  As succinctly described in Brand Quarterly: Responsiveness = Speed + Value.  If either of these two elements is missing, you’re not demonstrating the depth of your worth to customers nor will you receive the full benefit of being responsive.

Companies that ignore the two critical elements of responsiveness do so at their peril.  Remember the United Airlines debacle, where airport security literally dragged a 69-year old passenger from the seat he’d paid for because the airline was forcing him to give up his place to a United employee?  The company indeed responded–but initially blamed the customer for “not obeying instructions.”   The response set off an enormous outcry and public relations nightmare that propelled United (along with several other airlines) to Capitol Hill to testify about their overbooking policies and led them to change their customer service policies.

Don’t let it get to that point. Complete responsiveness should always build trust with your customers.

Where Responsiveness Meets Agility

Fostering a culture of responsiveness in your business is about much more than engaging with individual customers, however.  It’s about ensuring that your company can recognize shifts in customer needs and desires and has the agility to rapidly respond to these changes.

Agile companies have flexible processes in place to identify new customer demands and quickly roll out new or modified services or products to meet these demands.  In particular, they have efficient decision-making processes that allow key managers and executives to reach consensus without having to battle through miles of internal red tape before taking action.

However, most companies, especially larger ones, find themselves trapped by their own complex organizational and decision-making processes.  By the time a proposed project has travelled back and forth through all the required channels and addressed the myriad fears and doubts of the many people involved, the company may have already lost its market share to a more agile and responsive competitor.  (For those of you who remember Blockbuster–and especially those that don’t– learn from their lesson.)

How to make your company more responsive

Developing a responsive company culture starts with ensuring that your customers are always at the center of your business.  When your business’s number one priority is addressing their needs and concerns, whether on an individual or macro level, then company leaders will also make instituting a system for responsivity a high priority.  Such a system might include:

  • ensuring that your customer service department understands the full meaning and value of responsiveness, and has a target response time for every customer.
  • designating a team to monitor and respond to every mention of the business on social media.
  • streamlining the decision-making process by creating agile teams staffed with qualified, focused, forward-looking members to take charge of shepherding through decisions that affect the customer experience.

Your lawyers, too, can help your company to become more responsive to customer demands.  Keep your lawyers in the loop about upcoming projects, goals, and innovations, so they can be ready to find rapid legal paths to make your goals reality.

Scott Levine can be reached at or (314) 454-9100 x 101.