Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lessons in Agility from a Trash Company

A Tale of Recycling

Tired of manually sorting and hauling my recyclables, I finally gave in and decided to add recycling pickup to my trash service. I e-mailed my current provider, a small mom and pop outfit, to find out that it would be an additional $24 per quarter. Now, this is no great sum of money but it caused a minor feeling of being taken advantage of given that my current fee is $58. As a percentage of my existing cost, this seemed rather high - especially for picking up items for which the company wouldn't have to pay a landfill fee.

The Offer

I called a large national competitor and was surprised to learn that the service was significantly less. I e-mailed my current service provider back with an offer to match the price. What happened next was nothing short of amazing customer service.

Within about an hour of my e-mail, my wife calls me to let me know that the trash company called her. The company verified the price with their competitor and offered to match the price.

It gets better.

I arrived home from work a few hours later to unexpectedly find a brand new 96 gallon recycling container tucked next to my garage. Wow. A trash company just amazed me with exceptional customer service. A TRASH COMPANY.

The Impact

Why am I writing about this?

First, no matter what business you are in, there is always an opportunity for providing amazing service to your customers

Second, the response to my offer was blindingly fast. Their speed is due to the small size of the company. As any company becomes more successful and larger, there are context switching and coordination costs that prevent quick execution. This company is still tiny compared to their competitors.

Small is nimble.

What does this have to do with Agile and software development?

Agile processes are centered around small, empowered teams. Even in the largest of companies, an agile development team can be remarkably effective. It can deliver exceptional customer service for the products it maintains. The team is empowered to make critical decisions thereby decreasing time to market. An agile development team can be, in many ways, just like the small mom and pop trash company: small, nimble, customer driven and breathtakingly effective.

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