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When Good Policies Go Bad; Customers Lose & You Lose

Flickr photo by danxoneil

“Sorry, that’s not our policy.” How many times have we heard that in our lives? We, the customers simply want our problem solved, but “company policy” prevents that from happening without a fight or getting someone higher up the management chain involved.

Some kind of exception to the company’s rules must be made, and the amount of company sacrifice is carefully explained to us. In so many words we are told that turning us into a satisfied customer is outside the “norm” of the company’s procedures, but a special “one-time exception” will be made in our case. “Have a nice day and thank you for shopping at Poor Policies, Inc.”

How long will it be before we darken the door of Poor Policies, Inc. again? And how many people are going to hear a detailed account of our experience there?

Studies have shown that the average number of people who attend weddings and funerals is 250. This is the sphere of influence we all have. These are the people we encounter during our daily lives — co-workers, relatives, casual acquaintances, etc. If you had this experience how many people would you tell? Is it possible the story might be embellished along the way?

Why Policies?

Why do we feel we need to create policies? And even more important: Why are they etched in stone with little or no wiggle room? Believe it or not, policies do serve a useful purpose.

They create consistency within the work environment and are a sort of comfort zone for employees. It spells out what they can and cannot do. It sets boundaries and establishes the rules. The down side is they are almost always at odds with good customer service and they are a lazy way to avoid good customer service training.

A Sign For Every Policy

How do you feel in the policy environment?

Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do? How do you feel when you walk into a business and see signs such as, “No Refunds Without Receipt,” or “20% Restocking Fee On ALL Returns?” Whatever your customer service challenges, we have a sign to combat it.

There is a sign in a local tire store here that reads, “Customers are responsible for making sure their wheel covers are securely fastened before leaving.” Shouldn’t that be the tire stores job? Do I need to be sure the lug nuts are tight too? Did they inflate the tires? Do I expect my wife to go out and start pulling on the wheel covers?

A Better Way

Is there a way policies and customer service can complement each other?

In the case of the tire store, you train your personnel in the art of replacing and securing wheel covers so the covers don’t come off. If there is a problem with the wheel covers, then alert the customer so he or she might have the dealer order new ones or fix the problem with the existing ones.

Wouldn’t that be a better way of handling the situation rather than putting the customer on the defensive to begin with? When I read that sign in the tire store does it give me trust and confidence in the business? If wheel covers are my responsibility, I wonder how the store is going to handle other customer service issues I might have, like tire warranties.

Some Final Thoughts

If the wheel covers do come off, then you, as the business owner, have a decision to make. Empower your employees to take care of the problem and keep a good customer who will tell others how you stand behind your work; or refuse to correct the problem and have one to 250 people hear a negative story about your business. Which option would you choose?

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