Rules and regulations.
We all hate them but yet we can’t live without them, especially in business.
Usually, the rules and regulations when it comes to business, are called policies. It’s important to have policies in place so everyone in the organization knows how to handle situations when they arise. With policies in place, people don’t have to think about how to handle a situation.
There’s the problem.
People don’t have to think and so they don’t think about how to best serve the customer. If a company relies totally on its policies to deal with situations your business may come across as inept — not the communications message you want to be sending.
Let me give you a couple of examples to show you what I mean.
A few years ago, I was talking to someone who worked as a clerk for a large national department store. He had a customer who wanted to purchase an item that was on sale. However the item was unavailable in this particular store, although it was available at one of the store’s other locations in town. The customer asked to have the item shipped from the other store to her home and the clerk, being a customer service pro, said, “No problem.”
The customer left the store, happy that she would be receiving her purchase in a few days.
So, what’s the problem?
You’re thinking, where’s the problem? The problem is with store policy.
As the clerk began writing up the order to have the item shipped, his boss informed him that store policy is that items that are on sale for more than 50 percent cannot be shipped. You may be thinking, well that’s a good policy because the store would lose money on sale items being shipped.
Here’s where a good policy went bad.
The item the customer wanted was priced at $350, and that was the sale price! According to store policy because this item was on sale for more than 50 percent it couldn’t be shipped. Now if the customer had bought a $30 item that was full-price the store would have shipped it, no questions asked.
That’s where a good policy turns bad.
Be sure your employees can override a company policy using common sense.
Policies need exceptions
Here’s another example that came from a nationally broadcast radio program that tried to help people solve consumer related issues. A woman called the show to seek help on resolving a problem she was having with a health club in the Midwest. She had paid a large membership fee to join the health club and was then diagnosed with an illness that would prevent her from doing any vigorous exercise. She wanted to get her membership fee refunded because she was not going to be able to use the service but the health club was refusing to refund the money. They told her that the policy was that fees could not be refunded and the policy couldn’t be violated even with her health problems.
The radio program got the health club person on the phone and on the air and she informed the host that even though this client was ill and unable to use the health club they couldn’t alter the policy. She said if she did it for this person she would have to do it for everyone (highly unlikely). The host suggested that maybe with a doctor’s note — confirming the woman’s illness — the health club could issue a refund. She replied that the client could get the doctor to write anything so that wouldn’t work either.
It went back and forth like this for a while making the health club look worse and worse. I doubt that a refund was ever issued but this problem likely did some damage to the reputation of the health club.
Allow some flexibility
Remember, policies are good, but complete inflexibility when it comes to administering policies is bad. Be sure to tell your employees to follow the policies, especially when dealing with customers. At the same time, let your employees know that they should also use some common sense with the policies.
Don’t let good policies create bad communications.