When the Sentence Opens with, “Our Policy Is…”

I went to return a defective item at a home improvement store in Georgia this week. The store Returns Department customer service person was very nice.  She apologized for the problem and offered to make it right by replacing the item with no hassle.  That was the best part.  I like the “No Hassle Treatment.”  

She said, “Now if you want to buy something else,  just tell them at checkout that I replaced the item and if they need to verify, they can call me.”  She gave me her name and smiled.

I liked the store so much, I shopped some more, with my replaced item in tow. They marked it so there would be “no misunderstanding.”  As we left the check-out clerk inquired about the replaced item.  I told her the story and showed her the sticker on my box.  Big mistake; big hassle.  “Our policy is that we don’t replace items, sir.  We only refund you the money and DO NOT replace it.”  Huh? I told her about the nice lady at the Returns Department.  “Oh,” she said. “If she handled it then that is alright.” Then she added firmly, “Just know, our policy is that we don’t replace items, though.”

Did I need to know their “policy” after the fact?  What good was quoting a rule that didn’t apply to my situation do?   In fact, what good does quoting an unwritten (or written rule) to a customer do?  DO your loyal customers need an education in your private policy manual?  Do they CARE about your policy manual?


Tell me this: Have you ever been quoted a policy by some pencil-pusher who doesn’t care about you or your problem?   Have they told you they can’t do something when they really meant to say they WON’T do it?   In my opinion, when the sentence opens with, “Our policy is…”, the rest of it isn’t going to end in your favor. 

I had a customer dis-service representative tell me last month on the phone, “Our policy is to not allow customers to speak to a supervisor.”  I answered, “MY policy is that I get to speak to any supervisor of any service provider.”   She hung up.  I called back to speak to him.   He said that is NOT their policy.  It is, though.

Are policies more important to you than people?  Here is a quick way to find out.  If you are emphasizing policies, then you are having less people – both working for you and as customers. 

One of the most frequent complaints I hear during strategy sessions with executives is that their people don’t use creative ways to cross-sell, or extend themselves with customers.   Then I find out that the workers are afraid to step out of the rules (or don’t know them well enough to be empowered to act) in trying out ideas.   They don’t feel they have permission to satisfy the customers.  They are afraid of retribution from their supervisors. 

What policies do you have that have to be reinforced to your customers over and over?  What rules do you have in place that stifle your employees’ creativity?   What rewards or incentives can you put in place to turn them around?  Give bonuses to people who extend themselves beyond the rules and make your company/organization a winner.  Empower your people to satisfy your customers beyond the manual.  People do what gets rewarded.  Recognize them publicly so that everyone will get the idea that this behavior is what gets rewarded.


1 Response to “When the Sentence Opens with, “Our Policy Is…””

  1. 1 How Companies “Punish” their Customers « The Reinvention Strategist Trackback on July 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

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