Following “company policy” isn’t always the best idea. Yes, company policy is there for a reason. To give general guidelines to employees and customers on what usually should and shouldn’t happen. But, rules are meant to be broken. Sometimes following a rule just doesn’t make sense. “We don’t provide returns.” But you sent me a table with 1 leg, not 4! How is that fair? Give me my money back! “No, we cannot return your money. It’s company policy.” Seriously? Use some common sense.
Make Sure Your Company Policy Works for You, and Your Clients
Just recently a friend told me of her experience at a local, expensive, independent movie theater. She and a friend had sat down in the theater, when she decided she’d like some popcorn. So she got up, got it, and much to her surprise upon her return, someone was in her seat. Her friend had told this woman, this seat is for my friend. She will be back in a moment. The woman didn’t care. She plopped herself right down. When the popcorn retriever came back, she reiterated, “This is my seat. Could you please find another?” The woman responded with, “I don’t care. It’s my seat now. I’m not getting up.”
Since there were no more available seats in the theater for 2 people, they spoke with the manager to ask if they could intervene and get the woman to change seats. They refused. They shared that company policy is, if you get up from your seat, no matter what the reason, you are then giving up your right to that seat.
So, let me get this straight. To give you more money, I’m possibly forfeiting my right to a seat? I’m actually being penalized, for buying something from you? How is this even possible? It’s one thing if you’re not allowed to save a seat for a person who isn’t even on the theater property. It’s an entirely different one to save a seat for someone who is on the property, has paid for a ticket, has already sat down, has someone else seated next to the open seat and able to share that the seat is actually taken, and that it’s owner is only up for a moment to give you a ridiculous profit in the way of an $8 bag of popcorn. The logic and reasoning just isn’t there.
Use Commonsense Instead of Canned Answers
So, what should you do with company policy? Write it up, think it over, share it with your clients, and stick to it most of the time. But when it just doesn’t make sense, throw company policy right out the perfectly curtained window.
Let’s say you have a company policy that all items must be delivered to a warehouse first where they are inspected and nothing can go out until all the other items have arrived. But a client really really needs just one or two of the items for a huge party they’re having and is willing to pay the separate delivery fee, maybe let it slide. Or if you have an absolutely no-shopping with clients policy, but you have a client with particular physical needs for chairs and couches and there’s a design center right around the corner, maybe let them go with you for a sit test. Or you have worked with a favorite client for years and years, but they just paid off their child’s tuition and need to wait a few weeks past your payment deadline to get their next paycheck and pay you. Maybe let it slide.
Bending the rules here and there for customers lets them know that they’re more important to you than the rules. When someone follows rules blindly, it comes off as heartless, cold, and just plain immature.. Real leaders make decisions based on real thought, rather than spitting back canned answers like “Sorry, it’s company policy.”
Empower Your Employees to Make Decisions
And teach your employees to do the same. The more clueless an employees is to when they can use their judgement or not, the more likely they are to say, “Sorry, I can’t. It’s against company policy.” And the more likely a customer is to find a different designer for next time. Make your staff extremely familiar with your company policy, and then make them even more aware of when they should use their best judgement instead of following company policy.
Give examples from the past when another employee went against company policy and you were happy they did. Or times when you went against your own company policy. Make sure they’re comfortable and really understand when it’s ok for them to use their best judgement. Or if there are limits on when they can make a decision, and when they need to come to you for a decision. Empowering your employees really is priority 1 when it comes to great client care.
So what happened to my friend? She was forced to leave the theater, as there were no other 2 seat spots available. For her inconvenience, she was offered a free pass for the next time. But who wants to return to a place that treated them so poorly in the first place? I know I don’t.
Stand Out, by Breaking the Rules
So make it easy for your clients (and yourself). Stand out in a world of fierce competition, by bending the rules a bit when it makes sense. Go to painstaking efforts to create a company policy that really works for you and your clients, take plenty of time to share it in your first client meeting, and then tell yourself that if the need arises, you are willing to make adjustments. Because caring for your customers matters a heck of a lot more, than caring for a bunch of rules. You made them up anyways, so certainly you can allow yourself to bend them.
If you’d like even more ideas on how to use common sense to deliver spectacular client care, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how!