Many organizations covet the ability to AMAZE their customers with the service they provide them.A critical step in trying to achieve this involves a common occurrence in most organizations every day: customers run head on into an internal rule, practice or procedure that annoys them makes them go postal.This is what I refer to as a dumb rule ; a rule that was given birth probably by some control freak with a nonsensical purist view that a customer should behave in a certain way that serves the organizations purposes with little regard for whether or not a customer will react favorably to getting treated in the prescribed manner.In my experience the fathers and mothers of dumb rules can be found in staff jobs whose role is to develop and implement operating procedures to govern, among other things, customer transactions. In these circumstances the objective is to meet internal requirements like efficiency and productivity rather than enhancing the customer experience .And, unfortunately, in some cases where customers are not the prime target they become collateral damage in the rule’s application; they are mistreated and tell hundreds of other people how crummy the organization’s service is.
Empower your frontline
One of my favorite dumb rule stories took place at The Mirage Hotel Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. There is a wonderful deli in the casino that serves the best rueben sandwiches ever but the customer friendliness of their rules sucks. My wife and I show up and asked the hostess for a booth and were told flatly that our request was not possible since it was their policy to offer booths only for parties of 6 or more.I get that management wanted to maximize the check value from these specific seats, but in this case the store was empty save my wife and me! Maximizing revenue beyond the two of us was an impossibility!Not only is this rule stupid (since the appropriate way to deal with customers from a hostess point of view is to ask the customer where they would like to be seated), the hostess was not empowered
to break it in this case when it made sense to do so.She enforced their policy mindlessly with utter disregard to the impact it was having on us. Not her fault really as the organization had their rule enforcer glasses on and were not about to bend even a fraction of a standard deviation from it.
Kill dumb rules
Or they will kill your business!They serve as nothing more than a de-dazzler in the customer experience and people will definitely take their business elsewhere.How do you go about identifying and wacking these ugly loyalty threateners? Go ask your frontline
what dumb rules they are constantly having to deal with. They know them.The issue is do you have the courage to listen and do something about them?
Form a dumb rules committee
I created “dumb rules committees” in the operations areas of my organization and appointed a dumb rules leader for each committee whose responsibility it was to seek out and destroy (or otherwise modify) rules that made no sense to customers and drove them crazy.Fun was had by all over this concept. Everyone, particularly the frontline, welcomed this initiative; they all were passionate about the purpose; we made real progress.We had contests among the committees to see who could come up with the most dumb rules to kill, and we celebrated the winners. The committees were expected to not only identify rules, policies and procedures that annoyed customers, they were also charged with the responsibility of eradicating them by taking whatever action was necessary to get it done.My role and that of my direct reports was to remove any roadblock’s preventing the committees from getting a rule dealt with.Many people say that certain rules are required by law or regulatory governance. First of all do careful due diligence to make sure that the claim is real and not posturing of a champion who doesn’t want their rule or policy removed. If the rule IS necessary, however, then at least look for ways to make it customer friendly.
Make the dumb rule customer friendly
And reconsider how the rule is enforced with a customer; what communications strategy is used. Is it friendly and helpful or is it demanding and intimidating? Take the time to design the customer communications content to minimize an adverse reaction; not always possible but it is worth doing nevertheless.At the end of the day, if you are able to expunge even 50% of the dumb rules you have in your organization, your customers will reward you with continuing loyalty
and your reputation will soon attract new customers as well.Related: This Is What a Winning Small Business Strategy Is