Rules, policies and procedures are, in most organizations, tools used to control customer behaviour. They are designed to satisfy internal needs such as productivity, cost management, risk minimization and audit control.But in addition to meeting the internal requirements of an organization, rules and policies can be critical in determining the success of your strategic game plan , particularly as it relates to interfacing with and serving the customer.For proof, just look behind most negative customer experiences in an organization and you will most likely find a rule, policy or procedure that has infuriated a customer because it didn’t allow them to do what they want.And what do infuriated customers do? They tell all of their friends and family about your rotten customer service and probably look for another organization to do business with. Any way you look at it, an infuriated customer doesn’t serve the strategy of an organization very well.
Do you want a narcissist brand?
A complicated, bureaucratic and customer unfriendly system of rules carries with it a narcissistic brand; an organization that cares only for itself. Lack of an external facing rule system communicates That you really don’t care about the customer experience; that you really are more concerned about meeting internal efficiency targets than you are about creating exceptional and memorable experiences for people.Not a good thing to tell a highly competitive market where customer empowerment and choice is greater than ever.So as the alternative, why not create rules and policies that serve the customer — empower the customer to do what they want — rather than control the customer and deny them of satisfying their personal needs?Why not create internal rules that liberate a customer to achieve what THEY want in a manner that is acceptable to THEM?Why not design procedures that make it EASY for the customer to business with you and not make it difficult for them just because of organizational limitations and other internal self-imposed constraints?
Policies should dazzle people
Rules and policies should be created with the objective of creating dazzling service experiences for people.Here are a few of the amazing things that will happen if you do…
- customers will feel liberated and empowered to satisfy their ambitions with you; this translates into more business for your organization. Happy customers like buying and they also like sharing their experiences with others;
- customers will find it easier to do business with you. No one likes to fight through an organization to get their needs satisfied. They’ll go somewhere else to avoid the pain;
- frontline effectiveness is improved. Rather than having to spend copious amounts of their time with customers trying to enforce dumb rules that annoy and make no sense to customers that can actually spend their time enabling them to complete transactions and generate revenue for the organization;
- frontline job satisfaction goes up as the anxiety and stress of dealing with unhappy customers is reduced. Amazing things happen when you are allowed to say yes to a customer rather than constantly trying to get them to accept an internal policy that “the suits” think is necessary, but the customer refuses to accept;
- the customer experience improves dramatically as the rules of the organization now please the customer as opposed to annoying them beyond belief. It’s really quite simple: if a customer sees that the organization is trying to bend over backward to satisfy their needs, they are not only please, but they tell others “You won’t believe the service I got from XYZ Company!”.
- customer loyalty increases as a result of the more memorable experiences they have. This is why saying yes as many times as you can creates strategic value. Customers who love the experience they have remain loyal to the organization that provides them, and this translates into higher retention and therefore market share. Say NO! too often and watch your retention rates plummet;
- the organization is distinguished from its competitors who continue to treat rules as vehicles to control the customer. In fact rather than being viewed as narcissistic and inward focussed, the say yes organization becomes known as what every firm covets — being customer obsessed, customer focussed and existing for the customer.
How to start saying yes
You need to discover the main policy pinch points in the organization, like the top 10 policies that make your customers go postal on a regular basis. It’s not a bad idea — it’s essential really — to engage your customers in a conversation on the topic; they will have no difficulty telling you which rules are unreasonable, dumb and just outright stupid. And they will love you for asking!But beware of the momentum managers: those people who want to stay with the say NO! course. The people who will try and argue that dumb policies are necessary because of some regulation or law preventing it from being changed.Challenge every claim like this; you will find — as I did when I launched a Dumb Rules Program in my organization — that there ARE some policies that can’t be changed. But I assure you that you will discover more policies that CAN be changed than not.And hold your managers accountable for killing the stupid policies you uncover; put it in their performance plan to show them that cleansing the internal environment of policies that suck from a customer’s perspective is the highest priority.