I am not for rules and regulations; dyed-in-the-wool and cast-in-stone polices and procedures! They don't sit too well with me. I dislike prescriptive, one-size-fits-all and straight-jacketed, non multi-dimensional, rigid, and non outside-the-box thinking work rules. Like, it worked for Jane, so it must work for Janet. I administered drug ABC to Joe for his fever so it must be good for Joel. Or the popular one; this is how it is done here.
Organizations must create legroom for policy shift and creative thinking once issues get to front burner or customer-losing point. Company staff must be empowered to make logical decisions within the confines of rhyme and reason. I hate polices that insist that a customer shells out N50,000 as minimum account opening balance when he has the rights to draw N49,000 immediately after account opening? Why the policy? This simply creates avoidable work for the transaction officers who would have used same valuable time for other responsibilities. Sadly, it leads to loss of potential customers who would have opened accounts with the bank but have between N1,000 to N49,000 only, but held back by the N50,000 benchmark.
I am not for rules and regulations that insist that hotel patrons cannot bring in cooked food to their rooms when the hotel does not operate a restaurant. Even if they do! This disenfranchises potential guests who have specialized diet preferences.
OK, don't get me wrong. It doesn't mean I hate playing by the rules. No, I don't really mind rules and regulations as it truly magnifies the opposite, but I will clarify. Most prescriptive advice, rules and regulations, polices and procedures do not consider the speed at which times change, the peculiarities of circumstances, the uniqueness of each issue, the perspective of an individual, personal idiosyncrasies, technological changes, customer preferences and behavioral changes, political dimensions, economic realities and socio-cultural nuances. Policies must be situated within the confines of currency and customer convenience.
Most of our companies dish out sloppy services due to regulations, policies and procedures. To me, rules, regulations, policies and procedures:
- Are one way dimensional
- Are service killers
- Frustrate initiatives
- Are rigid
- Are punitive
One argument for prescriptive advice polices and procedures which I don't buy is that they actually serve as a guide. I usually ask, why then use it to sanction? Their response has always been; to err is human, but to forgive is not company's policy! I've always wished and advocated that the whole policy of a customer-centric organization or even a pretentious one should be condensed to:
Do your best possible to retain customers by all reasonable means and at a minimal loss if any; then facilitate referrals.
If well acted out and impact measured, this alone will double patronage within months.
Example, a customer requests to be allowed to eat in, in a supermarket and a staff insists that company policy stands in the way! Customer is disappointed but is mute and the business loses one and other potentials from him. Yes it needs be stressed again that each time we lose a customer, the cumulative loss is a minimum of fifty other transactions and more! A smart officer would make alternate arrangements and allowances.
Second, a visibly sad customer makes it to the bank and all the front desk staff wear plastic smiles via policy. And nothing is funny to him and nobody cares to query him for a second to explain such sad countenance. He wants his money instant to go bury his dead son, but as usual the link is down.
Third, chorusing same greetings like the choir is another incongruent policy. Welcome to XYZ Company, how may we be of service to you? Goodbye from our company, hope you were well served. Customers even make mockery of this as it loses its thrill over time.
A bank potential customer wishes to open an account but has only one passport photograph instead of the mandatory two. So is denied account opening. With all the technological advancements, customer-centric banks would even use their phones to snap and obtain a prospect's instant and live photograph for this exercise. Bank wins, prospect wins!
Flexibility is the key. Away with all the plastic smiles. Attentiveness and willingness to help should rank first and second in customer retention strategies. Empathy is being in the customer's shoes and a smile is arguably the last thing to offer an irate customer. Attentiveness is what you offer a non-irate customer too. Plastic smiles are for dinner parties. It is always better to imitate the customer's countenance, then serve!
What organizations need to do are:
- Empowerment of staff to resolve issues on the spot as much as possible
- Employ outside the box thinkers
- Ensure service is engrained in the DNA of all staff in the organization
- 'Mourning period' declared over the loss of one customer and all efforts geared towards winning him back.
- Daily customer feed back
- Carry customers along and ask how you are doing. Feedbacks forestall setbacks
Finally, I have always argued that adaptive and flexible staff are deployed as customer service personnel in organizations. It has been proven severally that those who studied liberal arts do far better in customer service. Customers require lots of flexibility to retain. More so, they act sometimes, so they have a match in flexible actors too.