A servant of policies

Are you teaching your employees that your policies govern all interactions with customers, even at the expense of common sense and the customer experience? Do you want your employees to serve your customers or your policies?

My wife and I visited a store to purchase a gift. However, within a couple hours of purchasing the gift, we found out it wasn’t needed. So my wife called the store to ask if we could return the gift, and we were told yes. I drove over, explained that we had just called and were told that returning the item was possible, I handed the item over and the employee began processing the return. However, before the employee (let’s call her Sally) could really get started, her elder coworker (let’s call her Sue) interjected to say that the item could not be returned. Mind you, Sue was with a different customer at this time. She left off serving her own customer to inform both of us that, according to policy, the only two options were to exchange the item for a different product or a gift card. I explained that my wife was told over the phone that we can return the gift and that we had no need for a different item or a gift card.

Sally admitted that she was the one who had said that we can return the gift, but she went on to then say that she is only an intern and that she had made a mistake in telling us that the item could be returned. We went back and forth, but it became clear that Sue had dug in and wasn’t going to budge, and she wasn’t going to let Sally provide the service that had been promised. The store had a policy and Sue was sticking to it.

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper as I left the store.

Two points to ponder

Your interns are your employees, and if they are interacting with customers, they are the face of your company. Train them so that they also represent your company well. If your non-return policy – or any policy for that matter – is absolutely written in stone, then everyone should be aware of this. Also, if your intern happens to make a mistake, it should not be the customer who has to pay. By the way, I do not blame the intern for the negative experience, as I got the feeling she initially wanted to serve me as she had said she would. Which brings me to my second point.

The responsibility for this negative experience falls on the shoulders of Sue. A much better way to handle this situation would have been to explain to both Sally and myself that there is a no-return policy, but because we’d been told that we can make the return, that this promise would be honored. Instead of having an extremely dissatisfied ex-customer and a publicly embarrassed intern, you would have a grateful customer who wouldn’t hesitate to buy your products in the future. Or perhaps even better would have been to let the intern handle the case completely, and then after I had left the store Sue could have explained to Sally how she could or should have handled the case.

A question to consider

Are you teaching your employees that your policies govern all interactions with customers, even at the expense of common sense and the customer experience? Do you want your employees to serve your customers or your policies?

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