That's our policy!

- Francis J. Kong () - April 15, 2012 - 12:00am

I was in a hurry.

I was invited to speak in a well-known resort, in a land far, far away. Yes, that’s right. Everything within the resort was just so far from one another. From the guard house to the clubhouse, it’s at least half a kilometer!

I entered the resort and was asked to stop at the guardhouse to fill out a form, which, I was told, I had to bring to the front desk to have somebody sign off on it, and which I’d have to present to the guard on duty when I leave later in the day.

I spoke. I had a great time. The client enjoyed it too. After the book signing and the picture taking, I immediately went on my way home. I wanted to negotiate the mountainous trail while there was still daylight. But… I forgot… the slip of paper!

So, at the guardhouse, I pleaded. The sky was getting dark, and the road back to the front desk seemed to stretch forever. But the guard on duty stood firm.

“I cannot let you out, Sir,” he explained, “You do not have the exit pass.”

I pleaded once more.“Boss,” I said, “Please… It’s getting dark. I don’t want to go through the mountains in pitch darkness. Would you please just let me go out? You can check with the office about me…”

Then came the dreaded words – the words that make customers cringe and fume and rage: “I’m sorry, Sir, but that’s against company policy!”

Whenever I hear those words, I know that the person speaking lacks customer service training. People who say “It’s against company policy” or “It’s our policy” fail to understand that such words can destroy customer relationship that took years to build.

I kept my peace. This time, I pleaded with the guard to call the desk manager so I can speak with him. I presented my case to the gentleman there and asked him to get in touch with the client organizers so they can guarantee me. By this time, much sunlight had already been lost just negotiating this “policy”. Good thing the gentleman at the front desk responded favorably. “It’s all right, Sir,” he said. “We’ll take care of everything.” And the guard was given instructions to let me exit.

At what point does “the company policy” become bad for business? How should policy challenges be handled? Here are a few things to think about before you go citing the company policy:

Brian Tracy says, “Whatever your job title, you are in the business of customer satisfaction. Who is your customer?”

Business philosopher Jim Rohn says, “If you make a sale, you can make a living. If you make an investment of time and good service in a customer, you can make a fortune.”

Writer Og Mandino says, “The only certain means is to render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.”

Mark McCormack says, “You can be doing the best job in the world for your client, but if there’s something missing, if the client is unhappy, then all your opinions about your performance are worthless. Great service is a matter of perception. Great service is what the client thinks it is.”

And here are my recommendations:

1. Find a better language

The way you communicate the company policy can determine whether your customer would come back or tell others to stay away from you. Try to respond to policy challenges in such a way that the customer feels like you understand his or her situation. Corporate speak turns off customers. But most will respect a policy if they feel that you understand them and are willing to help.

2. Find the context

Understand where the customer is coming from. What is his or her unique situation that prompts such a request. Is it reasonable, logical and sensible?

3. Find the compromise

There’s always room for compromise, if you are willing to find it, if you’re willing to help the customer out. Just like what the nice gentleman at the front desk did.

If you have been in business for as long as I have, then you know that you are not going to please every customer. But you must understand that the true value of the customer goes beyond the transaction. If you need to quote a company policy, it means you have a challenge that, when turned around, will be able to create that person into a loyal customer.

Respond to policy challenges positively. Train every personnel in your organization who have touch points with your customer to do so. Even temps and casual employees need to be trained in the very basics of positive action and communication.

Excellent customer service simply means inconveniencing yourself for the convenience of others – your customers! Which is based on a biblical principle by the way: Do unto others what you want them to do unto you.

(Spend two whole days with Francis Kong developing your leadership skills this April 25-26 at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel. For further inquiries, contact Inspire Leadership Consultancy Inc. at 632-6872614 or 09178511115.)

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