Have you ever walked into a store or been a guest at hotel and had a problem that was "out of the ordinary"? Of course you have, it has happened to many of us. It may be that the store "sale" was over and you wanted to return a product for credit or your room was not exactly to your liking. Either way, something about the product or service you paid for did not live up to your expectations, or to the advertized sales literature.
So like a good customer you mention this to your salesperson or hotel front desk agent, expecting a quick resolution to your seemingly reasonable request. Your response... "It's against company policy" for me to do that...
Well I don't care if it's against your company policy. I just want my issue fixed.
The policy of a store/business should never be recited to a customer. They don't care about your policies; they only care about their questions or concerns being answered and addressed in a timely manner.
If they ask something of you that you are not allowed to do; example: take a return of an item that is damaged and not covered within your usual return policy, then explain that you are not allowed to accept the return because of the damage. Don't explain why and how it's written in your employee handbook.
It is perfectly acceptable to inform a customer that; "Sorry but I will not be able to offer you ______________, but I CAN do this". Maybe you can't give a credit back on the sale item but you should be able to offer a store credit to your guest. Or offer a discount coupon towards their next purchase. Just as when we never want to tell a customer NO, there usually is another way to offset the needs of the guest.
In the above example, a better response would be "I'm sorry that we cannot accept this damaged item for return but I can offer you a discount coupon good toward your next purchase here" "I trust that will be a good way to show that we value your business and hope you continue to be a customer".
In the hotel example, if a guest is unhappy with their room, maybe it doesn't have a good view or the room has a stale odor, the best way to help the customer is to change their room and maybe even upgrade them to a larger suite, if possible.
But "company policy" states that if the room has a stale odor, you are to have someone from Housekeeping come and spray a deodorizer in the room. That's not the best way to address the problem; the guest knows you took the easy way out. Better to change their room and send up a complimentary amenity as well. This is how you "WOW" your guest.
Being in the retail or hospitality business is a challenging one to say the least. There are countless opportunities to make a customer happy, but this also comes with the occasional upset customer with a situation that needs to be addressed.
Don't recite company policy, don't point to the policy listed on the poster behind the cash register (better yet, tear down that poster) and don't let your guest walk away unhappy.
There is always another way to address a problem. I have taught my employees to put themselves in "the shoes of the customer". "How would YOU feel if you had this same problem and you couldn't get it fixed"? Does this make you want to do business with this store again? Do you feel like you have been taken advantage of? Do you think they really care about your satisfaction?
If you would not like to be treated in this manner then most likely your customer will not either!
Businesses that "think like the customer" are better prepared to offer solutions that make the customer feel appreciated and want to return. That is the essence of customer service. Not policy, but solutions.
About the Author
A 25+ year industry veteran, and known as “the ops guy” during his tenure at Hilton Hotels, Steve DiGioia has redefined the operational and service standards for multiple food and beverage departments for some of the best names in the industry.