It was a dark and stormy night as I entered the store. I’d ordered a (geekishly expensive) camera from said store and was still waiting for it to ship to my home, a couple of states away. However, my travels unexpectedly landed me in the town where the store-that-shall-not-be-named-
So I walked up to the customer service desk to learn that my camera had not shipped and was, in fact, in the store. “Excellent,” I exclaimed. And that’s when the help desk staffer lowered the boom (or was that thunder?): “I can’t give it to you. It has a shipping order attached.” Knowing the intricacies of running a retail business, I was sympathetic and, instead, offered to just eat the cost of shipping myself because I really wanted to leave with that camera. In other words, I was asking the staff to make an exception to their policy.
They wouldn’t. And here’s why in today’s social, everybody’s-got-a-mic-and-an-
But back to the store…
Long story short, no one would give me the camera—not even the manager, not even the head of sales. The camera had a shipping order and that was that. I left the store (absolutely for the last time) without a product I had already paid for that was mere feet from me. And you can rest assured my audience heard about it.
Policy can no longer always trump customer service. In fact, plenty of companies have been “modifying” policy for years.
Look at the companies that excel in customer service. Nordstrom’s is clearly not going broke even though it accepts returns on all products – even items they don’t actually sell. Zappo’s has become the darling of internet shoppers thanks to handling shipping issues with such grace and kindness people rave about them online. Companies like Comcast and Delta have learned to use social to keep customers happy. They understand the social currency and value of modified policy.
Can you bend the rules all the time? Of course not. Even some of the time is probably too much. But if you can school your employees on business decision-making and its potential value instead of hammering home hard and fast rules, you’ll be better off on multiple fronts. Happier customers. Empowered employees. Awesome stories shared.
And in case you’re wondering, I did eventually get my camera. It’s great. But every time I shoot with it, I remember this experience and I remember how I won’t shop at this particular retailer again. Today, a couple of years after this happened, I’m in the market for another camera and simply refuse to even think of them as a point of purchase. Flexible customer service could’ve changed that.