Where Policies and Great Customer Service Coexist

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Grand Tetons National Park – Photo Credit: Jeremy Watkin

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on August 9, 2018. Click here to read the original.

My family and I had a fantastic vacation. Thanks for asking! Seriously though we did a little road trip and saw Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton (pictured) National Parks. They are incredible places.

After camping for a few days, keeping my cell phone charged to navigate our way home became a challenge and I realized that my car chargers were inadequate to do the job. At our next opportunity we stopped at a Love’s Travel Stop and I purchased one of those car chargers that can charge a couple devices at once. I ended up with one that looked sturdy and had lots of power.

Assuming it would work flawlessly, I said “No thanks” to the receipt, got in the car, and headed down the highway. The only problem is that it didn’t work flawlessly. It didn’t work at all. We had purchased a faulty device and I had the sinking feeling that I might eat twenty dollars because I didn’t get a silly receipt. At that point we were thirty miles away and there was no way I was backtracking.

Having no experience purchasing such items from Love’s I decided to stop at the next one I happened upon to see if I could make an exchange. Full of hope but also bracing myself for the worst, I walked into a Love’s an hour later to see if they could help me.

When I approached the counter, a lady who might have been a supervisor, asked if I had a receipt. When I said I didn’t, she said that she could call the other store and ask them to fax it over. She immediately called the store and then asked me to wait until we received the fax. In the meantime, she recognized my immediate need to charge my phone and took the time to run through the other chargers they sold. We settled on one that would cost about five dollars more but would allow me to charge four devices at once instead of two. She made the sale and I appreciated the extra attention.

I stood by for a few more minutes when the general manager (her boss) called me up to the counter and apologized for the wait. He then processed the exchange and used his super powers to override the need for a receipt. In all, the experience took less than fifteen minutes, I was back on the road, and my phone was fully charged in less than an hour.

I was a happy customers and for a few reasons. Let’s take a more detailed look at what the Love’s team did right:

  • Exhaust all options within the process. The supervisor could have easily sent me packing when I couldn’t provide a receipt. I’m sure they have a policy somewhere to that effect. Instead she offered to have the receipt faxed over provided that I’d be willing to wait a bit longer. It was clear that she wasn’t authorized to make the exchange but she exercised some creativity to still help me out.
  • Keep the customer updated. I was standing there so I could see what was happening the entire time. She still took the time to give me status updates like, “Give me a moment to give the other store a call” and “We’re still waiting for the fax. It shouldn’t be too much longer.” She understood that I needed to get back on the road and was committed to doing that as quickly as she should.
  • Address all of the needs. Great customer service professionals don’t just fixate on the policy. She rightly understood that my ultimate goal was to charge my phone. One might call it sales or upselling because, understanding my need, she showed me the product she thought would best meet that need — and she was right.
  • Call for backup. From the supervisor’s perspective, she likely could have said no at any point in the experience and I may have driven off. But she didn’t. She realized I had a need and kept looking for a solution that ultimately led to asking the general manager for a special favor.
  • Walk the floor often. Finally, kudos to the manager for being present when his team needed him. How many support agents say no to customers simply because it’s easier than trying to track down someone who can make an exception? Or worse, that manager is completely unapproachable and unhelpful.

I toyed with the idea of playing up the agent empowerment angle a bit more in this article but decided not to. Sure, it would be great if all employees at Love’s, not just the manager, were empowered to exchange the item with no questions asked. It certainly would have been a bit more efficient — and many companies give their employees the ability to credit or compensate up to a certain dollar amount with no questions asked.

That being said, I hope this post highlights the fact that the supervisor worked to exhaust all of her options within the policy and kept me updated every step of the way. That’s great customer service! And the fact that the manager was close by to override the policy was also key to making this entire experience a positive one.

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