I was trying to remember where I originally heard or read the concept, “One to say yes. Two to say no.” Of course, it was on Shep Hyken’s blog some seven or so years ago. The concept has certainly remained top of mind since that first reading.
At its core is the guideline that if an employee is empowered to do so, they may say yes to a customer. But if they are ever inclined to say “no,” they should always check in with a manager or colleague to either make a one-time exception or seek a creative alternative.
A hardship credit
Over the course of my career in the contact center, it’s not abnormal for customers to contact us claiming hardship and asking for a credit or an extension on their bill. And certainly, there’s been no shortage of such requests during the current pandemic. In one case, a customer lost a family member to COVID and wondered if we might grant a free month of service. What’s the policy in these cases?
To care for customers or protect company resources
Talk to members of your finance team about the contact center and you may sense a general fear that agents are ready and willing to give away the farm to keep customers happy. By “give away the farm” I’m referring to their willingness to offer customers monetary credits seemingly without limits. While this is something to be vigilant against, I’ve often witnessed quite the opposite on teams I’ve managed.
Instead, agents recognize that our business exists to make money, and excessively crediting customers could threaten the company’s viability. They aim to balance the desire to be customer-centric while helping the business be profitable.
To credit or not to credit
Back to the moment when a customer, claiming a hardship related to the pandemic, asked for a credit of a few dollars. It was the equivalent of one month of free service and it seemed like the right thing to do to grant the request. Sure, we might gain some customer loyalty in the deal, but this was more of a matter of doing for another that which I would want to be done for me.
There was, however a range of opinions on my team. On one end of the spectrum, team members would grant every one of these requests, and on the other end, none would be granted. In these cases, leaders should establish parameters if they want to ensure any level of consistency. Here are the guidelines we’ve settled on:
- Any amount of $5 or less can be waived with no questions asked. This dollar amount should be consistent with a typical monthly invoice to cover a majority of cases that would satisfy customers. There’s never a need to say “no” if the request is one time and the amount is less than $5.
- Amounts greater than $5 need to be approved by a manager. Even if an agent is inclined to say “no,” we make it clear that it’s not their judgment call to make.
- As an added check, we will monitor closely those repeat requests for credits. Customers that regularly request such compensation should be reviewed to ensure that our gestures of goodwill aren’t being abused. They are few and far between.
Part of the reason for requiring manager approval is to both act as a gatekeeper to ensure that credits don’t get out of control and to be keenly aware of root causes (like outages, lack of certain features, and other issues) that result in frequent customer complaints.
Finally, by employing this “one to say yes, two to say no” policy, we continue in our quest to do both what’s best for the customer AND the business.
In the Customer Experience Question of the Day (CXQOTD) on November 16, I asked “What companies are offering relief to customers during the pandemic?” Leave a comment below and share how your company and contact center addresses customer requests for credits — especially in light of the current pandemic.