Customer Service May Rule, But Rules in Customer Service Don’t


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Empower Employees

It was just two weeks ago that I was on a family vacation and I’m still thinking about what a resort employee said as she denied what I thought was an extremely simple request:

I’m sorry, it’s our rule.

It was early in the morning and six of us wanted to sit on the patio outside of the restaurant for breakfast.  All of the tables were set up for four people.  Just the day before we were inside the restaurant, employees were happy to push two tables together allowing us all to dine together.  Apparently, there are different “rules” for the outside patio.  And by the way, the restaurant wasn’t crowded and there were plenty of open tables.

I asked the hostess if we could push the two tables together, and her response was, “I’m sorry we aren’t allowed to do that.”

“Why not,” I asked.

She embarrassingly put her head down and said, “I’m sorry, it’s our rule.”

You can only imagine what I was thinking at that point.  I asked if she would go ask the manger if they could make an exception for us.  A few minutes later she came back and said, “The manager will make an exception for you.”

The next day we were back.  We asked to put the two tables together again.  This time the hostess didn’t turn us down.  She simply told us she would be right back.  And, just a couple of minutes later she returned and said, “The manager said it would be okay.”

There are several lessons that couldn’t be clearer:

  • First, rules should be made about taking care of customers, not about the convenience of the business – as if pushing two tables together would be all that inconvenient.
  • Second, an employee shouldn’t have to go to the manager to ask permission for such a simple request.
  • Third, since the employee did ask the manager for permission and the manager approved, why did she have to go ask for the same thing the next day?

When it comes to customer service decisions, I can’t stand the word rules.  You can throw the word policy in there too.  A better word might be guidelines.  Or, if you insist on using the words rules and policies, then at least get employees to, rather than hide behind them, understand the spirit of the meaning behind them.

Once that is in place, empower employees to make decisions to support the customer.  They shouldn’t have to ask permission to do something that seems like common sense.  And, after they have been given permission the first time, they shouldn’t have to ask a second time.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright ©MMXIV, Shep Hyken)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. As a customer service speaker and expert, Shep works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is a hall of fame speaker (National Speakers Association) and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.


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