Corporate policies. Every company has them, every leadership team develops them. Once developed, employees are spoon-fed and even become cheerleaders of their company’s policies. Employees take pride in memorizing and knowing by heart these policies! Corporate policies offer structure, a consistent way of doing things, ease of training during the on boarding process, and can even support strategic initiatives. These all seem within reason and good business decisions, right? Yes and no. Yes, when they solve problems, provide guidance and structure, and are adaptable. No, when corporate policies backfire quicker than Cher’s backhand to Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck providing a “snap out of it” wake-up call to both the customer, company and the company. Where might , you ask, does this happen? In the front lines…in customer service.
Have you ever called a company call center with a problem and were given the candid answer of, “I’m sorry, Miss, but our company policy is……” Yet, what the customer hears is, “I’m not going to solve your problem.”
I experienced two of these situations this week (hence, which prompted me to write this blog). My first problem that I needed solving was with our home’s HVAC system. In Minnesota, while it’s not snowing yet (yes, giggle if you will) we did experience a 40+ degree temperature drop. The day I went to turn on the heat there was nothing. Okay. Not a problem. I pay for an extra service with our energy provider that allows us access to 24/7/365 emergency service. When scheduling the customer service person suggested I check the batteries of the thermostat (that’s nice…thinking of possible solutions) and scheduled us for the earliest appointment on Sunday. Again, I didn’t think it was a problem…we’d bundle up and get cozy and Sunday was only a few days away. I did replace the batteries and still no change.
Then in typical Minnesota fashion, the temperature dropped even further. Regardless if the body feels a drop from 100 to 60 degrees or 70 to 36 degrees, the first time during a season – it’s COLD! Our house temperature was 65 degrees and tonight the temps are expected to drop even further. Not a problem, (right?), as I thought I’d just call the utility company back and take advantage of our pre-paid emergency service. WRONG! When on the phone with customer service I explained that I’d like to receive same day service and was told, “We are not servicing same day heat or furnace related calls yet as it’s before our winter season service date. The temperatures are not below freezing.” What? Then I kindly (yes, I was kind and didn’t turn into Medusa) replied that I pay for this service and would like to get someone out today. Again, I got the customer service representative proudly regurgitating company policy and she even said, “This is our company policy.” Did she provide me with a solution? No. Did she care? No and that was clear from her tone. Was she doing her job? She was doing what she’s been told to do and say. What did I do? I told her she wasn’t providing me with a solution and asked to speak to a manager.
The manager came on the line, confirmed my account, and then made the comment, “yeah, the recent drop feels really cold. Would you mind holding for a moment and I’ll speak to a dispatcher to see if we can get out servicing you sooner.” Wow! This team lead lady made me feel like at least she heard and understood my problem and was doing something to help to solve it. When she came back on the line I was told someone would come out today. Which is great. Problem solved.
As a business owner though, I cringe at this company policy. It will deter current customers from renewing this extra option which means loss of customers which means loss of renewing revenue – OUTCH! I’d say to the company leaders: go back and review these corporate policies and create something that solves your customer’s problems (not to mention keeping those renewal revenues accumulating).
The second corporate policy fiasco this week was with scheduling tennis lessons. While it might seem frivolous, those of you who’ve been reading my twitter feed know that I’ve recently taken tennis lessons which is all part of use-of-mindfulness-for-self; doing the things that you’ve “always” wanted to do is a common outcome of Mindful Living. For me, one of those things is playing tennis and love it; it helps me reduce stress, I’ve gotten stronger, and it’s a nice way to connect with others. At my gym, the fall tennis schedule came out and as a mom I’m juggling everyone’s schedules – thank goodness for my iPhone!
I contacted the tennis desk asking about the Saturday morning class. The time is perfect and right after the kid’s swim classes which to me means let’s-get’it-done-efficiency. The service person shared that the club wouldn’t start the class with only 1 person registering and the tennis manager would call to talk with me about the class. Okay. Cool. NOT! After playing voice-mail tag and talking twice without a solution, then talking to 2 other instructors, I was without a solution to the problem due to corporate policy. Corporate policy dictates a minimum of 2 registered people to start a class. Fine. My husband registered as the second person. Oh, but wait…the company policies get better…each tennis pro manages their own schedules; one pro was not teaching on Saturday, another could teach but only 1 of the 4 classes, and the tennis manager offered me this, “well, I guess I could do some calling and see if we could get other people to join and then start a class…and I’ll have to find someone to teach….” All of this back and forth volley was a waste of time. One thing I don’t like to waste is time.
This company had a customer, not just 1 but 2 practically begging for tennis lessons saying, “PLEASE TAKE OUR MONEY – WE WANT TO BUY” and yet the club lost 2 sales because of corporate policies and because their people could not provide a solution to solve their customer’s problem. Does the problem still exist? Nope. I came up with an alternative and “bought” from someone else. Would I have preferred buy from my club? You bet. But given the situation, I got creative and solved my own problem. Will I buy from them again? I’m not sure. As a business owner, again, I cringe at seeing these types of situations where employees hold to their heart corporate policies that do the exact opposite of what’s intended, that create more problems, provide dissatisfaction instead of a WOW customer experience, and bleed the company’s revenue sources. Club leaders take note – this isn’t working….
In practical mindfulness, sticking to something that no longer serves its purpose, no longer works, and adds to problems…that’s called “mindlessness.” Other terms and phrases to describe “mindlessness” are “lights are on but no one’s home,” “zombie,” and auto-pilot. These corporate policy situations are examples of “mindlessness.” When employees lack of awareness they become mesmerized (heck, hypnotized) by corporate policies that don’t work and contribute to the already stack of business problems organizations face every single day. So, be mindful, be aware, people. Reevaluate corporate policies, reflect, and answer questions such as: what’s created to work and is it working, what’s being done because we’ve been told to, does it make sense (really?), does it solve our customer’s problems, and if not, then change it! Create corporate policies where employees can be mindful and aware, that solve customer problems, and provide both financial (renewals) and non-financial (wowed customers) rewards to the organization.