Wednesday, 26 December 2018


Every organisation, business and even person lives by “policies”. For organisations, they’re usually written down and given to employees to read when they join.  For individuals, their “policy” is the personal code by which they live.

I was recently at a store at which I heard an employee explaining to a customer that they couldn't take back goods because it was “policy”.  The usual expectation in circumstances when one returns goods is that if one brings them back to the point of purchase along with the sales receipt, one will obtain either a refund or be allowed to exchange (say), faulty goods for ones that work.  

In this case, the customer wanted to exchange an item that was more than one week old (but still in its packaging, so therefore untouched) for one of a different colour.  They didn't want their money back, just a simple exchange.  This particular item had been bought as a gift.  The sales staff was explaining that the store couldn't accept returned items after more than 2 days because it was “policy”.  

The staff concerned was in a difficult situation.  Their job was to follow policy, even though in this case it was unfair on the customer and was clearly resulting in ill will towards the business.  Whatever the legal position vis-à-vis the return of goods, two people were in a situation not of their own making.

Whilst the employee at times seemed to be almost “hiding” behind the phrase “It’s our policy” (they couldn't do anything else), they weren’t in a position which gave them any choice.  They also hadn’t been trained to put things in such a way as to explain why the policy existed (I suspect that they themselves didn’t know).

“Policy” is intended to keep an organisation running smoothly.   At times, however, it interferes with good staff relations and/or good customer service and relations.  In the case above, a strict returns policy should have been explained to the customer when they bought the item.  Equally, a degree of flexibility could have been possible as the goods were still in “mint” condition.

If our policies stop us from providing great service to our customers, shouldn't we be changing them? If, for whatever reason, we can't, should we be explaining the impact they have to customers when they buy goods?

Communication is key, as with most customer interactions.  If we communicate well, we may be able to avoid a lot of unpleasantness.   

I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My websiteprovides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home