This story is 100% true.
So, I had to rent a motorcycle trailer today, so I went to the most popular place to do so. When I got there, they had one person taking rental reservations and one person in line ahead of me. As I stood there, the person ahead of me was explaining that he had a voucher for $30 off on a rental because a customer service person at their main office had simply hung up on him. He was showing the rental agent the email from the corporate customer service person. The rental agent didn’t know how to enter the voucher into the computer and seemed doubtful about the whole thing. She called her supervisor, and for 10 minutes the supervisor, the rental agent, and the customer went around and around about this $30 voucher. Meanwhile three other people had arrived behind me and we were all getting annoyed. At this point, I had the right to remain silent – but not the ability. So I got involved.
ME: Excuse me but I have to jump in here. Let me see if I understand this. This customer received a $30 off voucher because he received lousy service, correct?
MANAGER (glaring at me): It looks that way.
ME: So, now you’re compounding his lousy service and making it lousier by not taking the voucher. Plus, you now have a line of four other people who are receiving lousy service because of this issue.
MANAGER: You have to understand, people are always trying to cheat us.
ME: I get that, but do they go to the extent of faking an email with a voucher number from your corporate customer service department? For 30 bucks?
MANAGER: Um, no, not when you put it that way.
ME: So, now, you’re making his lousy service worse, and again, there are four other people who are getting lousy service, all over 30 bucks that this guy is entitled to. Don’t you think the smart call is just to honor the voucher, give him his 30 bucks, take care of him, and get on to taking care of the rest of your customers?
MANAGER: When you put it that way, yeah, it is.
EVERY OTHER CUSTOMER (TO ME): THANK YOU!
So, what was the problem here? The personnel got so wrapped around the axle with procedures, rules, policies, and not stepping out of normal pattern that they lost sight of the big picture. To try to guard $30, they were creating thousands of dollars worth of bad will. The guy behind me was saying, “I should just go buy a trailer rather than put up with this.”
MORAL OF THE STORY: Keep things in perspective. Clearly the manager and the rental agent didn’t feel empowered enough – OR INVESTED ENOUGH IN THE COMPANY’S IMAGE – to make a $30 decision. Don’t let your people feel that way. I know one company – a very very successful small business – where any employee can make up to a $100 decision to keep a customer happy. The employees become guardians of both company image and profit – and seldom do in fact give away money, but the customer retention rate is well above industry averages.
In other words, don’t step over dollars to save dimes.