There was a news feature about a retail store in the US awhile back where you can return literally anything. They even cited an example where if you wanted to return a slab of plywood (which they don’t sell) they will ask how much you got it for and then give you your money back.
The interviewer asked why they choose to do this and if they’re not worried about people who may abuse the system and take advantage of their policy.
They replied with one of the BEST responses I have ever heard when it comes to a store return policy.
“We want our customers to build a relationship with us, We want our customers to feel safe and welcome here. This is why all our store policies are geared towards that ideal. Will there be people who might take advantage of that? Absolutely. But they will be a very tiny portion of the population and we will not create policies that will alienate the larger majority. Our policies, our identity is based on Trust and not on fear”
Beautiful right? Seriously, I wanted to cry.
Nordstrom continues to be one of the top retail stores today and well loved by both customers and employees. I already wrote about them here and if you want to see more reasons why I admire this company.
If you think about that and the signs I showed above, these signs (ergo policies) were likely the result of the complete opposite. They are funny on one end but the fact that they exist, leaves you with a lot to think about.
We have tons of examples of that at work and our everyday lives.
Why do we have to take off our shoes at the airport? Because some guy did something terrible that one time and now ALL travelers are inconvenienced by this.
In some companies, employees can no longer personalize their desks, have pictures of loved ones or things that motivate them, why? Because a few people did something awful that violated security/privacy rules and now everyone has to live with the consequences.
I could go on forever with examples of policies, procedures and processes that exist because of fear masking as practicality but I won’t. There are enough of those out there so instead, let’s use another great example.
I recently started working with another company who embody this Trusting ideal but because of “Privacy policies” I can’t divulge who. 🙂
I was fortunate enough to get exposure and spend some time in their Customer Service HQ and I was blown away from the start. This company from my time with them so far – Is the living, breathing epitome of simplicity and trust. They frown upon red tape, they dislike bureaucracy and prefer things to keep moving urgently and with laser like focus. That last statement is not unheard of, in fact I’ve worked with a lot of other companies that claim the same thing but there is just zero authenticity behind the claim. And by authenticity I mean Mr. Sinek’s definition “The things you say and do, you actually believe” and boy does this company, deliver. Here are some samples:
Their Statement of Work with us is 17 pages long. You did not misread that nor was it a typo, Seventeen pages. Their reasoning: We didn’t want to define too many parameters with you because anything not in the SOW, we can just discuss and agree upon like adults.
Their IVR system offers only 2 options versus some other companies that make you choose around 15 button presses. Their reasoning: If the customer is calling us it means there’s a problem and we just need to get them to an agent as soon as possible.
The visit to their HQ doesn’t require you to submit 2 ID’s and sign multiple documents, take your picture or go through some form of scanner. Their reasoning: We invited you here, you have a contact meeting you at the lobby, means we know who you are so no need to go through hoops.
The core reason why they don’t have QA as part of their contact center process compared to others that can’t do without them. Their reasoning: Because we trust our people. We believe in our hiring process, we believe in our training process. Both for our Leadership and Agent staff. If you get past both, means you’re the kind of people we want and we trust you to do the right thing for our customers.
The core reason why they REALLY don’t discuss metrics in their coaching process versus other companies that are driven by numbers. Their reasoning: Customers really do come first and you can only drive that through behaviors. Once you start pushing your vendors around the numbers, they push their agents around the numbers and the agents treat the customer as numbers, not people. It’s the same reason why we only care about issue resolution because at the end of the day, that is the true measure of satisfaction. Not these other fancy metrics that other companies seem to be obsessed with.
Now someone could say, maybe this company I am talking about is just a small, mom and pop shop type therefore can afford to be relaxed and trusting versus (other) big conglomerates that can’t afford to be like them. Well, they have a global presence and generate anywhere over $11 billion dollars per year, so not exactly small. So you big companies out there pay attention.
To be clear, I am not advocating for the removal of safeguards or guidelines. Rules and policies should absolutely exist. But like Nordstrom and other consistently successful companies, the policies should make sense, should not restrict creativity or motivation and most important of all, should be created with the majority of people in mind who are good and want to do good. Not the tiny, miniscule and select few who are out to do you wrong.
As Leaders it is our responsibility to ensure the rules are logical, sensible and highlights what is good and admirable about us and our people, but more importantly – to question, challenge and objectively change them if they don’t.