Customer Service: Trust Your Employees

Customer service interactions are a big part of marketing for most companies. Customer service employees are often the face or voice of a company when customers have problems, whether it be to accept a return, resolve a billing issue or answer questions. Before a customer service interaction, customers may be frustrated or confused, leading to a lack of patience.

Many of the biggest problems in customer service occur when a company’s process or policy doesn’t apply to the situation a customer is experiencing, furthering their impatience, frustration and confusion. Being told, “I’m not allowed to do that.” or “This is company policy.” doesn’t resolve a customer’s problem, and all too often customer service employees are put in the position of angering customers.

For instance, last week FedEx delivered a package of mine to the wrong address, so I needed to pick it up at their warehouse. Their process states that anyone picking up a package must show government-issued ID with the same address as the ship-to address on the package. However, the whole reason I was at the warehouse was because the ship-to address was the wrong address. This policy clearly didn’t account for my situation, creating a bad customer service experience.

What can companies do to prevent policies from getting in the way of good customer service? They can trust their employees to make the right decision and allow them to bend policies for unusual situations.

Many managers out there may be gasping in horror, exclaiming, “We have the policies to prevent people from doing stupid things!” We only need to look to Nordstrom, one of the most successful retailers, for a counter-example.

For many years, the Nordstrom Employee Handbook was simply a single, 5″x8″ grey postcard reading:

Welcome to Nordstrom

We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.

Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

Len Brzozowski, of the Xavier Leadership Center, wrote a very interesting piece on customer service culture and Nordstrom. He states, “Nordstrom boasts the highest sales per square foot performance in the retail industry – by almost double.” And they do it by trusting their employees.

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