Not much attention is given in business plans to how policy and rule systems can be used to foster growth.
Rules, policies and procedures are, in most organizations, tools used as internal control mechanisms to put boundaries on what people can do and what they can’t do — rules for performance planning, rules governing productivity targets, rules on decision making to minimize risk, rules for time reporting, rules for hours of work and rules for how the organization engages with its customers.
In addition to satisfying these internal requirements, rules and policies need to be looked at as tools for enabling the behaviours necessary to successfully execute the organization’s strategic intent — particularly when it comes to making it easy for customers to get their needs met.
As any consumer is aware, sometimes it’s extremely frustrating dealing with some organizations to the point where we are so annoyed we just move on.
For proof, just look behind most negative customer experiences in an organization and you will most likely find a rule, policy or procedure that has infuriated a customer because it stopped them from getting what they want.
And what do infuriated customers do? They tell all of their friends and family about your rotten customer service and look for another organization to do business with.
Any way you look at it, an infuriated customer doesn’t serve the strategy of an organization and it’s growth imperatives.
Narcissism makes you smaller — A complicated, bureaucratic and customer unfriendly system of rules carries with it a narcissistic brand; an organization that cares only for itself.
Lack of an external facing rule system communicates that you really don’t care about the customer experience; that you really are more concerned about meeting internal efficiency targets than you are about creating exceptional and memorable experiences for people — definitely not a good thing to tell a highly competitive market where customer choice and buying power is greater than ever.
Rules, policies and procedures should serve the customer; not the internal auditors.
They should empower and liberate customers to do what they want in a way that is agreeable to them and not as a mechanism to control them.
The time has come to look at the rule system as a driver of growth where the end game is to make it so easy for people to do business with us that they keep coming back again and again (and give us their money) and tell their friends and family how amazing we are (and they give us their money).
A policy should be looked at as a tool of strategy; if it enables the customer to fulfil their dreams then it’s a good one.
Policies and procedures should be conceived with the objective of creating memorable moments for people. If someone doesn’t say “WOW!” after having just experienced the wait time in your call center queue, then your process is flawed (you’ve probably outsourced it to some remote place in the world and you’ve given cost a higher priority than speed of answer) and you need to fix it fast.
If your customer doesn’t say “BRILLIANT!” after trying to return your product, your return policy doesn’t cut it and it needs to be changed.
Here are a few of the amazing things that will happen if you ‘say yes’ and use your rules and policies to deliver memorable moments.
Growth — revenue will grow as a result of liberated customers who can buy from you in a free-and-easy way. They like the moments they have with you; they buy more and they refer you to friends who do the same.
Furthermore customer retention rates increase; customer loyalty provides more stability to the revenue line.
Productivity — the effectiveness of your frontline is improved. Rather than having to spend copious amounts of their time with customers trying to explain and enforce dumb rules that make no sense to them and that they refuse to comply with, frontline employees can spend their time enabling customers to complete their transactions. Revenue per frontline contact goes up.
Employee engagement — frontline job satisfaction and engagement with the goals of the organization increase as the anxiety and stress of dealing with unhappy customers is reduced. Amazing things happen when you are allowed to comply with what the customer wants rather than constantly trying to get them to accept an internal policy that the customer refuses to accept.
An employee who is empowered to ‘say YES!’ is the most effective growth engine an organization can have.
Customer service results — the customer experience metric in the overall results of the organization improves dramatically as the rules of the organization now please the customer as opposed to annoying them beyond belief.
If a customer sees that the organization is trying to bend over backward to satisfy their needs, they are not only pleased, but they are very willing to provide service accolades when the service measurement dudes call.
Market share — customer loyalty increases as a result of the more memorable moments; saying yes over and over again creates strategic value which is measured in the share of the market your organization holds. Say NO! too often and watch your market position plummet.
Competitive advantage — the organization distinguishes itself from its competitors who continue to treat rules as vehicles to control behaviour.
In fact rather than being viewed as narcissistic and inward focussed, the ‘say yes’ organization becomes the benchmark for others who want to improve their customer service — their way becomes best in class.
In order to start ‘saying yes’ focus on finding out what the main policy pinch points are in the organization, like the top 10 policies that make your customers go postal on a regular basis.
And engage your customers in a conversation on the topic; they will have no difficulty telling you which rules are unreasonable, dumb and just outright stupid. And they will love you for asking!
But beware of the momentum managers in your organization who want to stay with the ‘say NO!’ philosophy of rule setting. The people who will try and argue that dumb policies are necessary because of some regulation or law preventing them from being changed.
Challenge every claim like this; you will find — as I did when I launched a Dumb Rules Program in my organization — that there are, indeed, some policies that can’t be changed. But I assure you that you will discover more policies that can be changed than can’t so doing the work will pay off handsomely.
And hold your managers accountable for killing the stupid policies you uncover; put it in their performance plan to show them that cleansing the internal environment of policies that suck from a customer’s perspective is the highest priority.