What’s a ‘Dumb Rule’?
A ‘Dumb Rule’ is an internal rule, policy or procedure that simply doesn’t make any sense to a customer. It annoys them!
They are so passionate about the alleged stupidity of the rule that they refuse to do business with an organization because of it.
They run from the organization screaming to their friends how terrible their service is.
A ‘Dumb Rule’ is conceived generally as a customer engagement control mechanism.
Dealing with Dumb Rules is rarely viewed by an organization as an important part of strategy development, but attacking Dumb Rules was one of many tactics I used to improve the execution of our strategic game plan as we marched to A BILLION IN SALES.
The Dumb Rules initiative was part of my ‘Say YES!’ strategy which had the objective of removing the roadblocks that prevented people from delivering superlative experiences for customers.
I made eliminating Dumb Rules an integral part of our Strategic Game Plan.
Why are Dumb Rules so important to a business?
- They control customer engagement and get in the way of making it easy for customers to engage with an organization.
- They get in the way of building customer loyalty.
- They result in customers telling others how ‘bad’ and uncaring an organization is.
- They obstruct the provision of delightful customer experiences.
- They introduce unproductive ‘friction’ in a business that prevents seamless delivery of products and services to customers.
- Employee engagement suffers when frontline people have to engage Rules that customers hate.
What if the Dumb Rule can’t be eliminated because it’s a legal or regulatory requirement?
Yes, certain rules are required by law or regulatory governance.
First of all do your due diligence to make sure that the claim is real and not the posturing of a champion who doesn’t want their rule or policy removed.
If the rule is necessary, however, then at least look for ways to make it customer friendly.
And reconsider how the rule is enforced with a customer; what communications strategy is used. Is it friendly and helpful or is it demanding and intimidating?
Take the time to design the customer communications content to minimize an adverse reaction; it’s not always possible but it is worth considering doing nevertheless.
If you are able to expunge even 20% of the dumb rules you have in your organization, your customers will reward you with their loyalty and your reputation will soon attract new customers as well.
What is an example of a of Dumb Rule?
One of my favorite dumb rule stories took place at The Mirage Hotel Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. There is a wonderful deli in the casino that serves the best reuben sandwiches ever but the customer friendliness of their policies sucks.
My wife and I showed up late one night and asked the hostess for a booth and were told flatly that our request was not possible since it was their policy to offer booths only for parties of 6 or more.
I get that management wanted to maximize the check value from these specific seats, but in this case the store was empty save my wife and me! Maximizing revenue beyond the two of us was an impossibility!
How does a business go about killing Dumb Rules?
- Make it a strategic imperative in the organization’s strategic game plan. Leadership issue to make it matter.
- Establish Dumb Rule Committees. Ask frontline people what dumb rules they are constantly having to deal with.
Frontline people know the rules and policies that annoy customers but do you have the courage to listen?
I created Dumb Rules Committees in the operations areas of my organization and appointed a leader for each committee.
Their responsibility was to seek out and destroy (or otherwise modify) rules that made no sense to customers and drove them crazy.
Fun was had by all over this concept.
Everyone, particularly the frontline, welcomed this initiative; they all were passionate about the purpose; we made real progress.
We had contests among the committees to see who could come up with the most dumb rules to kill, and we celebrated the winners.
The committees were expected to not only identify rules, policies and procedures that annoyed customers, they were also charged with the responsibility of eradicating them by taking whatever action was necessary to get it done.
My role and that of my senior leaders was to remove any roadblocks preventing the committees from getting a rule dealt with.
- Embed customers in the Rule design process. Design your Rule system with the customer in mind.
- They will be the best ‘cleansing agents’ you could ever ask for. And they will love you asking for their help in your business.
- Get customer input through service quality surveys. ASK THEM about your rules and policies, and be guided by what they have to say.
Hold leaders accountable to eliminate Dumb Rules. Include the task in their annual performance plan.
Dumb Rules prevent effective execution of your strategic game plan.
Irradiate them and watch the magic!