If you read my first book, The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Delivering Red Carpet Customer Service, you may remember a chapter called The Chicago Pizza Principle. In it, I shared the story of a celebrity who requested a pizza from a specific restaurant in Chicago, delivered hot and fresh to his door by 5pm that evening. The kicker? He was currently at his flat in London.
The concierge company who’s brand promise was “If you can imagine it, we can deliver it,” (as long as it’s moral, ethical and legal), put a pizza oven on a private plane, flew the guy from the pizza place and all his special ingredients to London. As they started to land, he put the pizza in the oven. As the plane touched down, he took it out, slapped it in a box, and hopped a limo ride to the surprised & delighted celebrity’s doorstep.
This was, as you can imagine, the most expensive pizza on the planet! However, it’s the solution the concierge team came up with that blows me away. When your brand promise is “if you can imagine it, we can deliver it), you’ve got to be able to think on your feet!
The truth is that your customers aren’t usually asking for something so extravagant. The question is, do your customer service policies allow your team to say yes more than they say no?
Examine your Customer Service Policies to Create a Culture of Yes.
“Sorry! Our policy is ….” Ugh! Don’t you hate to hear those words? Well, the truth is so do your customers. The other truth is that sometimes organizations have policies that were created in the past for good reason, but don’t really have a purpose today. In fact, leaders and staff don’t even know why the policy is in place – they just know that’s the policy. That is a problem.
How long has it been since you examined those policies? One of my favorite examples from 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers is about the City of Ball Ground, Georgia. When they realized how the enormous amount of red tape businesses had to go through to open their doors in Ball Ground was keeping those businesses out, they realized they had a problem. They examined every single piece of paperwork and step that small businesses had to go through in order to do business in their city. If a rule or procedure did not harm or enhance the citizens of Ball Ground, they eliminated it. As a result, they’ve attracted many more businesses to their small Atlanta suburb including the movie producers of American Made, (formerly called Mena) coming out this fall and staring Tom Cruise.
Their new mantra? We roll out the red carpet, not the red tape.
Here’s an action you can take today to create a culture of YES. Ask your team to start collecting a list of all of the ways you (as a company) say NO to your customers. Then really look at that list and determine which policies are behind those NOs. Are the policies really necessary for safety, for fairness, or ease of the customer? Or, are they policies for your convenience?
Could it be time to choose your customers over your own convenience?
“But Donna, if we do it for one, we’ll have to do it for everyone!” Really? It may be true that if you make one exception for a customer everyone will expect it, but most of the time it isn’t. For instance, Publix Supermarkets has a policy of taking products back and giving replacements no matter what. My Dad, who worked for Publix before he passed away, told me that one time a woman and her husband came to the meat department and asked for steaks to replace the steaks they had bought. They did not have the steaks with them. The butcher said, “Absolutely! For our information, do you mind telling me what you found wrong with them?” The woman’s husband looked embarrassed as she said, “Well….I overcooked them.”
The butcher at Publix replaced the steaks with good humor.
I asked my Dad, “Does that happen often?” His answer was “absolutely not. It’s only the occasional customer that takes advantage of the policy.” Perhaps that’s why when I ask my audiences the question, “what companies are known for great customer service,” Publix Supermarkets is a frequent example given.
Start today by examining all of the ways you say no to your customers, and the customer service policies behind them. Drop what you can and start saying YES and you’ll find you have more empowered employees and happier customers.
There will obviously still be times when the answer is No. This previous blog post called Customer Service Phrases: Say This, Not That, provides you with ways to say yes, even when you’re saying no.
Donna Cutting is the Founder and CEO of Red-Carpet Learning Systems, Inc. and the author of two books on customer service. She and her team provide customer service skills training to a variety of customer-facing industries including healthcare, senior living, hospitality, entertainment, schools, banks and credit unions, retail and more. Learn more here.