Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Rules were made to be broken has an excellent piece called, "Getting Rid of the Rulebook." In it, the author talks about the perils of losing customers just because of never deviating from the company rules. One example she used involved a dry cleaners that was so insistent upon locking up the store precisely at the designated closing time that owners ignored one harried customer who arrived 10 mins. late due to traffic. Despite his frantic knocking on the door, and the fact that the owners were inside cleaning up, they pretended he wasn't there. They lost that customer's business for good. As the author points out,

"Contrast this cleaners story with one that Mike, the bell captain at the Hotel Algonquin in New York City, told me about his experience in a new Nordstrom store that had just opened in his New Jersey neighborhood. Mike and his wife were looking around the store and stopped at the customer service counter to ask what time the store closed. The associate smiled and said: "Whenever you're finished shopping, sir." What a very customer-friendly answer! Mike and his wife felt like royalty. Doesn't Nordstrom have an official closing time? Of course. But apparently you won't get thrown out of the store with bells going off."
The author concludes with a sound piece of advice from the retailer:
"The employee handbook of Nordstrom, the Seattle-based store group, consists of a central rule:
Rule #1: Use your good judgment in all situations. There are no additional rules."
Update: I decided it might be a good idea to give you a more illustrative example of what an appropriate "breaking of the rules" in service situations means to me. This is a true story (names have been withheld to protect the innocent). It was a rainy day. At lunchtime, I ventured a few city blocks in the damp weather to a local fast food restaurant for a bite to eat. I ordered my made-to-order meal and as I dug around my bag to find my wallet, I realized I'd left it in my office - argh! The cashier held my food while I hurried back to my office in my uncomfortable shoes and dreary weather (did I mention I don't like rain?). I finally made it back to the counter, winded and breathing heavy from the hike. The server hands me my food, which I paid for, and a cup for a fountain drink. I said, "Oh, I didn't order a drink." She responded, "I know." Bless her! That free drink was one of the kindest, most sympathetic gestures I've experienced in a fast food place and I always remember that small broken rule that has endeared me to that restaurant.


Karin Dalziel said...

I agree with using best judgment in all situations, but I hate it when stores (and libraries) don't announce they are closing. We were in a store half an hour past closing time once, and didn't realize it was past closing till we left and they closed the gates behind us- then we felt bad for keeping the employees late (I've been on the other side too, having to wait to go home).

I walked into an Ace hardware store Sunday at 5:59, and was promptly told "you have one minute, folks." I know some would take that as an insult, but I was glad to know. I asked for what I was looking for, they showed it to me, and I paid and left.

Giving employees a little leeway to bend policy is a great idea though. I get the feeling that many higher ups don't trust others to "use their best judgment," though.

Jill said...

Hi, Karin!

I honestly never thought about it being a problem to not know when a store is closing, but I can see your point.

I really like this article overall because I've always appreciated that that my manager supports our "executive decisions" while on the desk. Plus, I've always greatly benefited from service providers who take the effort to look at my particular situation and adjust their terms accordingly. It is true that you need to feel confident you'll be backed up if you bend the rules a bit (the article mentions this) and that that doesn't happen everywhere, but it's a must for good service.

Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Naocha said...

Rules were made by us so there will be someone who will even break.
We all can't make a correction for this. People believes that nothing is right or wrong. what all we are doing is all new and a learning process of life , Since time goes by life follows.