About.com 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: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.
Rule #1: Use your good judgment in all situations. There are no additional rules."