Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's Not Our Policy...

A Texas woman bought an iPod from Target for her 14-year-old daughter's birthday. Upon opening the shrink-wrapped package, she discovered that the iPod had been replaced with rocks. Mother and daughter returned to the store to get what she paid for, but the item was out of stock.

The woman asked for a refund, but because she had paid using a new Target credit card to get a 10 percent discount, the store would only give her store credit. She drove to another Target store to buy another iPod, only to get another box of rocks. Again, she was told it wasn't store policy to give a refund. (You can read the entire customer service nightmare here.)

As outlandish as this story seems, "It's not our policy" is an all-too-common refrain in the business world.

"When the customer hears 'it's not our policy,' they immediately respond (usually silently) with, 'WHO CARES?''"says customer service expert Nancy Friedman. "What a business needs to understand is, no one but the management and staff cares about your policies. Do you really think the customer says to himself or herself as they enter or call your place of business, 'Gee, I wonder what their policy is on this issue?'"

"All this being said," continues Friedman, "there are companies who do have policies that make it more difficult to work with them than with others." Friedman's suggestion? "Decide on your policy, then work as a team with your staff to find a positive way to explain it to the customer. Otherwise, it'll be the customer's policy not to do business with you!"

As a salesperson, you are your customer's first call when things go wrong. What are you doing to explain unpopular company policy in a positive light? Do you take responsibility for the situation and do everything you can to rectify it?

Nancy Friedman is known as the Telephone Doctor. For expert advice on serving customers, visit her website at

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