Seth, I love you man, but suggesting that an employee and a disgruntled customer work together to document a bad company policy is utopian.
Seth Godin writes about a recent experience with a cellular phone company (go figure). It had a policy that was preventing him from getting what he wanted. He suggested that the employee and the customer work together to complete a form documenting the situation. He writes:
When a customer is really upset about a policy or a procedure or something we did, and the only alternative appears to be telling them to go away angry, pull out this form. Explain (only if it’s true) that you are disappointed that they’re upset. Explain (if it’s true) that you agree that the policy is stupid and doesn’t make sense in their case.
Then, working as a team, write up the situation. Work WITH them, egging them on. Get all the details on this form, let them explain to you and to themselves what the problem is. Get their contact info.
I don´t see this working as designed in any but the most enlightened organizations and certainly not in retail.
–Most customers are not going to want to expend the time completing the form.
–Management is not going to want an employee spending time doing this when other customers might overhear the "collaboration" and be scared away.
–They especially don "t want to tie up employees during busy times.
The corporate culture must support the practice Seth advocates and the overwhelming majority doesn´t. If you´re going to change the corporate culture, you might as well empower your employees. I´ve previously advocated that businesses empower their employees to handle complaints; One form is called service recovery. But Seth disagrees:
The obvious answer is a lot more flexibility in the front line. But of course, that’s tricky and expensive and sometimes impossible.
We´ll have to agree to disagree on this one, Seth.
By the way, he mentioned faxing the completed form to the CEO. Today, Clark Howard, a consumer watchdog with a nationally syndicated radio show, suggested complaining to anyone but the CEO. In some companies, if you call and ask for the CEO, Clark says, you´re rerouted back to the customer service call center where they pretend to be in the office of the CEO. Clark recommends finding out who the other senior executives are, and contacting them.
It might be a wise idea to discuss this amongst your top staff and make sure that everyone agrees on how to handle these complaints. Then, if the business owner or CEO is out of town, someone else can handle the complaint.
Folks, I´ve raised $910 for the research, education, advocacy, and patient service programs of the American Cancer Society. I´d like to get to $1,000. Even $5 will help. Help me make a difference by sponsoring me on my Relay For Life team. Or, click here to start your own.