The recent unbelievably sad story of how Jetstar employees were unable to assist a distressed customer because of policy guidelines and lack of empowerment, in my opinion, demonstrates how a policy can negatively reflect on a brand.
This Sydney Morning Herald article ‘Jetstar Refuses Flight Change for Shark Attack Victim's Mother’ should be a mandatory read for every management team. This happens to be a really serious scenario, but it can easily translate into daily situations for many companies.
Whether or not you agree with the decision of the front-line Jetstar service person -- and I’ll leave that to you -- this raises the critical issue of the ability of front line professionals to have a degree of flexibility to apply policy intelligently. (No doubt, this begs the question: ‘What defines intelligence?’.)
In most cases, the cost to companies of such incompetence at the front line, in terms of negative brand perception, is far greater than the cost of flexibility to appropriately respond to a customer situation. For years, companies that have a culture which reflects an authentic customer focus have proved that the decision to give service personnel the ability to make decisions about how the company responds to customers in need of help has increased customer loyalty and therefore profitability -- many fold.
Unfortunately, in over-regulated societies, the culture of control seems to have a pervasive flow-on effect into daily, habitual behaviour. We make it easy for people to hide behind rules rather than develop independent common sense thinking. Add lack of training to this, a poor example set by management, and short-term stock price focus, and it becomes easier to say ‘No!’ rather than ‘Let’s see how I can help.’
What’s happening on your front line today? And, how does this translate into your brand's public perception? I'd love to help you shift your business into a customer-responsive culture. Give me a call to chat about what this means, where your business is at, and how we can drive positive change: 02 9386 0011.
By the way... I should mention that Air New Zealand came to the rescue with amazing support.