I have just spent the last year or so working with a large retailer. The retailer struggled to get good customer and staff engagement. Often leaving both parties unsatisfied.
The company had strong procedures, paid well and had developed a good customer offering in the last 12 months. Yet Head Office management could not understand why they were not making in-roads on their major competitors.
One problem was the inconsistent application of process. For example the company had a robust returns policy which was over and above the legal requirements. It was a simple process that could be followed by all staff so what could go wrong! Customers with a problem could return to store and follow the process, simple, product was replaced, repaired or not accepted depending on the circumstance.
Inevitably there were complaints to Head Office regarding these returns. Normal so far. The problem was the Head Office did not want to offend ANY customers and agreed to the customers’ demands, even if the company policy was followed to letter. We have to look after the customers!
What did this behaviour create? Loyal customers!!
It in fact made the opposite. Customers were unhappy that they were shuffled around the organisation, staff were unhappy that they followed procedures correctly, yet their decisions were overturned. They then became disillusioned accepting all returns. Returns increased as customers “took advantage” of the lax policy. Product was purchased used once then returned for a full refund since customer know if they complained about a store, Head Office would authorise the return.
The cost to the company was multi- faceted. Lost sales and margin, in many cases the product could not be resold so not just the margin was lost but the full price was written off. Lost productivity managing the ever growing returns. Perhaps more importantly it had a huge negative impact on staff morale, why should they care!
My message is that things go wrong from time to time. Have a clear policy to address these problems and then support the decision maker. If the policy does not work, review change it and communicate it.