Customer Service Rules and Misunderstood Costs

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Customer Service Rules

Customer Service Rules and Misunderstood Costs

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It happens all the time. Something affects profits or progress and the organization makes a new rule. Does it make sense to make customer service rules from one bad example?

Nearly every business will tell you that they value the customer. They cite examples of how hard they work for delivering an exceptional customer experience. Do they live up to doing what they say?

Certainly every organization needs to protect themselves from fraud, deceit, or profit erosion. They need customer service rules but at what cost?

Customer Service Rules

In the early 1980’s I worked in a retail drug store. I stocked shelves, unloaded trucks, swept the floors, and sometimes worked at the checkout register. At the time this retail drug store chain was doing very well, with many stores and lots of valued customers.

Somewhere along the way, some smart folks in district or regional management came up with a new rule. The new rule was that every purchase had to go in a bag and the receipt had to be stapled to that bag. No excuses, no exceptions.

What a disaster.

Rules in Action

One day as I nervously worked the checkout register while the regional manager looked over my shoulder I allowed a repeat customer to take their pack of cigarettes and a candy bar (after paying) and leave the store with receipt in hand. No bag and certainly no receipt stapled to it. Immediately I was summoned to come to the back of the pharmacy. I was scolded and sent back to the register.

What management didn’t realize is that for whatever reason they invented their rule, it was hurting their customers.

We had repeat customers come in every day to make a purchase. Purchasing everything from a candy bar, to cigarettes (big in those days), to a magazine or newspaper. They never returned anything or made a large purchase. They loved the store and they didn’t really need a bag.

These loyal customers loved it right up until the moment management started hurting their experience.

More than a Job

I was probably only 17 or 18 years old, but I knew better. I saw what was happening, it was ridiculous.

Regional management never seemed to get it. The local managers did but they were under strict guidelines from regional and corporate management.

It was supposed to be a job, but really it was the start of my education.

I miss those days.

You know—happy customers and all.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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