Does Your Use of “It’s Our Policy…” Hack Off Your Clients?

We all have experiences when we have had the term said to us, “I am sorry, I can’t help you.  Our company policy forbids us from…”  I would suppose from time to time we all have used that term where we work.  In almost every case, the use of these words reminds us of negative experiences when the customer left apathetic or as mad as a wet hen!

The most recent experience I had with this was when my wife and I were shopping for a new vehicle.  We were quite undecided as to what type of car or truck we wanted.  But one factor was how much we could get from our Trailblazer in trade.   We figured if we had a dealer that would offer us close to the NADA trade-in value; we would know we were getting a fair deal. 

After test driving some models, we settled on one to get our quote.  We handed them the keys to our vehicle to review it and see what they would do for our trade-in.  After 20 minutes or so, the salesman came out to the table that we were sitting at and handed us a piece of paper.  He began to go over the deal line by line and sped quickly through the trade-in value.  My eyes widened when I noticed the trade-in value they were giving us was less than a quarter of the value we had looked up.  I questioned where he got such a low value.

He replied, “I noticed some concern when I showed you this value.”  (No duh Sherlock, I saw the value and was ready to slap sense into you).  He continued, “Based on the age and condition of your vehicle, it is our company policy that this is what we will give you.”

My wife was clearly agitated and also restraining her desire to slap the salesman as well, as she asked more of why the value was so far below the actual value.  All in all, I think we both did a great job in being calm.  The salesman retreated to his finance manager for another 20 minutes and came out with another offer.  Now we were at least over 25% of the value but were not even at half the book value.  He painstakingly explained what they could do.  We decided to leave and were met on the way out by the sales manager.

“It is our company policy to not put vehicles as old as yours on our lot. We wholesale them to other lots, so we cannot offer as much as the value of your vehicle,” he explained.  Now I have two incidents of someone throwing out the “company policy” excuse to us.  As we left, I asked my wife if she thought it was their company policy to hack off their potential customers.

Two weeks later, we bought a truck my wife loves from a different dealer.  We never heard back from the salesman.

I can never think of a time when I had the words “our policy” thrown at me that turned into an enjoyable experience.  I am interested if anyone else has had any positive experiences when the phrase was used on you.  I think that we, in the credit union world, have an edge on our banking brethren in that we view our members as players on the same team.  But I still bet we slip up and use the “policy” explanation when we cannot do what a customer wants. 

Note, I am not advocating that we give the customer whatever he wants.  There are clearly things our members will want that we cannot or will not do.  But we need to change our attitude toward our customers, and stop using the “policy” word.  We need to act on principles instead.

Remember, the member is why you get a paycheck.  Your attitude toward them will determine the level of service you give and ultimately, your own success.  Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to deepen or slowly kill the relationship.  Members contact you when they need help, and their value is much more than the annual revenue you will get from them.  Once your interaction with your member is complete, that is when they will start talking.  And customer testimonials are much more powerful than the money you spend in marketing.

Take responsibility for why you will not be able to meet your member’s request.  Act on principle; do not hide behind policy.  People respect you when you shoot straight with them.  Realize how you want to be treated, and treat others the same.

Jeffrey Gitomer once wrote, “’Give me liberty or give me death’ is a principle.  People are willing to die for their principles; very few are willing to die for their policy.  Are you?”