Don’t quote policy. No one cares.

Thanks Jeffrey Gitomer.  I used to be able to just ignore people when they said, “it’s our policy.”   Now that phrase sends me into a rage.  If you have not read Jeffrey’s book “Customer Satisfaction is worthless.  Customer Loyalty is priceless” you may not have the same visceral reaction that I do.

Why is quoting policy so bad?  It is lazy.  It is dismissive and it is a cop out.

I had a vendor say to me, “It is our policy that each customer is only given one account.”  I am a manager with a team.  It is inefficient to have one account and share it, in fact it is poor security, given that we have to write down and share the login information.

Fortunately this vendor cares more about their FTP site that we do, so it is on them.  I just want my update scripts.  I have no concern over their site security.

So why is policy enraging?  I seriously doubt that at this vendors office there is a file labeled user policy, that spells out each customer shall be given one and only one account to access that ftp site.  It is more likely that the administration software for the secure ftp site works most easily if they just have one account.  Sure, if you get in there a little deeper and click on advanced options you can probably setup a second account.

So you are thinking, “Hey, I have policies to enforce.”  Maybe you do.  But say it out loud a couple of times and think, are they really policies or just the way you do business because it is easy for you.

If you are enforcing SOX, Safe Harbor, HIPAA these are written policies and verifiable and understood.  If you are saying you have to use an iPhone 5 not an android phone to check you email, it is probably because you either don’t have the support mechanism in place or don’t know how to support it.  There is no policy memorandum stored in the master policy vault.

Jeffrey suggest that you explain things rather than just quote policy.  His examples are things like, “In order to be fair to everyone…”  or “Because of limited resources…”  It makes the person you are talking with partner with you instead of be your adversary.  If the person comes back and says things like, “I don’t care about everyone else.”  You need to kick in to using you full on people skills, or quickly fake an illness and run away.

If you are an IT support desk working you are not going to give someone access to a system they are not authorized to see.  You don’t say that is against policy.  You say, “We need to get that authorized.”  Then you follow the procedures for getting the authorization.  It will be denied or approved.

If someone asks you for help on a system that is outside of your responsibilities do you say, “It is our policy to not help on that system.”  No you probably say, “We don’t support that, but I know who does.  Let me get them on the phone.”

Hiding behind policy is lazy.  You might as well put your feet up on your desk and read comic books all day.  That is what your customers think you are doing.

At this point you may be wondering, “Lee, how did you resolve the issue with the vendor quoting policy at you?”  Oh, you weren’t?  Sorry, you are going to hear about it anyway.

I took a deep breath.  Acknowledged it was my issue, and not theirs.  I also acknowledged that it was not responsibility to train the support person.  I then asked them to resolve the issue in whatever way they felt most expedient so my team could stay on schedule.   I ignored their policy and empowered the support person to solve the problem and let them know I was only interested in the results not the journey to them.

I walked in the next morning to find a new account has been created and the information was sent to me.  The issue was resolved and I did not need to know the policy.   I also used this with my team to reinforce the lesson from Jeffrey’s book which we all read.


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